2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test - Performance

2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (3)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Jet Fuel

April 23, 2012


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 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Can't Drive 75

April 19, 2012


Can't is really too strong a word, but over the weekend, I noticed the our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI's 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder has a mildly irritating drone at 75 mph in the DSG transmission's 6th gear (2,400 rpm).

Back off to 70 mph (about 2,200 rpm) and it goes away. Or, speed up to 80 mph (about 2,600 rpm) and it also goes away. I didn't get a chance to assess whether the drone is audible at 2,400 in the lower gears.

It's not a big deal, but I now make a point of driving 70 in the Jetta to avoid being mildly annoyed.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 22,413 miles

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

April 13, 2012

Jetta TDI at Pepperdine.jpg

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: Good Ride in the Rain

March 26, 2012


I tried to time my trip to the supermarket between downpours. I managed to get to Sprout's in a light drizzle. But coming out of the store, the rain was biblical. I tried to wait it out but it didn't seem to be letting up. So I made a mad dash for the Jetta, getting soaked despite having a bumbershoot.

Southern California can't handle rain, especially a rapid Noah's-Ark-style deluge. The run-offs and drains can't process the water quickly enough and you get huge puddles that cause traffic jams while the waters subside slowly.

I drove home on the same road that I took to the store. It was fine going but 20 minutes later it was backed up for three blocks. Three cars were stalled on the side of the road having attempted to drive through a large puddle. People continued to try, most getting through unscathed. By the time it was my turn, the water was much lower. The Jetta had no problem.

Accelerating and braking on the wet, oily L.A. roads was no problem either. The tires gripped confidently. No hydroplaning, no skidding. I know you're thinking that any modern car will do well in the rain. But I'm talking torrential waters, what my mother would call teeming.

The adjustable intermittent windshield wipers work well. I had them on low on the way to the store and I needed to put them on double quick on the way back. They adjust to a normal speed when you stop at a red light. After a year in the long-term fleet, which is like dog years for cars, the blades still clean the window very evenly.

The VW Jetta even looks good wet with that super bright Tornado Red paint.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: How About A Hot Cuppa Diesel?

February 04, 2012

jetta tdi cup.jpg

With the previous-generation Jetta TDI, VW offered a supposedly sporty version called the Cup Street Edition. Shown above, it had a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, paddle shifters for the DSG gearbox, a tasteful body kit and cloth sport seats. It also had questionable bodyside graphics I could do without. Sadly, it was rather disappointing when we put it through its paces on the test track.

Still, I like the idea of an enthusiast-oriented version of the Jetta TDI, provided it's done right, of course. Am I deranged or does anyone else think this would be cool?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Diesel Quiet

January 20, 2012


Last night I pulled into a parking spot at the grocery store, just as a Chevrolet Equinox parked beside me. The woman in the Equinox let her engine run for a minute while she sorted through her coupons.

I was immediately struck by how quiet the diesel Jetta was compared to the older Chevy. No doubt the Chevy wasn't in as good of shape as it could be, but still, it was another nice reminder just how far diesels have come.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 16,185 miles

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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: The Jetta for John

December 13, 2011

jetta sportwagen.jpg

I'll say it right here and now -- I'm a fan of our Jetta TDI. Yes, the power delivery could be less lazy off the mark -- although putting the tranny in Sport mode takes the slack out of the step-off acceleration. And so would going with the manual tranny, as I would. Either solution renders this gripe a non-issue for me.

And no doubt you've heard enough about the sedan's little trip downmarket (more hard plastics/less soft-touch, non-adjustable center armrest). But let's not forget that the Jetta's price was dropped too and that most of the essential Jetta goodness remains -- solid construction, comfortable seats, sharp styling and a nice ride/handling balance for the real world of grueling workweek commutes and weekend road trips.

What too many people forget are the Jetta TDI's uncommon and greatest strengths -- great fuel economy along with plenty of pull when you want it, in a roomy, comfortable sedan. There's no need to "try" to get high fuel economy, just drive it in a normal fashion and you'll get 35-45 mpg. Lean into it to pass a left-lane laggard and that swell of turbodiesel power whisks you past. Even with our team of leadfoots and a steady diet of ever-present L.A. traffic, our Jetta is averaging 35.4 mpg, which is slightly better than the EPA's 34 mpg combined figure.

Yep, I'll take the Jetta TDI over a tiny, under-powered subcompact or complex hybrid any day. Specifically, I'd like a Jetta Sportwagen TDI as it looks good, holds a lot of stuff and retains the previous Jetta's nicer cabin. It was also my top pick in our Fuel Sipper Smackdown.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ ~ 15,200 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: This is a Diesel.

December 12, 2011


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: Transmission in Sport

December 02, 2011

VW Jetta TDI transmission Sport.jpg

Last night I rolled in our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and played around with the DSG auto transmission. I'm not a fan of the drivability of our Jetta diesel, but the transmission's Sport setting helps, removing most of the low-speed stumbling and bumbling.

There's quicker throttle response, overall and when starting from rest. And if you keep your foot in it, the engine quickly zings up past 4000 revs (redline is at 5K). Shifts happen more quickly too.

I don't know how big an effect this will have on fuel economy, but I like the S position more than both D and the manual gate, so this is how I'll drive it from now on.

What about you VW TDI owners? Do any of you normally drive around in S?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 14,900 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta: Sure, I'll Drive It

November 22, 2011


For the record, I don't mind driving our Jetta. Actually, I kind of like it. It's taken a lot of lumps during its stay in the long-term fleet, most of them deserved. But I guess those issues just don't bother me much. De-contented feature list? It's still got the truly important stuff. Odd feel for brakes, throttle calibration and/or DSG shifting? I got used to them. Seat material? It's fine.

Meanwhile, I'm still driving a right-sized sedan (not too big, not too small) that's super easy to drive around town. The suspension is soft, smoothing over broken pavement, and the TDI engine gives the car some personality and is great for low-speed driving, fuel economy and range. Oh, and it's got a big trunk.

For a car that you don't think have to think much about, the Jetta is great. This might sound like damning praise -- I could be describing a Corolla -- but sometimes that's all I want.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 14,288 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Rush-Hour Review

November 18, 2011

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 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: A Simple Plan From A Simple Man

November 10, 2011

TDI at Ritz.jpg

Like some others on staff, I've developed my own driving habits/shifting methods for the Jetta TDI. I don't dislike the car, it's just that the usually terrific DSG does not work quite as well in TDI form as it does in other VWs, hampered also by imperfect throttle calibration.

Basically I run the TDI in Sport mode almost all the time (Drive mode is way too lazy), enjoying the DSG's ultra-quick upshifts and willingness to hold gears a respectably long amount of time. It also downshifts obediently when I need more power. For any and all on/off-ramps or any turn of consequence, I switch to manual mode to make sure I'm in the correct gear at corner apex, much appreciating the nice throttle blips on downshifts. And this Sport mode is smart enough to know it should get into top gear on the highway. Not all do.

Where the TDI gets annoying for me is in stop-and-go or almost-stopped-but-still-going traffic, specifically 5-15 mph running. In this setting the TDI becomes extremely jerky when going either on or off the throttle. So when traffic gets really slow, I switch it back to standard Drive which, although laggardly in responses, greatly smoothes things out. What do I care if it's laggardly? I'm going slow anyway because I'm sitting in traffic. I just have to remember to switch it back to Sport or manual if I'm about to change lanes and need the transmission to quickly respond with a lower gear. That is, if I don't want to get rammed by the car bearing down on me.

While this might seem like a lot of moving the lever around, it's really not a big deal and for me it just became part of the TDI process.

But here's my simple plan:

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Sport's Fine

October 28, 2011

Jetta TDI-Sport.jpg

Workarounds. Seems like you need to find them more often with newer cars. Tuned to look pretty for EPA fuel estimates, the factory settings for newer automatic transmissions take all the fun out of driving. The solution, of course, is to get a manual transmission. Good luck finding one of those these days.

I've found two useful approaches to driving the Jetta TDI outside of the default D setting.

One is Sport mode. Misleadingly named perhaps, but Sport hangs on to revs longer in third through sixth gears, enough for satisfying pulls around slower traffic. It's a good way to navigate from city streets to the highway.

Out on the highway, it's into manual shift mode, particularly in the bumper-to-bumper stuff. It's surprisingly responsive, with rev-matched downshifts enabling quick, happy slingshots around left-lane banditos and other oblivious members of the wolfpack.

The Jetta's diesel is at the heart of all this. I never tire of the torque. In commuter traffic, it's more useful than horsepower. In most of Southern California, you'll usually run out of useful road before pulling a 335i's worth of horses out of the stall (although maybe not the Jetta TDI's 140 horses). Horsepower is sexy, but torque never goes out of style.

Much as I like the TDI though, I'm now even more amped to see what a Mazda 3 can do with one of those new 2.2-liter diesels.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: These Brakes are Killing Me

October 18, 2011


Not literally, of course, as they do stop our Jetta in a reasonable distance. It's their feel that drives me nuts.

I'm not sure what it is, but it feels like there's some kind of weird interference whenever you try to modulate the pedal with any degree of precision. Jam on them hard and they clamp quickly. Barely brush them and they'll scrub off a little speed. Anything in between and it's a mixed bag of jerkiness. Mmmm...jerky.

Anyway, it a constant annoyance that mars what is otherwise a pretty good driving experience. I don't find the throttle lag nearly as troublesome as a few others around here and the lack of sportiness doesn't bother me either. It's a diesel Jetta, not a GTI. Wouldn't mind if the brakes felt more natural, though, good car otherwise.

Ed Hellwig, Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Not-So-Tight Turns

October 17, 2011


It was a rough Monday morning, so I decided a quick run through the Starbucks drive-thru might help turn my already-crappy day around.

It's a sharp right into the driveway, and I was suprised how difficult it was for the Jetta to make the cut. At full lock I was still certain I was going over the left curb. Luckily it didn't happen, but since I've been through this drive-thru numerous times and never remember having that trouble before, I looked up the Jetta's turning radius after I arrived at the office.

Here's what I found:

VW Jetta: 36.4 feet

Honda Civic sedan: 35.4 feet

Toyota Corolla: 35.4 feet

Hyundai Elantra: 34.8 feet

The Jetta turns at least 12-inches wider than its direct competitors.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 12,465 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Unloved

September 29, 2011

Jetta TDI_engine.jpg

People are down on this car. Some on our staff even flat out reject it. Takahashi mocks its bumbling pickup and shift behavior. Jacquot dismisses it because it's not a Raptor. And Austria's definitely over the Jetta, now studying maps of Miami and plotting his rescue of a destitute divorcee indebted to the Chrysler Italians. Even our erudite reader Bodyblue calls the Jetta the most boring car in our long-term fleet.

I disagree. I dig this car.

Dig its clattering diesel, its sound of purpose. Dig its front suspension that hops and snowplows when cracking the wood through a long sweeper. There's one by my home that I've written about, a nice wide transition road. It's where I'll someday end up putting a car -- with my luck, one that Oldham really likes -- into the carbon-soaked iceplant. Try holding a nervous Jetta through a swelling curve like that, while teasing out 236 lb-ft, and stick that in your boring bong, Bodyblue.

Nah, this car's great. Shift for yourself and you've got no issues. There's pull throughout the range. Yeah, the interior's gone downmarket. The old special Jetta touches are gone and our copier is more interesting to look at. So what? VW's playing for large money now. Everyone sells out, even Jane's Addiction. I still wouldn't buy the Jetta TDI, though. Not when $1,500 more gets you into the Golf TDI, and $2,500 more gets the Sportwagen diesel.

Or you could just save it all, buy a Fiat 500 and point it towards South Beach.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Rev Matching

September 27, 2011


Our long-term 2011 VW Jetta TDI just might be the least sporty car in our fleet. I'm being completely serious when I say that I think our Sienna minivan could take it on Glendora Mountain Road.

And yet, the Jetta's DSG transmission is one of the few gearboxes in our fleet that matches revs on downshifts. And it does this very, very well. Go figure.

Basically, VW engineered the Jetta's transmission for enthusiasts, but not the rest of the car.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 11,404 miles

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

September 21, 2011


Oh, right.

Also, Suburban 30 EST. HWY - LOL

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 11,390 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Even I'd Get the Manual

September 19, 2011

VW Jetta TDI Auto1.jpg

I'm the guy who ALWAYS wants the dual-clutch automatic (or, more correctly, the dual-clutch automated manual, but that's a taxonomy argument for another day) instead of the manual.

Done right they're faster, smoother, more precise, less prone to human error, easier / lazier in traffic and, when driving hard, free your brain up for more vital tasks like steering, accelerating and braking.

Unfortunately, this one just isn't done right. And I don't simply mean because of the lack of paddles and the wrong-way orientation of the shifter's manual mode, or the not-very-sporty S mode.

Takahashi nailed the sluggish acceleration part with a flowchart here, and the awkward braking part with a graph here (he likes pretty pictures), but the real sticking point is that the clutch, at least on the '10 TDI Cup I drove, is light and easy enough to not bother my bum knee even in the heaviest traffic. Oh, and it saves $1,100 bucks while returning the same fuel economy.

If you drive it casually between 20 and 50 mph, the DSG is a fine transmission, but my commute involves stops and hard acceleration above 40. I want more control and more smoothness than this and the manual provides just that.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 11,200 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Starting Up the Hornet's Nest

September 16, 2011

VW Jetta TDI start switch.jpg

Apparently I stirred up a baby hornet's nest when I posted last month that our long-term 2011 VW Jetta TDI had a bit of trouble starting.

I drove it only for 1 night when I reported that, and started it a few times in the course of my brief driving stint.

I did extensive testing this week on our Jetta (with Video!) and it turns out that my original quick diagnosis wasn't correct.

When I drove the Jetta TDI last month, I thought I had thought that night that the Jetta would start then die (stall) immediately afterwards. That wasn't the case.

The starter would turn and the lights in the meters would come on; that's why I thought it died upon the gear shift into D.

What is happening is that our diesel Jetta is difficult to cold start on the first try. I normally press the start switch briefly, then I will move the shifter immediately afterward.

This procedure works for me in every car I have ever driven with a smart start switch -- except our Jetta.

The Jetta TDI, it turns out needs an inordinate hold time on the start switch -- over a second and a half -- to get started.

And although Donna said it's always been like this with our Jetta, that's not my recollection and I didn't have this problem when we first got it.

The video shows me in our long-term Jetta TDI. I press the start switch and get nothing. I immediately press again a second time and the car starts right up. Weird.

After shutting it off, I then show a successful cold start up by holding the start switch for over a second and a half; it eventually starts up.

But it's a diesel, right? "They all take a long time to start."

By luck we happened to have a 2012 VW Passat TDI for comparison, right next to our Jetta. It started right up from cold, no problem at all.

So our Jetta diesel doesn't start up, then stall. On cold start you just have to hold down the start switch longer than normal.

That's why I don't think this condition is normal.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 11,100 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Tranquility

September 08, 2011


Don't get me wrong: I like manual transmissions. But they're no fun on the 405 Freeway at 4 p.m., when you do the herky-jerky for 27 miles. That's why I decided on the Jetta for the commute yesterday. For all its demerits and decontenting, I like the car's unfussiness and its zen (for lack of a better word). I feel calm when I'm driving it.

Although by saying this, I might have to turn in my stick-club credentials, along with the gun and badge I have been called on to surrender, but it's the truth: I really liked not having to constantly clutch and shift on the drive home.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @10,667 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Going the Distance

August 30, 2011

range VW TDi.jpg

The Ron Montoya is the natural enemy of the Mike Magrath. Ron Montoyas are friendly, hard working and generally pleasant. Mike Magraths are jerks. Ron Montoyas can also grow beards. Mike Magraths think that beards are for criminals.

So when Ron Montoya had set his sights on claiming the range record for our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a Mike Magrath had to beat it...

The plan was simple enough: Drive our Volkswagen Jetta really, really far on one tank of gas. There was a hike in Death Valley the girlfriend and I have wanted to do for a while and Death Valley is pretty far away. So we went there.

We took the same route as the Fuel Sipper Smackdown series, but traded the pre-determined fuel stops for no fuel stops and traded the standardized driving style for one that would increase range and tolerability.


1) No AC

2) Coast as much as possible. If there was nobody on the road, coast (in D) until the car hit a pre-determined low speed and then use neutral to extend the cruise. (Yes, using N uses more fuel than D, but if you don't need to use the throttle to maintain speed as I certainly would have if left in D, then it's a net win. Plus, doing this averaged about 200mpg on the instant read while coasting in D registered ---mpg. )

3) Use AC when coasting. Hey, free power, why not?

4) Drive with the trucks: Whenever possible and necessary, I'd accelerate with the trucks. No faster. No slower. These guys are moving a LOT more mass and are WAY more concerned with fuel economy than I am.

5) No stops.

6) Look ahead. Way ahead. This is a good rule for every day driving, but essential for fuel economy. Can't get trapped behind slow / turning traffic, can't jam on the brakes, can't accelerate out of bad situations.

7) Don't be annoying: I had to be able to live with myself during this drive, I couldn't be a roadblock.

Everything went well until the temperature hit 115. At that point we needed to start cycling the AC on every few minutes to avoid dying. When it hit 120 we needed it even more. By the time the mercury climbed to 127, it was on full blast non-stop.

So the AC was on and it was over 120 degrees for at least two hours of the drive, neither of these factors helped. And then, because it was 120+ degrees, we were drinking more fluid than normal which meant -- gasp -- that we needed to stop. Twice. That didn't help either.

At the end of the drive we'd managed 642 miles on a single tank which then took 14.056 gallons of fuel. Based on my full-tank average of 45.724 (the MPG record here is 46.1 mpg), I could have gone another 20ish miles, but by that point, I'd been driving for hours and didn't want to risk it.

On a cooler day with less air conditioning, I'm convinced that 800 miles is doable. Hopefully I'll get another crack at it before the car goes away.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 10,074 miles

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Needs a Second Chance

August 19, 2011

VW Jetta TDI Start switch.JPG

I drove our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI last night to Hermosa Beach, and although the steering and chassis performed adequately, I was underwhelmed by the powertrain performance.

Several of us have noted poor driveability, and even some hesitation at low speeds, especially when the engine is cold. But last night, for the first time, I experienced a new problem.

Almost every time I would try starting the car with the Start switch near the shifter, the car would immediately stall. However, it would fire right up on the second try. This happened after a few trouble free starts in the afternoon. But every time last night and this morning it puked on the first attempt.

We'll keep an eye on this and see if others here have the same experience.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 9,030 miles

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

August 10, 2011


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 TDI: Got Handling?

August 08, 2011

Jetta TDI SM pier.jpg


Throw the TDI into a corner with even the least bit of aggression, and it just pushes right back. Pretty uninspiring for a German car. I don't care that it's a diesel. Or a Jetta. Even Jetta owners deserve better handling than this.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 8,665 miles.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: TDI Versus GDI

August 05, 2011


Alright, so here's a question: is the new wave of fuel-sipping small cars a serious threat to Volkswagen's diesel-engine hegemony? In the past five years or so, we've given high praise to the Jetta for its TDI availability. If you didn't want a hybrid, here was the next-best (and really only) choice for high fuel economy. But with new cars like the Cruze Eco, Focus SFE and Elantra offering comparable fuel economy thanks to technologies like gasoline-direct injection, does TDI still have a place considering its traditional price premium?

Here's a comparison chart from fueleconomy.gov. As you can see, the official EPA are all quite very similar.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Something Wrong?

August 01, 2011

vw_jetta_service.JPG Back in early July, Mark wrote a post noting some issues of refinement he had about our Jetta's TDI engine. These boiled down to: 1) delayed throttle response; 2) elevated amounts of engine noise; 3) elevated amounts of engine braking; and 4) occasional sputtering or stuttering when coming to a stop.

I've been driving our Jetta TDI for a couple weeks now. And while the Jetta doesn't seem to necessarily have anything wrong with it, I've also noticed some of these same issues. So just to ensure we weren't dealing with a bum car, last week I took our Jetta to a dealer to have it checked out.

I made an appointment at Michael Volkswagen in Fresno, Calif. When calling for the appointment, I was upfront that I worked for Edmunds.com and the car was on loan for Volkswagen. That's not the way we normally operate, but I wanted to make sure I got the access I needed. The service advisor was very helpful and hooked me up with the shop foreman.

Once I arrived, I gave the key to the foreman and we took the Jetta for a test drive. I told him the issues we've noticed and asked him to see if he noticed them as well. He agreed with the throttle response and engine braking but said they were normal for the car. As for the engine noise, he said it sounded normal. He didn't notice any sputtering when coming to a stop.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: I'd Buy The DSG

July 28, 2011

vw_jetta_dsg.JPG Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe. Well, at least it's a lot easier to say then Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe. That one really just rolls off the tongue. Anyway, if I were buying a 2011 Jetta TDI, I'd get DSG instead of the manual.

Sure, I like three pedals. Every car I've ever owned has had a manual transmission. But the DSG gives up so little compared to a traditional manual (and gains so much) that I see little reason not to spend the extra $1,100.

Stuck in heavy traffic? Just keep in automatic mode. Want to have more control of the shift points? Place it in manual and do it yourself. The shifts are very quick, and you get rev-matching for downshifts, too. It's the best of both worlds. I'd like our Jetta even more if VW gave it shift paddles on the steering wheel.

Granted, on a sports car (say, a Porsche Cayman), I'm pretty sure I'd still get a manual. In that case, I'd still want the true man-machine connection you get from really rowing the gears and working the clutch. But for an economy car like the Jetta TDI, it's DSG for me.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Great Mountain Climber

July 21, 2011

vw_jetta_tdi_tejon.JPG I recently took our Jetta TDI over the Tejon Pass (locally known as the Grapevine), which on the Interstate 5 freeway connects Southern California to the northern parts of the state. Driving over Tejon isn't terribly challenging, but its 4,000-foot elevation gain is a nice test of a car's power and gearing. As for the Jetta, it rocked.

Most cars I drive on this pass require a downshift or switching over to manual-shift mode (if they're automatic) to get what I want in terms of maintaining speed or desired rpm. With the Jetta's TDI engine, though, the combination of ample torque and the elevation-negating effects of the turbocharger meant there was no need to shift. I just kept it in drive the whole time, and the Jetta easily powered up the hill. Plus, if you do want to shift for yourself, the TDI has got your covered thanks to its DSG dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Lag

June 29, 2011


The 2011 VW Jetta TDI produces 236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm. When driving the Jetta TDI starts to take off, then it lags, then the turbo kicks in. The lag is significant enough to bother me.

Red lights turning green should be fun.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Headlights and DRLs

June 10, 2011


Ever notice that the Volkswagen Jetta tends to burn out headlights? One-eyed cars are rare nowadays, but it seems to us that certain late-model Volkswagens are the most common motorcycle impersonators.

And we're not just saying that because it happened to us two generations of Jetta ago, when our 2005 VW Jetta TDI turned into a cyclops. These older Jettas use their regular headlights as daytime running lights (DRLs) too, which subject them to near-constant use.

Clarification edit: at full brightness, not some reduced voltage.

We also think the previous generation Jetta, as represented by our 2009 VW Jetta TDI, used the same headlights-as-DRLs strategy. We're not entirely certain because our photographers always want the headlights on in beauty shots and drive-bys. But with a little digging I found a series of shots that were never used in a blog that seem to implicate the headlight theory.

Our new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI shouldn't have a problem with iffy headlight life because its DRLs are stand-alone units. The headlights themselves only come on when the headlights are turned on. Imagine that.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,563 miles

PS: I know what you are thinking: Why have they had three Jetta TDIs in a row? Good question. We like to keep an economical diesel compact close at hand when discussions of hybrids, plug-ins and electric cars get frothy. We don't want to leave diesel out of the mix.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: For One Reason

June 07, 2011

jetta_thisreasononly.jpg My wife owns a '97 Jetta with the I-4 engine and 140k miles on it. It's been an oil sucking, breakdown machine for most of it's life. I think it's a horse with a broken leg while she wants to squeeze every possible mile out of it before it dies.

She and I were talking about possible replacements the day before I drove our long term Jetta. I'm a little hesitant to recommend another Volkswagen after her experience with her current car, but after driving our long termer and doing a little research, another Jetta just might be a great car for her.

Here is my reason:

She commutes about 30 miles a day. Might not be as long as some of you, but that mileage adds up. I'm not sold on the hybrid just yet, especially considering that I could probably get a current generation Jetta TDI as a used car in a year or two at a pretty good price.

I say a year or two because not only does my wife has a death grip on those keys, but I'm thinking of our own positive experience in buying a used '09 Jetta TDI. Yes, buying used you don't get the free maintenance that VW is offering right now, and reliability is my biggest concern with another Jetta given our past, but the current offerings seemed to have closed the quality gap from everything I've read. I'm following our current tester closely.

The TDI gets a pretty solid EPA estimated mpg rating of 32 city/42 highway. Our latest observed average of 32.6 mpg is inclusive of a large concentration of resident lead foot operators. Gas prices are getting pretty high here in Southern California. While they may go up and down every day, the trend is ever upward creating parity with premium.

I feel the cost benefit of a used TDI to undercut a new Prius, or a used one for that matter, will be a good amount of savings while delivering similar mileage and performance. Do you think I'm crazy in thinking that? What else should we consider?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Stuck With a Stick

May 17, 2011


Here's some creature comfort grousing about our Jetta: skip ahead if you have no patience for coddled editor sniveling.

This is important consumer research, folks. Following the lead of some readers here, I've started carrying around a USB stick with music and podcasts. Just works easier than constantly syncing an iPhone/Pod, and usually has a higher success rate in our fleet. Not all of our cars have Bluetooth audio streaming or Apple i-connections, but most have a USB port.

Not the Jetta.

It does offer the proprietary MDI cable and port in the glovebox for iPhone/Pod, and presumably anything else that works on the same bus architecture. And there's an Aux jack on the faceplate. That'd be useful if I carried around a mini-cable with me. So I plugged in the 3G iPhone and got the "this device is not optimized…" message. No problem. Seemed like it recognized the phone and could grab music from it. Until it cut out about 10 minutes into the drive.

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: I Don't Like This Car

May 12, 2011


I don't like the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta. Oh, it's certainly a competitive car amongst the so-called "compact" sedan class. It has lots of room inside and it actually gives you a ton of equipment for the money. During the Jetta's press launch, VW was quite eager to show how much more you got with the Jetta than a comparably priced Honda Civic. It also has that solid German car feeling that the Civic lacks.

So why don't I like it? Because I remember what it used to be. Because I never really considered it a Civic competitor, but rather an alternative you pay a little extra for but get so much more than can be quantified by a spreadsheet of features. Because with the right engine and equipment, it was also an alternative to entry-level European luxury cars.

What's changed exactly? In short, they've cut out a lot of those little details that made the last Jetta (and in some cases, the Jetta before that) more special than the average compact car. Here, let me show you some.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Weekend Commuter

May 09, 2011


I psyched myself up for a weekend in our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with the reasoning that I like the sound and power delivery of diesels, and that it was the right size car for my driving needs (myself plus two not-too-tall adult passengers). Also, I always liked the seating position and the ride quality of our 2009 Jetta TDI.

By Sunday evening, I'd determined that our 2011 Jetta meets my needs in a weekend car. We went as far as Anaheim (to see the Saturday night Angels/Indians game) and Arcadia, and the car offered ample room and comfort for three adults. The ride is a little too stiff over certain sections of freeway, but for the most part, it's compliant enough over Southern California roads. The turbodiesel four-cylinder has ample torque for passing at 70 mph, and I barely went through half a tank of gas in well over 200 miles of driving.

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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Which Car? Oh, the Red One

May 06, 2011


At times, the new-generation Volkswagen Jetta still looks distinctive to me because of the painstaking tidiness of its grille and headlights. Lather it up with the industrial soap at the self-serve wash, though, and it could be any car, no more special than the circa 2000 Accord in the stall next to it. The bright red paint helps, I guess, but somehow our 2005 Jetta TDI looked and felt more special even with its Eeyore gray paint.

But I'm probably just saying that just because our '05 TDI had a manual gearbox and three pedals.

There's no question this 2011 model is more practical. For one thing, it's a lot bigger. It was all I could do to get all the bodywork soaped up in the allotted 4 minutes, and then it took me 10 more quarters to get it all rinsed off. (I then heaped on the love and spent another 4 quarters to vacuum the car.)

I could never have asked adults to ride in the back of the '05 Jetta, but I have no qualms about doing it with this car, which has another 3 inches of wheelbase (104.4 in.) over even our 2009 Jetta TDI. Rear legroom is up to 38.1 inches versus 35.4 in the '09. Mothers Day is Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'll probably even be happy about our long-termer's automated manual gearbox this weekend, as a baseball game is in the plans for Saturday, and sometimes it's nice not to have to do the clutch in/clutch out thing during the post-game slog. I can't figure out how the throttle response got so strange in the 2011 redesign, especially since we had the same 2.0-liter motor (yep, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft) and 6-speed dual-clutch 'box in our 2009 TDI, but maybe I'll recalibrate my right foot over the weekend. I'll let you know how that goes, too.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,781 miles

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Second Guessing

April 20, 2011


See that flowchart above? That's what it's like when you apply pressure to the accelerator. Whether it's throttle tip in or turbo lag, I don't know, but I don't like it. Our new diesel Jetta just seems hesitant to comply for the better part of a second when I ask for a little more power. I don't seem to remember this in our last TDI. Is it something to do with a break-in period? Does the system need to learn our driving style like our Cruze? At least from the driver's seat, it feels like the throttle linkage is made up of about 20 rubber bands strung together. Initially nothing happens, then once there's enough pressure, the engine surges with power. I really hope this isn't permanent.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 VW Jetta TDI: Steers and Handles Despite Image

April 19, 2011

2011 VW Jetta TDI in Studio.jpg

I rolled in our new long-term 2011 VW Jetta TDI for the first time last night and came away impressed: this thing steers and handles well. There's good feel buildup when steering and no dead spots. And it feels planted when cornering, with not a lot of body roll.

Unfortunately, the test track numbers don't validate this. Our Jetta only turned 0.78g on the skidpad and ran a slalom speed of 62.0 mph. I'll bet the skinny 205/55 R16 tires didn't help.

While those numbers don't lie, the handling feels good subjectively. And considering its Young Professional Women image, to me, that was a surprise.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 1,972 miles

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