Volkswagen has engrained itself in the history of diesel-powered vehicles since the first diesel Rabbit hit U.S. shores in the 1970s. Although Volkswagen has continued offering a wide number of diesel vehicles since, the cars have become increasingly limited due to increasingly stringent regulations in overly polluted metropolitan areas like California and New England.
New for 2009, Volkswagen introduced the 50-state legal clean diesel Jetta TDI and Jetta SportWagen TDI, which should shatter all of the stereotypes associated with diesel cars. Gone are the fog of black smoke from the tailpipe and the loud clatter from the engine, while the increased fuel economy and reliability are still in place. With its EPA fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway (with manual transmission), VW now offers one of the most fuel-efficient sedans in its class and the only one to offer a diesel engine.
While it might take an engineer to actually describe how the 2009 Jetta TDI's technology works, any average consumer will instantly appreciate the lack of smoke, noise and lag. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI uses an advanced exhaust system, that includes a diesel particulate filter, NOx storage catalyst and H2S Slip Catalyst, to help eliminate all of the preconceived notions of diesel engines. The technology behind diesel fuel production has also changed over the years allowing the diesel-powered Jetta to comply with the latest regulations. As of September 2006, all gas station are required to sell only ultra low sulfur diesel (USLD), which is also referred to as clean diesel.
The heart of the Jetta TDI is VW's all-new turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 with common-rail direct injection. With 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI should easily manhandle a Prius, while still holding its own against anything a Corolla or Civic could throw at it. In normal driving conditions, the Jetta's diesel engine is disciplined, yet responsive. Under hard acceleration, the all-season tires break loose for a quick chirp accompanied by a slight, almost unnoticeable, whine of turbocharger spool. The Jetta's powerplant feels strong whether it's called upon to climb a steep, winding road or to merge into heavy freeway traffic. Over 145 miles of mixed driving, the Jetta TDI got as much as 44 mpg.
Directing the power to the front wheels, the Jetta TDI is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or VW's six-speed automatic, dual clutch DSGÂ® transmission. The latter, which features a sport mode and a TiptronicÂ® manual shift mode, will run an additional $1,100 for either the sedan or SportWagen variant. While the Jetta TDI offers the same DSGÂ® transmission as the 2008 R32, there are no paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel. As is the case with most cars, the manual transmission offers slightly better fuel economy over the automatic. With the automatic transmission, only a small amount of hesitation could be detected when the Jetta took sharp, uphill corners, but is probably a better option for continuous stop-and-go driving.
Other than a small TDI badge on the lower right corner of the decklid, there are no visual differences between the base Jetta models and the Jetta TDI, which is good news. Like all other VW's, the Jetta sports a prominent chrome grille up front and clean lines throughout the body. Faint creases along the hood and across the doors help add character and definition to the Jetta's design. The 16-inch, split five-spoke alloy wheels not only add an aggressive aspect to the Jetta, but it also helps to improve stability.
In sharp turns and twisty roads, the Jetta was confident and maintained its intended line. The four-wheel disc brakes performed well with no noticeable fade during long, downhill stopping maneuvers. With standard safety systems such as Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), the Jetta can take on driving in almost any weather situation. The Jetta and Jetta SportWagen received four stars in frontal impact protection and five stars in side impact protection from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Awaiting us on the inside was the same comfortable interior that we grew fond of in the R32 and Jetta SportWagen. From the leather-wrapped steering wheel to the comfortable seats, all the surfaces inside the Jetta are soft to the touch. The height-adjustable driver's seat and tilt and telescoping steering column help to ensure that the Jetta TDI's pilot is perfectly situated. Even the deep 'thud'? that is heard when closing the doors gives the Jetta a sense of a safety.
The base Jetta TDI is essentially the top-of-the-line model and the base price shows it. Even with a starting MSRP of $21,990 ($5,000 more than the base Jetta sedan), the TDI is an easy choice when factoring in fuel mileage and costs. In addition to the price of diesel falling compared to gasoline prices (as of September 15, 2008, the national average for diesel is just 20 cents higher than regular-grade gasoline, according to the Energy Information Administration), the 2009 Jetta TDI and Jetta SportWagen TDI are now eligible for a $1,300 Federal Income Tax Credit from the Internal Revenue Service.
As if it would take more for Autotropolis.com to recommend the fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive, safe and affordable Jetta TDI, all 2009 Volkswagens come with the Carefree Maintenance Program, which covers all scheduled maintenance at no cost to the owner.