2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Changes Settings on My iPod

April 12, 2012

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I'll preface this post by saying that my iPod is ancient. I have the original Touch that was carved out of stone. I think it was even playing in the lounge when the Titanic went down.

Whenever I connect my iPod in our long-term VW Jetta, I choose all Songs and Shuffle. I like the strange mix I get when I jumble all of my music together. I even have a track with Scott Oldham pretending he is yelling at me about blogging. That really wakes you up when it comes on in the mix.

If a track comes up that I don't want to hear, I can advance to the next song by pressing the arrows on the audio system or on the steering wheel. If I want to go back or replay a track because I was really enjoying that Lindsey Buckingham guitar solo, the system goes to the next track regardless. So the forward and back arrows both advance. They just keep shuffling on.

A weird thing it does, is reset the settings on my iPod. The next time I use it outside of the car, it has been set to repeat. I didn't notice this until I put it on one night when I went to bed. I put on a relaxation track that lasts about 40 minutes. When I woke up the next morning it was still playing. It had repeated all night and I couldn't get it out of my head the next day.

Not a big deal once you know about it. But I find it strange.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Vollkswagen Jetta TDI: Easy Inflation Instructions

April 12, 2012

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That damn tire warning light starting to annoy you? Well then, here's a set of handy instructions on what to do conveniently located on the door sill or the Jetta.

Oddly enough, getting rid of the low tire warning involves filling up all four tires to their recommended pressures. After that, just hit the reset button for two seconds and poof! Warning light gone. Who knew it could be that easy?

Ed Hellwig, Editor

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2011 Vollkswagen Jetta TDI: Barely Worth the Space

April 09, 2012

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After using the Jetta's navigation system a few times over the weekend, I'd say it's barely worth the space on the dash it occupies. Sure, it works and all if you put an address in, but the level of detail shown by the maps is not very helpful.

I like to be able to see the names of the streets as I approach them but the Jetta's maps don't show much until you zoom almost all the way in. At that point, you lose your sense of direction since all you can see is the block or two ahead. One one hand, some might say that this is an entry-level car with a corresponding nav system. On the other hand, it still added $1,200 to the price of the car so it should be better than this.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Nickel and Dime

March 30, 2012

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The test price for our long-term Jetta TDI is about $26,000. With that not-insignificant sum for a Jetta comes the proprietary MDI cable that connects your iThing to the multimedia system. We had a Passat S in here a couple of weeks ago with no MDI connection nor even a USB port. Just an AUX In jack. The Passat is also about $6,000 cheaper.

To get iConnectivity in the Passat, you need to commit $26,800 for the SE model, and that also gets you a sunroof and navigation system. That's a lotta cheddar just to get some iPhone music in a VW sedan. And that's for a proprietary system with its own protocols that may or may not always work for you (one colleague here reports problems using MDI after a recent iPhone update).

Yes, the Passat has Bluetooth. But that limits you to volume and track forward/back. That'll do in a pinch, but streaming quality is inferior and inevitably we end up fumbling with our phones trying to find a playlist, until we rear-end a Subaru Forester full of rescue puppies so traumatized by the incident that they grow into adults that cannot be housebroken.

A simple USB port, that's all I ask. In every car. And especially this, the People's Car.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Thanks, George Vernon Hudson

March 12, 2012

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You'll likely be seeing more of these posts today thanks to a certain 19th Century Entomologist. Some folks mistakenly credit Benjamin Franklin for the idea of Daylight Savings, but according to those who actually do research on such things, it turns out he was merely joking around with an idea to save money on candles. It was Hudson -- and a couple World Wars -- that cause our circadian rhythms to get all messed up twice a year (unless you live in the Republic of AZ).
So, in order to reset the Jetta's clock, I thought I'd use the prominent SETUP button on the dash, then select SYSTEM, then CLOCK. Well, that wasn't right. Another trip to the owner's manual...

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Arrow-Star-Arrow Icon?

March 12, 2012

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I know what the Bluetooth icon is, but I can't for the life of me determine what the one below is/does. It doesn't respond to touch, I cannot select it with the rotary knob, and doesn't change size/color/presence based on anything I can do. Yes, I consulted all three owner's manuals this morning (photographic evidence below). A little help?

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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: No Parking Lights?

February 14, 2012

11 vw jetta light switch I was looking at the light switch on our Jetta this morning and was curious about how few options I had for lighting choices. From 9 o'clock to 12 o'clock, we've got Fog Lights, Lights Off and Low Beams. No Parking Lights option.

I can live without automatic headlights, but I actually use parking lights frequently enough to miss this option on the switch. The owner's manual tells me that when the ignition is switched off, the parking lights and daytime running lights may stay on, and that "Parking Lights" as a light switch option is available on some Jettas. But this isn't the case on our TDI's light switch.

What do Jetta TDI owners do at the drive-in? Does anyone go to the drive-in anymore? I used to love the drive-in.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 17,177 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Getting Synchronized

February 13, 2012

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The Jetta's key fob had a mind of its own this weekend. The thing did just fine when it came to opening the car, but it wasn't quite pulling off the job of locking the Jetta's doors securely when I was ready to exit the red four-door and go on my way. Click, click, click. I'd press the thing over and over again and still it wouldn't do as it was told.

I figured the key fob battery couldn't be the issue, since the red light on the fob lit up when it was activated; also, when I locked the doors (while seated within the car, using the interior door locks), the key fob opened the locks without a hitch.

After poring through the owner's manual for a moment or two, I learned the source of the problem: The car's key needed to be synchronized. Read all the thrilling details involved in this process after the jump.

The first step involved whipping out the fob's key bit, which I then used to pry open the cap on the front driver-side door handle. Doing so left the handle looking a bit exposed, as shown in the photo below.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: All Diesels Should Have This

February 10, 2012

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But many don't. In fact, our 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is one of the few I've run across with this feature.

Wait, what are we talking about?

It's the little "D" on the gas station POI list. I noticed it when using the navigation system POI feature after discovering the massive new Chevron station I pulled into did not have any diesel pumps. The 2009 Audi Q7 TDI I drove in the Audi Mileage Marathon didn't have this capability, nor did any of the contestants in our heavy-duty diesel truck shootout.

Back in 2006 I was driving the Dodge Ram and towing the big yellow 10,000 pound trailer back from the test grade near Borrego Springs. At one point I needed to stop for fuel in an unfamiliar part of eastern San Diego county, but the "D-less" POI list on its navigation system was of no help. Much swearing and consternation ensued.

Past experience had taught me to put little faith in the presence or absence of diesel fuel price signs, which sometimes look like portable real estate "Open House" signs, but without balloons, so I eventually wheeled the big rig in and out of three gas stations before I found one with a diesel pump.

Automaker engineers that configure navigation systems generally do so on a corporate-wide basis, and diesel tends to get forgotten because it represents a tiny fraction of total sales here in North America. The two companies that supply map data to all automakers certainly know which stations have diesel, but that knowledge costs a bit more and the in-car database and display system has to reckon with another variable.

Yeah, implementing this feature requires a few extra calories. But the effort seems absolutely vital if you're the one who bought a diesel-powered machine and paid the princely sum they get for navigation -- especially when you're traveling outside your zone of familiarity.

If you're considering a diesel car or truck, punch up "gas station" on the POI list before you leave the showroom. And I think we'd all be interested to hear from diesel owners with navi about any other cars that do or do not have this feature.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: iPod Cord

February 03, 2012

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Our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a prime example of Exhibit E. Don't remember Exhibit E? I refer the jury to my recent iPod cord post on the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic.

Volkswagen and Audi are fond of short leashes that keep the device shut away in the glove box. One could argue this is OK for an iPod or other music-only device, but it eliminates the possibility of using any other iPhone function or app while the phone is docked as a music player, which in my case is 100 percent of the time I'm in the car.

And I'm talking about perfectly acceptable and legal uses such as any use while stopped, any use by your passenger (aka navigator) while moving. With smartphones, it's not enough to assume Bluetooth pairing for the phone and a physical dock for the music player is enough.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Save As

January 09, 2012

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This weekend, I paid Mark a visit. After inputting his address, the Jetta's navigation system asked me if I'd like to save the address. It turns out, you can essentially do a "Save As" and name your destination anything you'd like. Since Mark's place already has a name, I thought it only fitting to Save As...

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 15,950 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Fourth Time is a Charm

January 06, 2012

StarterButton-1600.jpg This was my first time our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and I was pleasantly surprised to find it has an intelligent-key entry and ignition. Follow the jump to see what wasn't a pleasant surprise.


There are so many vehicles with push-button starters now that I thought they all worked the same: A brief press and vaaa-rooom! Right?


Not so much with the Jetta: First press unlocks the steering (you'll hear it). Second press turns the engine over, but it doesn't actually start up. Third press, ditto the Second. Finally, the fourth press (held until ignition) actually starts the car. I know, I know. If I were the true owner of this car, I would know that I need to depress the button until ignition, but I thought the regulations for emissions testing stipulate that the test begins once the button is pressed (or key is turned) and the automated starter system took over.


How many new vehicles actually still require a persistent, positive, driver input to start it up? I thought that went away with the automated start-up years ago. I see I was wrong.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 15,834 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Kid's Nav Screen

January 05, 2012

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This morning my daughter, who has only recently graduated to front-seat passenger status, asked a funny question.

"Why does this car have a kid's screen?"

Glancing down at the Jetta's nav display, I realized she had a point. It is so simple in its presentation, it is almost cartoonish.

Clear is the new clever.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,738 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Rush-Hour Review

November 18, 2011

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Since I had to drive to Pasadena from Santa Monica (about 25 miles) last night in the worst traffic (Thursday nights seem to be cursed that way) I got a chance to evaluate our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI as a rush-hour conveyance. I liked the Nissan Juke for getting through this daily ordeal but the Jetta is pretty decent, too.

Magrath said he didn't like it because he wants "more control and more smoothness" during his commute which consists of "stops and hard acceleration above 40." But I have the same commute and didn't find the TDI problematic to drive at all. I liked that it felt like it was using engine braking to slow down so I didn't have to hit the brakes as much. And I didn't even make use of its automanual. I also found it sufficiently zippy for getting around the distracted on the 10 East.

As technology goes, our Jetta doesn't currently have a Sirius subscription but I was able to drum my fingers to my playlists on Spotify via iPhone and Bluetooth Audio. Plus thanks to Bluetooth I could call up my mom and get an up-to-date report on who's dead and who's having babies. Seat heaters soothed me as I waded through the sea of brakelights.

However, I hated the map in this car. Too rudimentary to make sense of in that tiny screen. As editor Brent Romans pointed out, it "doesn't display as much information (say, street names) at normal zoom levels" and it's difficult to figure out how to navigate around the map. Good thing I already kinda knew where I was going.

But, yeah, the Jetta TDI did a fine job of getting me to my destination unfrazzled.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: What's the Weirdest Track on Your iPod?

November 17, 2011

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The audio display in our Jetta shows how much time is left to a song. I find this very helpful.

We don't have a satellite radio subscription in our Jetta, so I hooked up my iPod to the cord in the glove box. I set it to shuffle all songs. And since I have a lot of weird stuff on my iPod, like singing lessons and hour-long hotel mixes, I skip through a lot of tracks.

To skip forward to the next track I used the right arrow on the steering column, but when I tried to go back with the left arrow, it just kept skipping to random songs.

Tell us what is the weirdest track you have on your iPod?

I have a mix of Scott yelling at me. He's fake yelling at me for a video but it still freaks me out when it comes up in a random mix.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Navi Destination is Always Available

October 20, 2011

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On many navigation systems, the navi will tell you that your have arrived at your destination, but won't tell you which is the exact building. I've usually have forgotten the house number by the time I arrive, and it's difficult to dig out of the navi system unless you go to Previous Destinations. On some new systems the address does pop up on the screen when you arrive, but in my experience, most don't.

Well our long-term VW Jetta TDI has got this covered. If you press the small "i" switch at the upper right when a destination has been entered, you get a screen with the complete address -- and the house number. It's always available on your route. Nice.

VW even gives you the Lat and Long map coordinates just in case you need to call in an airstrike on that Al Qaeda safehouse.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 12,666 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Missing Something

September 08, 2011

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This isn't the dash of our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. If it were, I wouldn't have a post for today. This is the dash of Ron Montoya's 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI.

Now, apart from lacking the "highline combi-instrument display" that allows you to reconfigure the annoying door locks (it's also got a bigger screen, different colors and controls for footwell lighting!), our Jetta is missing some other things present here....Spot 'em?

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: A Bright Spot

August 24, 2011

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Sometimes I feel bad for constantly pointing out the negatives in a car. I found myself in this very predicament this morning when I complained about out Jetta's armrest, so I just wanted to point out something that I do like. And that would be the touchscreen.

It's not all that big, but it is very legible. The graphics are also quite attractive without being flashy or gaudy. The font is very legible but still has a little personality to it. I was trying to place where I've seen it before, then there it was, right in front of me. It's the same typeface that is on the gauges.

Nice touch.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: VW's New Navigation System

July 27, 2011

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One of the new features for the 2011 Jetta is VW's latest "RNS 315" sound and navigation system. It comes standard on the Jetta SEL and is optional on the TDI ($1,200, though that also gets you keyless ignition/entry, fog lights and extra chrome trim). RNS 315 is now the main VW head unit and is found on everything except the Touareg and Routan. Some observations on it follow.

For the most part, I like the new head unit. The navigation system is flash memory based, so it reacts very quickly to inputs. The screen itself is bright and crisp. The audio presets are different as compared to the ones in our departed 2010 GTI, as they are set in an arc that moves across in blocks of six presets. Using the main rotary dial will scrolls through the presets, letters on the keyboard for navigation entries and lists on a MP3 player. It's also a touch-screen, so just about everything has redundant control either by touching or by using the rotary dial and flanking buttons.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Sirius Howard Groupies

July 01, 2011

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There's a Howard Stern lover in every crowd. Or in our office, there seems to be quite a few.

Most times I get in a long-term test car I find the satellite radio has been left on 100.

While I'm not a big fan of Stern, I do like the VW Jetta's screen. So simple, bright and clean, this quick pic doesn't really do it justice.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Windows Vs. AC Test

June 20, 2011

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On my drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, I ran an informal fuel economy test and got some enthusiastic comments. Some of you wondered why I didn't do a windows-versus-air-conditioner test and, well, I had to agree. So heading south on Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley, I took some readings that I found revealing.

Just to recap, there has been a debate over which is more fuel efficient -- air conditioner off and windows down, or windows up and air conditioner on? Windows up is more aerodynamic but running the air conditioner makes the engine work harder. Here's what I found.

I ran the test at 70 mph because I felt this was a typical speed drivers would choose. It was 94 degrees Fahrenheit with little wind and the road was dead flat. So, at 70 mph, with the windows up and the AC on, the instantaneous fuel economy gauge showed I was getting 41 mpg. (This was close to the 40 mpg I got in my test three days earlier.) With the front two windows down and the AC off I got 45 mpg -- a 9.7 percent improvement.

I was amazed that the improvement was so great. I was also impressed with how horrible it was to be in a really hot car at 70 mph with the windows open.

After a few miles of pondering the results, I decided to try the test with a different variable -- air conditioning off and all the windows down. This time I got 41 mpg, the exact amount I got with the windows up and the AC on. So, with two windows down it is a 9.7 percent improvement and with all the windows down the car is turned into a parachute.

My feeling has always been that the aerodynamics of cars is so different that you can't predict the results. So if you are curious about this, and you don't mind being ripped apart by wind in the name of science, try running this test yourself.

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

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Speedo and Tach Attack

June 13, 2011

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Volkswagen's human factors engineering department must be experiencing some sort of ongoing internal power struggle. Take a look at the speedo and tachometer in our 2011 VW Jetta TDI. In particular, have a look at the tach.

See anything amiss? Apart from the lowish diesel redline?

Sorry, it was a trick question. There's nothing seriously wrong here.

Now let's look at the last generation Jetta TDI. Ours was a 2009 example.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Information Blackout

May 23, 2011

2011 Jetta TDI Wheel.jpg See that blank space on the 2011 Jetta TDI's steering wheel? That’s where the controls for the Multifunction Display (MFD) used to be. The current Jetta Sportwagen and the Golf have on-wheel controls. And our last Jetta TDI had them too.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: What Happened to the Cool VW Gauges?

May 10, 2011

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One of the biggest disappointments about the redesigned 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is staring me in the face each time I get into our TDI sedan.

Yes, this is all you get. The analog temperature and fuel gauges are gone. The blue and red illumination I liked so much in the 1999.5-2005 and 2005.5-2010 Jettas is gone, replaced with this spare white-with-red lighting.

And the trip computer has very limited functionality, and its small display takes up only half of the big plastic indentation allotted to it. This (below) is the only alternate screen, evidently featuring a distance-to-empty display and a mileage-to-next-service readout, and it only stays up for 5 seconds before cycling back to the previous default screen. (Of course, you can also toggle between seeing the odometer reading and the trip counter.)

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: VW - 1, Buick - 0

May 03, 2011

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A few weeks back during the 2011 New York Auto Show, I got a sneak preview of Buick's new Intellilink technology package. It's a pretty slick looking -- and easy to use -- in-dash system for linking phone / nav / audio and more via app-like buttons. It's neat.

Unfortunately, Buick doesn't trust their drivers (well, GM in general doesn't) as to use the navigation you either have to pull over or do it via OnStar. Buick even had the nerve to say that having to pull over was one of the worst things about built-in nav and that they'd developed a solution!!

After the presentation, I reminded them that most of the Germans (and Honda / Acura ) have no problem allowing one to use the nav while moving. Our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta fits into the category of "cars for adults who like to make their own decisions." Click "OK" up there and you've got full control. Nothing's greyed out. No need to pull over.

Sorry, but if I pay for a car, I want it to work when I want it to work -- that includes nav and iPod control. I've said before that I'd buy the nav on any new vehicle I bought as the nav system is, generally, the easiest to use with an iPod (or a USB stick) and, well, they look cool. This wouldn't be the final decision maker if I were cross-shopping vehicles, but it certainly would be a check in the plus column of the VW. (Though to be fair, this system is not as pretty or as easy to use as some of the fully-integrated systems -- Sync, Intellilink -- out there.)

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor @ 2,500 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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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Easy Navi Views

April 20, 2011

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In some vehicles, particularly those with remote input devices, it is quite difficult to choose between the views of North Up and Heading Up to track your progess on the Navi screen. Not so, in our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

Our Jetta not only makes it easy to select from those two, it also gives you the option of a 3D view. I normally use North Up zoomed-out if I am far away from a distant destination, then zoom-in using Heading Up as I reach my target. I also use Heading Up locally.

Human Factors studies have shown that some people, especially the elderly, have trouble with spatial orientation when using North Up and must rotate the map display in their minds to make a turn.

And the 3D view (which in the Jetta seems to only display Heading Up) doesn't seem useful to me.
It just looks nice.

And you? Which view do you prefer when you use Navi?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~2,000 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*
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