32 years ago the first diesel powered VW rolled off the assembly line. Back then diesel cars, were slow, smoked, were a real pain when they were cold and sounded like a coffee grinder full of framing nails. At the time, people really didn't see the point of a diesel car. Gasoline was cheap and abundant, cars were getting cleaner by the day and about the only thing you could say about diesel cars is that they would run forever.
Look around today and it's a different world. Gasoline is expensive and quickly being spread around a booming worldwide market. Drivers are constantly looking for better economy without sacrificing drivability and utility. Luckily, one of the few things that has seen such a dramatic shift is also one of the things that is most needed.
Diesel cars are now clean, powerful efficient and quiet. Thanks in part to low sulfur diesel fuels, but largely because of superior engineering. Diesel may be slightly more expensive, but the gain in efficiency more than makes up for it. We recently attended the North American Press Launch of the new Jetta TDI, Turbo Direct Injection, and achieved 44.9mpg in city driving. We would have had trouble matching that in even the amazingly over-hyped Toyota Prius, and we even had fun doing it. On the highway, the TDI will blow the doors off the Prius in both gas mileage and performance, so this is a no brainer.
In the canyons around Malibu, we found the extra torque of the turbo direct injection engine an extra advantage. While the engine may only produce 140hp, it is cranking out 236 lb-ft at a lowly 1750RPM. That translates to instant acceleration right off the line and no downshifting, which wastes fuel. For performance driving, it also means coming off of corners at lower RPMS and not being so worried about being in just the right gear.
The beauty of the Jetta TDI is that it looks, drives and behaves like any other comparably equipped Jetta. High quality materials, spacious, fun to drive and very usable. Our only complaint is that so far at least, VW is not planning on offering a sport or GLI version of the diesel. We are sure there is one in the works, but until then we have to stick with the normal Jetta and add the performance bits ourselves.
European Car will be getting a Jetta TDI as a long-term test car in the very near future. We will bring you all the latest driving impressions, mileage updates and even modifications as they happen. After a day of driving all over LA, we can't wait to get it on a road trip and see what kind of mileage we can really pull out of it.
Layout: Transverse, front engine, front drive
Engine: 2.0-liter 16valve inline 4, turbo direct injection low-sulfur diesel with particulate filter
Transmission: Semi automatic, dual clutch 6-speed tansaxle
Suspension: (f) MacPhersen Strut, (r) Multilink
Brakes: (f) 11 x 1 in. (r) 10 x .5 in.
Wheels and Tires: 16 x 6 alloy w/ 205/55 all-season radials
Dimensions: L x W x H - 179.3 x 70.1 x 57.4 in.
Curb weight: 3285lbs
Performance: 140hp@4000RPM, 236lb-ft@1750RPM
What We Like: unbelievable fuel mileage, great torque, best in class interior
What We Don't Like: no sport version, no shifting paddles on the steering wheel
Price Tag: $23,090