2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: I Could Own This Car

April 18, 2012

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I spent a long weekend with the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, and though I'm still liable to fuss over small details, this is one of those cars that integrated fairly seamlessly into my life and began to feel like my very own car. I've even thought about the car a few times since I turned it over to the next driver. That sounds insignificant, but I'd say this happens only half the time with the long-term test cars I drive.

For some reason, I feel very comfortable driving our Jetta TDI. The driver seat is flat, but it fits me perfectly and the steering wheel is scaled just right for my hands at nine and three. I like the sound and feel of the diesel engine, too. Oh, I could certainly do without the dead throttle response off the line, and I'd pick the conventional manual gearbox so I'd have more to do while commuting, but as it is, there's still enough torque for satisfying bursts of acceleration.

Also, fuel stations are often crowded and competitive in Southern California, so I usually put off going as long as possible, and with the TDI's range, I can go more days between fill-ups.

I'll offer a parting thought on space. During a family outing, my soon-to-be father in law decided it would be OK if I drove us in the Jetta instead of all of us getting into his Avalon. He sat up front, and I'd preemptively moved the seat back to accommodate him (he's about 6 feet tall). The amount of legroom in the car took him by surprise, and he kept moving the seat up, noting repeatedly how much room is in this cabin.

I chewed on that for a while and then noticed how much space there was behind my seat (see below). It's a lot -- there's considerably more rear legroom in this car than in the four-door GTI my fiance are targeting for future family use. Maybe the North-Americanized Jetta isn't so bad after all.

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Ways It's Better than Mine

April 13, 2012

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I returned to my alma mater of Pepperdine University last night for the retirement party of Dr. Mike Jordan: journalism professor, student paper faculty advisor and one of those people who've played a huge role in my life and career.

That meant driving up the coast to Malibu and I could think of no more fitting car to drive than our VW Jetta TDI. You see, while I was there I was accompanied by a 2000 Jetta VR6 (oh how I miss her). Now, rather than going on as I have in the past about why Jetta Mark IV is better than stripped out Jetta Mark VI, I decided to remove my rose-tinted windshield, push aside my general dislike for this car and consider ways in which this Jetta has nevertheless improved over the years.

1) Buttons on the steering wheel. Mine didn't have that. The car in between had more.

2) iPod interface, touchscreen, satellite radio, navigation system, et al. Those things didn't exist in 1999.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: A Valid Case For Rump Toasters

March 14, 2012

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Diesels are efficient.

As a consequence of this, VW equips all 2011 Jetta TDIs with something to keep your buns warm.

The very characteristic of diesel engines that makes them frugal with fuel -- high thermal efficiency -- also extends their warmup time.

Compared to gasoline engines, diesels convert a larger fraction of the fuel's energy into propulsion rather than "waste" heat, and that "waste" heat is what is ultimately plumbed through the cabin heater and warms up your buns (and everything else) on cold days.

Simply put, diesel engines sloooowly generate meaningful calories that can be enjoyed by chilly mammals within the passenger compartment. Our TDI is no exception.

To ameliorate this situation a bit, VW installs seat heaters in all TDI-equipped Jettas. The seat heaters are pretty danged solid. There's also word of an auxiliary electric heater (and our car has a 100-amp fuse in the underhood box, suggesting the heater is present) which supplements the conventional heater core when certain conditions are met. I wouldn't expect a blast furnace from this device, rather something simply to help defog/defrost the windshield.

In summary, the slow engine warmup doesn't affect your comfort. In the words of Kirk Lazarus, it "ain't nothing but a thang." There are becoming vanishingly few reasons not to buy a diesel... aside from the fuel price issue.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: I Dig It

January 03, 2012

11_tdi_profile.JPG Our longterm 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a smooth, torquey, comfortable, quiet, roomy car that's frugal on fuel. And I do mean quiet - there's almost no road noise to speak of. If you were to pareto-ize the demands of the American consumer, all of the above attributes would be in the top ten.

Sure, when accelerating from a standstill you can catch the diesel mill off boost for a split second. But it's hardly a thing. The posts by other editors might have you thinking it's a big deal. It's not. Don't buy into it. Once rolling, this thing is all torquey goodness, all the time.

And yes, it has a soft brake pedal and nonlinear braking response. When you apply a constant pressure at the pedal, the car decelerates more and more aggressively as the speed drops. It's strange, but nowhere near as offensive as, say, the brakes in most hybrids.

Unlike hybrids, the TDI drives like a car. It's honest. I dig it. I'd rock a TDI as a daily driver.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 15,643 miles.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Now That's a Seat Heater

December 21, 2011

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Heh, seems Donna and I are on a seat heater tear.

OK, now this is what I'm talking about. Had our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI last night and cranked up the seat heater to the highest setting. Within a short amount of time, I was feeling the need to shed my wool coat, the same one I wore when testing out our Infiniti M56's seat heater, and enjoyed the roasting from the VW's seat. Loved it!

This morning it was particularly chilly and after 10 minutes of driving the seat had warmed up, not at its hottest temp yet but still better than how the M56 did, which was tepid. (I might have to borrow that laser thermometer for official numbers.) And I know no one would cross-shop these two cars but I'm just comparing them since I experienced them back to back. Anyway, props to the Jetta for warming my bones so efficiently.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Agree and Disagree

November 08, 2011

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I agree with Donna D. that the Jetta TDI's interior has a lot of hard-touch surfaces. And I also agree that the leather-ish material on the Jetta's seats can be particularly sticky on hot summer days, especially when wearing shorts.

But, as I drove from Santa Monica to Dana Point yesterday, I realized I disagree that the Jetta is actually an uncomfortable car. The front seats have impressively plush cushions, while the seatbacks have ample lateral support for the (albeit limited) cornering forces the Jetta can attain. And the ride is plenty smooth for highway duty.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 13,741 miles.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Uncomfortable

September 06, 2011

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I find the 2012 VW Jetta TDI to be uncomfortable. All of the surfaces are hard-touch plastics.

And the seats are sticky. Not in a gross way but the pleathery fabric or whatever you call this stuff:

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Armramp

August 24, 2011

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I'm generally easy to please when it comes to seat comfort. But one thing that annoys me is when a manufacturer messes up something as elementary as a center armrest. Whether they make them out of hard plastic, uneven with the door armrest or leave them off altogether, man, that just bugs me. And my stinkeye has turned to our long-term Jetta on this one.

See that armrest above? It's canted forward. Why? I don't know, but it shouldn't be. That armrest doesn't really allow me to rest my arm there, it just offers a tenuous perch for my elbow. Besides the angle, it's also too small. Other VWs have an armrest that slides forward, but not our Jetta. If I were on a road trip, I'd probably prop it open with my wallet or something.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Unnecessary Roughness

August 11, 2011

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A while back, I briefly noted that our diesel Jetta doesn't roll to a stop smoothly. At the time, it didn't bother me all that much, perhaps because I wasn't stuck in traffic like I was last night.

My girlfriend and I made the trek from West Hollywood to Hermosa Beach around 6pm. The constant stop and go made me begin to despise this Jetta. I consider myself to be a fairly smooth driver, but executing a "limo stop" in this car is an exercise in futility.

Take a look at the Dynolicious graph above. Dropping below the zero G line indicates I'm decelerating and applying the brakes. I was trying oh so hard to do it smoothly, but the Jetta simply wouldn't allow it.

Now look at the graph below. It's a nice linear decoration that most cars are capable of. The difference? I dropped it into neutral.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: High mpg, Low Refinement

July 07, 2011

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I'm not the kind of guy who whines about a lack of comfort or refinement. But I won't hesitate to point out when a car falls short of the mark. As I made my way home last night, I was struck by our diesel-powered long-term Jetta's lack of refinement.

Besides the delay between throttle application that I noted earlier, there's no mistaking this VW as a diesel. The rattle from under the hood is not just noticeable, it's downright prominent. I can almost feel and hear each combustion stroke at idle. That's all fine on a Harley, but in a Jetta? No. Under acceleration, that rattle gets louder. So loud, that you might think something is wrong with the car.

Then there's the deceleration. Lifting off the pedal results in a significant amount of engine braking. So much, that it reminds me of our MiniE's regenerative braking. I was consistently on and off the brake pedal because the car was being slowed by the engine in a rather unpredictable manner. I'd brake as I normally would, then the car would chug to a stop, well short of my intended spot.

On top of that, every now and again, the diesel would produce a strong sputter and shudder as I rolled to a stop. It was so strong, that it felt like a start/stop motor, except most cars with this feature do it much more smoothly. As I tried to work around these quirks and adapt, I was so disenchanted that I fully expected the Jetta to start belching a thick cloud of black smoke.

But what really bugged me was the fact that our last TDI didn't seem to suffer from any of these ills. Seems like this might be a step backwards.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: A Word About the Seats

June 22, 2011

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There was considerable discussion about seats around here lately, so here's my two cents on the Jetta's accommodations. As good as they look, they're not that great to sit in. The driver's seat feels supportive initially, but after longer periods of time behind the wheel I find myself shifting around quite a bit to stay comfortable.

Part of the reason are the odd adjustment controls. The fore/aft pull is simple enough, but the racheting seat height adjuster never gets me to the right spot. Then there's the oddly placed seatback angle lever that requires you to contort your arm at an odd angle just to work it.

Granted, it's better than a dreaded dial adjuster, but would it kill them just to use a flat lever like the one right in front of it? I played with them all constantly and still came away wishing for better seats. Never remember feeling that way about the GTI.

Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 5,931 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: My Knees Were Pleased

June 01, 2011

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Yes, those are my knees. Note their distance from the front seat back. Not bad for a car of this size. I'll point out that the front seat was adjusted to my liking which is abnormally close for a person of my height (6'2").

This Jetta is often knocked for getting too big and going too mainstream. The bland styling doesn't help either. But can you blame Volkswagen for making it more comfortable for average sized people. Makes sense, no?

The seats themselves are about average as far as shape and comfort. Nothing terrible about the rear bench, nothing great about it either. Overall, it's about the kind of rear seat you would expect in a car like the Jetta.

Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 4,166

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: But...

May 25, 2011

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As you've know doubt heard, James Riswick does not like our Jetta TDI. And I can't say that I disagree with him one bit, but...

... it's the most comfortable car I've driven in a year.

Yes, really.

In a rare alignment of the ergonomic planets, the Jetta TDI has managed to fit me so well that I forgot all of James' pointed criticisms. I'm not saying it's sumptuous, but the combination of the seat, the position of it, and the steering wheel are so agreeable to me that I would not hesitate to buy this car if I had a commute of any serious distance. It's that good.

Yes, the interior is still dour and more than a little sparse, but while I was driving it, I never noticed.

Wonders never cease.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 3,082 miles

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Nice, Big Footrest

April 29, 2011

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Many new vehicles including several of our long-term test cars have itty-bitty footrests. On long trips, especially, this can lead to discomfort and foot squirming for me (size 9.5 chukka shown).

However, this is not the case with our long-term 2011 VW Jetta TDI. It's got a nice, big (but not juicy) footrest that's easy to find.

A decent-sized footrest is particularly difficult to package in manual transmission-equipped cars (although our Jetta is 6-speed DSG-equipped -- no clutch pedal).

Does this matter to you?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 2,300 miles

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Turned Off

April 25, 2011

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I had our new Jetta for a long weekend and found a lot to like about it. It handles great (and I needed that on Thursday, when I had to do some unplanned backing and u-turning to cope with roadblocks and traffic upheavals associated with President Obama's visit to Edmunds' neighborhood). iPhone pairing and music navigation were a snap. Fuel economy, as befits a diesel, was impressive: Despite commutes and fair amount of around-town driving, I came back to work with more than 300 miles of range remaining.

The only slightly weird moment came on Sunday, when I programmed the navigation system to take me home. It directed me to make a left turn into my neighborhood, and there was just one little problem with that. It was pointing me to a street that has been blocked off and fenced for more than two years. (There were big problems at this uncontrolled intersection, including t-boned cars and one pedestrian fatality).

I've read about nav systems that have directed people to cross bridges that didn't exist, but this was the first time I've been told to make a turn that wasn't possible (as opposed to a set of directions I just didn't agree with). How about you? Has your nav system ever steered you seriously wrong?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @2,163 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta in VA is:

$147 per month*
* Explanation
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