2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Jet Fuel

April 23, 2012

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Gotta love them polished tankers. This one's full of good old 1863, otherwise known as "aviation fuel, turbine engine." Jet fuel. It's similar to diesel, and our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI might even run on it. But the fuel's lower lubricity would do the VW no favors.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2011 Vollkswagen Jetta TDI: How Green is Diesel?

April 23, 2012

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Here's a post Earth Day question for you: Do you consider diesel cars to be "green"?

Ask any anybody at Volkswagen and they'll tell you that diesels are most assuredly green since they're more efficient. But the average car buyer, at least in the U.S., probably thinks much differently. Diesels are what smelly trucks use right? How clean can those be?

It's actually a complicated answer depending on your view of greenhouse gases vs. strict efficiency, but forget all the technical details for now. Are you convinced that diesels can be as green as a hybrid? And more importantly, could you convince someone who had never heard of the term "clean diesel?"

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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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 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: The Future of BioDiesel?

April 03, 2012

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When you mention biodiesel, I'm always thinking about those crazy guys who collect used cooking oil from restaurants. Some diesel car drives by and it smells like French fries. Like that.

Volkswagen apparently thinks different, as it recently did a deal to loan a couple of VW TDIs each to some high-tech players in the biodiesel world, Amyris and Solazyme.

Amyris uses its proprietary bio-engineering to enable algae to produce oil from plant-sourced sugar through fermentation. It has a partnership with Total, the French fuel company, to develop jet fuel, and it has another partnership with Brazil to develop large-scale production using sugarcane.

Meanwhile, Solazyme has its own biodiesel made from algae fermentation and it already has achieved some impact on the fuels front in partnership with Chevron as a supplier of experimental biodiesel for jets and ships to the U.S. Navy.

At the same time, large-scale biodiesel production from algae is still down the road, a measure of just how difficult it is to replicate laboratory experiments on a commercial scale. Indeed, delays and even bankruptcies have plagued the biofuel industry, and it's a future that seems to recede into the distance before our eyes.

It's fair to say that there's a way to go before biodiesel gets here in the kind of volume you would notice at the gas station. Yet these developments suggest that it indeed will get here in the end, only we're just not sure in what form. In any case, diesel models accounted for 23 percent of Volkswagen sales last month, an increase of 44 percent over the same period in 2011, so there are plenty of empty fuel tanks waiting.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 21,554 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: (Not Quite) Going the Distance

March 20, 2012

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In August of 2011, I took out 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI on our Fuel Sipper Smackdown route with the sole intention of getting the inter-office miles-per-tank record. Despite nearly 130 degree temperatures, my heavy right foot and the girlfriend's insistence on staying hydrated, I managed 642 miles and 45.724 mpg.

While it wasn't bad, before we hit the unearthly weather, the Jetta was assuming that I would've managed almost 800 to the tank. At the end of that post I said I'd try it again before the car went away. This weekend I tried it again. I even went ahead and bought a diesel-specific jerrycan...just in case.

While it was 130 degree weather that ruined the first trip, this one was ruined far, far sooner. The weather report for Los Angeles called for rain and I assumed that it would be local to LA. (I didn't look at the weather beyond a quick glance.)

It wasn't.

There were torrential downpours for just about the first 150 miles of my trip. At the first landmark I'd noted my estimated range from on the first attempt, the Jetta was now reading nearly 300 fewer estimated miles. Fuel economy was down 11 mpg at this point. (39 compared with 50.) Turns out that trying to push through heavy, heavy rain doesn't do good things for fuel economy.

So I said forget it, strapped on the V1 and hit the open road for a cold, rainy day in Death Valley.

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2011 Vollkswagen Jetta TDI: No Break on the Price of Fuel

March 14, 2012

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With all the talk about the price of gas these days, you would think that diesel-powered vehicles might finally get their due. With their generally superior mileage, cash strapped consumers should flock to them right?

Well, that's not really happening. For one, the choices are slim, our Jetta TDI being one of the few when it comes to small sedans. More importantly, the price of diesel fuel has been rising right alongside the price of gas. The national average this week for diesel is $4.12 while a regular gallon of gas is roughly $3,83.

Add that to the higher cost of buying most diesels in the first place and it's easy to see why they don't get much attention. Then again, I much prefer driving our Jetta compared to most sedans in its class thanks to the ample torque, but that a hard idea to get across in a 30-second commercial.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Cactus League MPG Run

March 07, 2012

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After Takahashi went to Phoenix and back with the Jetta TDI, I took it right back again for the opening day of the Cactus League, baseball’s spring training in Arizona.

With the annual winter increase in gas prices, it was a good time to be driving the TDI, since diesel fuel was usefully cheaper than premium gasoline at most of the fuel stations I saw. It gave me a glimpse of a world where diesel might be a rational exercise in technology instead of a dumb strategy to buy a really expensive engine and really expensive pollution control equipment while paying more money for fuel than gas cars.

Takahashi recorded 41 mpg on his way there and then a remarkable 44 mpg on his way back, so I was interested to see the way my fairly careless driving on cruise control would compare to his hypermiling effort.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Spring Training Calls

March 02, 2012

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Baseball spring training calls to me, so I’m away to Phoenix and a couple of games.

Got the Volkswagen Jetta TDI lined up. Was thinking about where to stop for fuel between here and Phoenix Municipal Stadium where the A’s play, about 400 miles. Phoenix Muni is pretty much the oldest and most charming of the Cactus League stadiums, where the original light standards came from the Polo Grounds in NYC and Willie Mays hit the first home run.

Finally I figured it out. The Jetta TDI has been getting 35.3 mpg and as much as 46.1 mpg. The tank measures 14.5 gallons. Cruising range = 512 miles. Wait a second, no stopping necessary between here and Phoenix. So, no planning necessary. A diesel is the ultimate car for spontaneous travel.

Of course, this just means more guilt when you want to stop for Twinkies and the fuel gauge has hardly moved for 200 miles.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: So, How'd I do?

March 02, 2012

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In the last post, I made the trek from L.A. to Scottsdale, AZ (not Flagstaff, as I reported earlier) in an attempt to beat the 46.1-mpg record. I failed. But on the return trip?

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Challenge Accepted

February 28, 2012

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I left our Santa Monica offices for Flagstaff, Arizona yesterday morning with one goal in mind: crush the mileage record for this car. So far, the record for our long-term diesel Jetta is 46.1 mpg. As the image above shows, I had 395 miles of straight and boring highway in front of me.

About 40 miles into the journey, I was feeling pretty confident, as the on-board trip computer estimated my mileage at 47.2 mpg. "I've got this," I thought to myself...

And then this happened.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Empty Tank, Full Bladder

February 27, 2012

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No. I didn't drive the entire 509 miles in one sitting. It was a weekend round-trip without refueling, but that's some serious range (at an average of 39 mpg). There is only one entry with a longer trip, but I wasn't hyper-miling -- far from it. Thank you Mike Valentine.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 17,949 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Beating the EPA is Easy

February 27, 2012

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Even with the optimistic self-reporting of which most cars are guilty, I was able to eclipse the Volkswagen Jetta TDI's EPA estimated Highway fuel economy of 42 mpg. I set the cruise to 76 mph and ran the AC the entire 250-mile distance to produce this 44 mpg average. I'm fairly certain this car can get 45 mpg. What are "hyper-milers" getting, 50 mpg?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 17,902 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Mythbusting

February 22, 2012

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Myth: IL is playing "let's see who can get the highest mpg" games with the Jetta. -- commenter @brn.

Sure, last year editors Brent Romans and Ron Montoya battled it out to try and get the best mpg in our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI without hypermiling.

But I'll have you know, at least speaking for myself, I don't drive the Jetta with fuel economy in mind. And seeing as how editor Dan Edmunds claimed, "Diesel torque rules" in a previous post, I'm guessing a lot of the other editors don't either.

In fact, editors Al Austria, Dan Frio and Mike Monticello drive it in Sport mode. The Jetta just manages to hold onto its top spot in spite of how we drive it. Busted!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 17,330 miles

April 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

18.3

31.7

39

Mazda 2

38.1

21.1

31.5

32

VW Jetta TDI

31.8

25.5

28.7

34

May 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

38.8

25.5

32.6

34

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

18.3

31.7

39

Mazda 2

38.1

21.1

31.5

32

June 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

40.3

25.5

34.2

34

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

18.3

31.7

39

Mazda 2

38.1

21.1

31.6

32

July 2011: Editor Ron Montoya upped the TDI's best mpg during Carmaggedon weekend thanks to the fact that "There was nobody on the road."

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

42.9

25.5

35.1

34

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

18.3

31.7

39

Fiat 500

42.4

25.4

31.5

33

August 2011: Editor Brent Romans beat Montoya's best mpg for the Jetta and without hypermiling.

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

46.1

25.5

35.4

34

Mazda 2

38.1

21.1

31.8

32

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

24.4

31.6

39

September 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

46.1

25.5

35.3

34

Mazda 2

38.7

25.7

32.0

32

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

24.4

31.6

39

October 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

46.1

25.5

35.4

34

Mazda 2

38.7

21.1

31.9

32

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

24.4

31.6

39

November 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

46.1

25.5

35.4

34

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

24.4

31.6

39

Fiat 500

42.4

25.3

31.0

33

December 2011

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

46.1

25.5

35.3

34

Mazda 3 Skyactiv

39.7

23.5

31.8

32

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

24.4

31.6

39

January 2012

Car

Best

Worst

Average

EPA

VW Jetta TDI

46.1

25.5

35.3

34

Fusion Hybrid

37.7

24.4

31.7

39

Fiat 500

42.4

25.3

31.1

33

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Strong First Half

February 14, 2012

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Yes, the trip odometer had been reset properly when our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI was last filled with diesel fuel. This appears to have been a very strong half-tank performance, but the lesser figure on the miles-to-go readout suggests that maybe this gauge isn't accurately predicting the halfway point.

I pulled up to a pump and refilled the tank to sort it all out.

The Jetta took on 9.551 gallons out of a possible 14.5, so by rights the fuel gauge should be at the one-third point. Still, this tank of mixed driving -- a bit more freeway than city, perhaps -- works out to 38 mpg. The Jetta's EPA combined rating is 34 mpg.

Overall performance after 17,100 miles goes like this:

Average lifetime fuel economy: 35.3 mpg (better than EPA-rated)

Best fuel economy: 46.1 mpg

Best single tank range: 642.7 miles

Average range: 357.7 miles on an average fillup of 10.1 gallons

This car can easily top 400 miles per tank if you allow the needle to get past the one-quarter mark. The tank pictured above already exceeds the average and still registers half full. Heck, it's still be impressive if it accurately read one-third full.

Remember that we're stopping at the pump less often than once per week, on average, even though we're driving at a an elevated pace intended to achieve 20,000 miles per year. Drive 12,000 miles per year and you may only need to stop twice a month.

The best part is this: this thing is no slug off the line. We're not hypermiling the Jetta to get these numbers. Diesel torque rules.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 17,100 miles

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2011 Volkwagen Jetta TDI: City Engine With Highway Mileage

January 13, 2012

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This is easily one of the best engines around for city driving. The instant torque it serves up works perfectly for pulling out of driveways, squirting into traffic and otherwise negotiating all the various stop and go situations that go along with driving on crowded streets.

Then there's the fact that the same engine returns an easy 35mpg on the highway. And I say "easy" because that's this car's overall average over the roughly 16,000 miles we've driven it. On pure highway stints it no doubt returns even better numbers.

Made me wonder how Volkswagen is going to market the new Jetta hybrid. Should be interesting.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: More TDI vs. Hybrid

January 12, 2012

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In case you missed the 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid post from the Detroit auto show floor, it's definitely worth a quick read.

Impressive specs? Yes. But I have no problem sticking with the TDI.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 16,093 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Hybrid, Why Bother?

January 10, 2012

JettaHybridGrille1.jpg Volkswagen introduced its 2013 Jetta hybrid Monday at the Detroit Auto Show. The carmaker estimates that the hybrid will have a combined average fuel economy of 45 mpg. My first thought was: "Why bother having a hybrid when Volkswagen already has a perfectly good diesel option?"

We've had a difficult time getting close to the combined mpg numbers in many of the hybrids that have come our way (Ford Fusion Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid and Honda Insight, to name a few). You're probably thinking that's because Edmunds editors have lead feet.

Perhaps we do, but the lead in our feet doesn't seem to have a negative impact on the TDIs we've had. We've been able to meet or exceed the combined fuel economy ratings in all the TDIs we have tested.

I prefer diesel engines because they deliver more consistent results and I find that the torque is much more useable in everyday driving.

Despite this clear advantage for diesel, I can think of a reason why Volkswagen would still produce a hybrid -- perception. As far as we've come in terms of clean diesels, the public perception of these engines is years behind the times. Ask people what comes to mind when they hear the word "hybrid." Then ask them to do the same for the word "diesel." Chances are you'll get opposing answers: clean and dirty.

I get that Volkswagen wants to cover all the bases. But if these hybrid VWs catch on, I wonder if it will be the end of TDIs.

What about you? Would you rather have a Jetta hybrid or diesel?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: 5 Reasons To Get a Jetta TDI Over a Prius

January 04, 2012

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1) Our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI has more get-up-and-go than a Prius. (The 2011 VW Jetta TDI's 0-60 is 8.8 seconds; Prius V's 10.3, 2010 Prius 10.1.)

2) People won't see you coming and instantly assume you're a bad driver.

3) Doesn't emit toxic gas called Smug.

4) That HOV sticker no longer works for Prii so why bother?

5) Comparison Test: Jetta TDI vs. Prius V. 'Nuff said.

Any you'd like to add?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

PS: Relax, I'm just havin' fun. Happy New Year!

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: This is a Diesel.

December 12, 2011

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Subtle punctuation is all that's needed to convey how I feel about our Jetta. In the past few years, I've been pleasantly surprised by some diesel-powered vehicles (Audi, BMW, Mercedes), prompting me to ask/exclaim, "This is a diesel?"

In the case of our Volkswagen Jetta TDI, it's simply, "This is a diesel. (period)"

There's no mistaking it for anything else. Once you start it up, that rattle coming from the hood just screams diesel. Then there's that lazy launch off the line that I've commented on before. If you're cruising down the highway, though, the Jetta feels just fine; that is, until you go to pass someone, then that rattle and hesitation reminds you.

Granted, our Volkswagen costs about half of what the aforementioned impressive diesels do, so I really can't fault it too much.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Passat TDI for Green Car of the Year?

October 24, 2011

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Can you guess what the Passat TDI and the Jetta TDI have in common? Well, the Green Car Journal just released its list of finalists for its annual Green Car of the Year award, and the Passat TDI got a nod; you may recall that the Jetta TDI was a finalist back in 2009 and went on to win the award. The other finalists this year are the Ford Focus Electric, the Honda Civic Natural Gas, the Mitsubishi i and the Toyota Prius V.

Nominees are selected by the editors of Green Car Journal along with a panel of leaders from national environmental organizations. According to the Journal, "models are considered that feature improved environmental impact and increased efficiencies."

My money's on the Prius V, which is far and away the most fuel-efficient choice in the wagon/compact crossover segment. What's your guess as to which model will come out the winner?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: So Why Don't Americans Like Diesels?

September 21, 2011

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Oh, right.

Also, Suburban 30 EST. HWY - LOL

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 11,390 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Going After the Range Record

August 18, 2011

Golf Fueling.JPG When the mpg record I set in the Jetta TDI was topped, I felt like I needed to do something to regain my diesel street cred. I've done some serious highway driving in my 2010 Golf TDI recently and I was in a position to beat the Jetta's range record of 564 miles, set a few months back. It wouldn’t quite be an apples-to-apples comparison, since the Jetta weighs about 170 pounds more, but they both have the same size fuel tanks (14.5 gallons). And it would make for an interesting challenge.

On this particular tank of gas, I had driven from Santa Barbara to LA, went round trip to Palm Desert and drove a few days to and from work. I had broken my personal range record of 519.9 miles and had gotten to about 542 miles when the low-fuel warning light came on.

I drove home that day determined to beat the record. When I left the office, the needle on the fuel gauge was sitting at the top of the red zone. My range indicator said I was about 45 miles away from empty. It would be close, but I figured I had more than enough fuel to beat this record.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Why is the Jetta Such a Popular Diesel?

August 10, 2011

vw-jetta-TDI-badge.jpg

According to some recent sales numbers compiled by HybridCars.com, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI is far and away the top selling diesel-powered vehicle in the U.S. Nearly 57,000 of them have been sold through July. The next best seller is the Golf TDI, but it's barely up to 6,000 units sold in the same time period.

So why does the Jetta rule the class so handily? I think it has less to do with its performance and more to do with its legacy. The Jetta has offered diesel power on and off for years now while other vehicles are just now starting to include a diesel engine on the options list. The BMW 335d is an excellent use of diesel power, but how many 3 Series buyers even know it exists?

Legacy is the only reason, though, as this Jetta backs up the name with satisfying performance. It's about the perfect size for the 2.0-liter TDI. The Passat on the other hand starts to strain the 2.0-liter to the point of making you wonder if it's worth the trouble. I never feel that way in the Jetta, it just goes. Should be interesting to see if any vehicles start to catch up with the Jetta as fuel mileage becomes more of a priority.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta: New MPG Record

August 03, 2011

vw_jetta_mpg1.JPG As detailed in yesterday's post, this morning I set out to top Ron's record of 42.9 mpg for our 2011 Jetta TDI without resorting to extreme hypermiling. And yes, it was Mission Acomplished(!). But it wasn't nearly as easy as I thought. Lots of semi-interesting details plus the final number follow (what, you thought I'd give it to you without any suspense?).

My plan of attack for beating 42.9 mpg was to make a 230-mile highway trip following three basic premises: 1) Drive conservatively and use cruise control whenever possible; 2) Maintain a speed of about 65 to 70 mph, thereby matching the posted speed limits along my route (and not be a rolling chicane); 3) keep the air conditioning off.

Here's how it went, along with some other random notes.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Will Try To Beat 42.9 MPG

August 02, 2011

vw_jetta_fuel1.JPG If you noticed the latest fuel economy report, our Jetta's best fuel economy so far was 42.9 mpg, obtained by none other than Golf-TDI-owning staffer Ron Montoya. Perhaps with a bit of irony, he obtained that figure driving in Los Angeles during the infamous Carmageddon weeekend. (Ron's explanation: "There was nobody on the road.")

Well, I've got a 225-mile trip planned for tomorrow, and I'm going to try and beat Ron's number. In my favor, it's almost all highway driving, which is right up a diesel's alley. I've also seen a couple other 40-mpg tanks on our Jetta's fuel log, so I know 42.9 isn't otherworldly. Finally, I'll be actually trying for good fuel economy. However, I won't be driving like a hypermiling weenie, either. I'll match the posted speed limits (65 to 70 mph for the route) when possible and turn off the air-conditioning when possible, but that's about it. I'll also be going up and over the 4,000-foot Tejon Pass.

It'll be close. But I'm hoping for 44 mpg. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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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: Home on this Range

June 21, 2011


TDI Range.jpg

I'm in Santa Cruz getting ready to drive back to my home in the Los Angeles area, 363 miles away. I know the range on the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is the best in the business so I check the distance to empty gauge and find I've got about 380 miles before I need a fill up. That's not so good. But then I look at the trip meter and find I've already driven 202 miles.

Five and a half hours later, I pull up in front of my house with 10 miles left to empty. Some people might consider that cutting it close. But I liked the fact that I covered all the distance without breaking my stride (except for coffee). By the way, I averaged 44 mpg over the 363 miles cruising between 65 and 75 mph.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 5,937 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Aerodynamics and MPG

June 16, 2011

Jetta Oil Pumps.jpg

I've always thought that the instantaneous fuel economy gauge is pretty useless since the number bounces around so much it's hard to draw any conclusions about fuel consumption. But while driving the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI through the San Joaquin Valley, on the way to the Bay Area, it was so straight and so flat that, when I set the cruise control, the instant mpg leveled out and gave me a nearly constant reading. My father was along for the trip, and he's a huge fan of diesels (he's owned five diesels dating back to the 1980s and currently owns the 2009 Jetta TDI) so we decided to do a rough test of aerodynamics.

Let me quickly underline the phrase "rough test." I know that this isn't conclusive. But it does give an interesting indication of the drop off in fuel economy as the speed builds and the wind resistance increases. Here's what we found for 60, 70, 80 and 90 mph.

First, here is how we did the test. I used the cruise control to set the speed exactly at the different speeds. I then watched the instant fuel economy reading for several miles. It still fluctuated and it is very sensitive to any incline, but after a few miles the average becomes clear. It was 94 degrees Fahrenheit with little perceptible wind. We did the test twice and got nearly identical results.

Here are the results averaged for the two tests:

60 mph = 47 mpg
70 mph = 40 mpg
80 mph = 36 mpg
90 mph = 33 mpg

So it's clear that the higher speeds reduced the fuel economy. But it was a little surprising that the fuel economy didn't drop off more sharply at higher speeds. When my father made a graph of the results it was nearly a straight line, not the exponential result I had expected. However, it's also important to remember that the diesel engine might have different characteristics than a gas engine.

You might be yawning and saying, "So what?" Well, for many people fuel economy is basically about saving money. So I did a few calculations to try to drive my point home, so to speak. If you were driving 500 miles and decided to go 80 mph rather than 70 mph, it would cost you almost $6 more in fuel at $4.30 per gallon of diesel (the current price in California). Driving at 90 mph, common on Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley, it would cost $11.40 more. Are you still saying, "So what?"

One interesting thing I noticed was that the road surface seemed to have an effect of fuel economy. In several cases I drove over smoother concrete surface rather than the pebbled asphalt and the mpgs jumped up. This makes sense because I once heard that hypermilers drove with one tire on the white stripe at the end of the road to reduce friction.

There's one other thing I'd like to mention: this Jetta TDI is one of my all time favorite cars.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @5,174 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: It's all About the Range

June 07, 2011

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Why would I consider buying a VW Jetta TDI?

In a word: range.

Look at that IP. Already 103 miles driven on a full tank of diesel, and the needle hasn't moved from full.

That, plus another 420 miles distance-to-empty equals fewer gas stops which makes me very happy.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 4,399 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: All Down the Line

May 02, 2011

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I like diesel. I don't know why. Like the energy, like the smell. Like the sound of the word and the images it evokes of Mack long-haulers and Santa Fe cross-country freights. Less enamored of the particulate emissions that end up embedded in our respiratory tracts, though. So I like our Jetta TDI almost by default. Its 2.0-liter turbodiesel makes a nice chatter at idle, not at all noisy inside. Feels like it has purpose and a surprise skill set, the Jetta sibling steered toward a law career that instead traveled abroad and ended up running guns in Afghanistan.

It's got great pull on the highway. Just keep it in the sweet spot (70 mph, 2,500 rpm), then stomp to pass or arc around an erratic wolfpack, and it uncoils effortlessly. It's rated at the same horsepower as the Honda Civic (140), but with 100 lb-ft more torque, the two couldn't be more different. On the streets around town, I too noticed some of the hesitation and sponginess Mark wrote about. It displays a similar character in congested traffic. We're at almost 2,500 miles; is it still breaking in or learning our style?

For this kind of range, I could live with it. It's not as bad as the standard hiccup mode in recent BMWs, anyway. Tight parking can be a little dodgy. Lift your foot from the brake and instead of inching forward, you sit there. Don't go for the accelerator too quick, lest you end up with a bumper-full of bumper. But after having put 260 miles on it during this trip, and with the 14.5-gallon tank still more than half-full, we're looking pretty close to VW's estimated range of 609 highway miles.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Diesel Shocker

April 26, 2011

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Boy, diesel is expensive! A quick survey of Edmunds' neighborhood shows the lowest diesel price to be $4.55 per gallon, and I've seen it as high as $4.89. That really drives home the point about saving money by using less-expensive regular fuel, doesn't it? Around here, regular is going for a (relatively reasonable) $4.19. Ten gallons of regular versus that expensive diesel is a big $7.00 in savings.

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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:

$127 per month*
* Explanation
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