After a few months of having it in the ec stable, my turn finally came to drive the Jetta TDI everyone was raving about. Who knew that such a benign and understated vehicle could be hiding such a fantastic engine? You certainly can't tell from the noise because there really isn't any.
The first couple of days of driving the TDI were pure fun, revving the engine to the max and gunning it at every green light was pure, unadulterated pleasure. Editor Bidrawn is going to scream when he sees what's left of the front tires. I don't care-it was worth it, especially since diesel fuel prices have fallen so dramatically.
After the first tank, I discovered that driving a diesel is not an automatic induction into the high-mileage club. It takes practice and restraint to get those high mpg numbers. After weeks of trying to get to 40-plus, I found it nearly impossible. It isn't that the vehicle is incapable of achieving these numbers; it's more my lead foot. With that impressive torque on tap, it takes a staggering amount of willpower to refrain from hammering the throttle, especially in sport mode.
After the first few weeks of torque-inspired lunacy wore off, my nitpicking nature got the better of me and outmatched my enthusiast side-exit Mr. Jekyll and enter Mr. Hyde. I noticed a couple of small issues and one major one. Let's start with the brakes. The TDI is fast. One would think it would have great brakes to match. The Jetta brakes are just OK, not great but tolerable. With this kind of performance, the TDI would benefit from upgraded anchors. If I owned this car, I'd install upgraded brake pads and larger running gear.
Another issue is lack of steering wheel paddle shifters and a gear indicator in the instrument cluster. Two items I have little use for on my GTI could bode well for the TDI, especially if you're trying to maximize fuel economy or the driving experience. Comparing my '07 GTI with this '09 Jetta, I can't help but notice that VW has made some ergonomic improvements, including steering wheel input buttons that are easier to activate with a softer feel.
It's my hope to get the car at least one more time and employ some fuel saving tactics during a long drive to see just how many miles I can squeeze out of a tank of diesel. I'm pretty certain 50 mpg is not impossible.
The VW Jetta TDI is an alternative fuel vehicle that outshines the latest "green cars." No funky battery pods, no electric motors, no exotic fuels. Who knew high mileage could be so much fun?
At A Glance
+ Brilliant engine, taut suspension, high interior build quality
-- Needs more brakes, lacks SMG paddle shifters
Total mileage: 11,121
Fuel economy: 38 mpg