2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: All Down the Line
May 02, 2011
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