2011 VW Jetta SportWagen TDI: Clean diesel drives VW toward its goal
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn recently said the company is on track to overtake Toyota Motor Company as the world's largest automaker. In the first nine months of 2010, VW did beat Toyota's full-year profit goal for the same period -- $5.23 billion vs. $4.16 billion – and the German executive said that with strong sales growth in China and the U.S., VW could surpass Toyota in worldwide sales and profitably by 2018.
One vehicle poised to help Volkswagen achieve its lofty target is the Clean Diesel 2011 Jetta SportWagen TDI. A sportwagon engineered with German styling and electronics and designed in a versatile, stylish, fun-to-drive package for under $25,000 (base), TDI appeals to “green-conscious” drivers by means of 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel engine that utilizes one of the most efficient alternative fuels readily available in all 50 states -- a biodiesel blend known as B5, which consists of 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum diesel. Additionally, Jetta’s TDI trim has been EPA rated at 30mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway.
The TDI acronym is short for “Turbocharged Direct Injection,” an innovative engine design that delivers a combination of performance, fuel economy and low emissions.
On the intake side of the equation, all TDI engines use a computer-controlled injection system that sprays fuel directly into the combustion chamber at very high pressures that help promote more complete combustion. On the exhaust side, Jetta TDI models use a self-cleaning filter that traps and periodically burns off nitrous oxides (NOx) and particulates.
Attractive as it is conservation-oriented, Jetta’s SportWagen’s all-new front end adds a leaner look to the model’s already sporty nature. A narrow double-bar grille sits just above the bumper, giving the SportWagen a wider appearance, accented by minimal fender flares working in concert with a pair of angled halogen headlamps held in blacked-out housings. The lower portion of the front fascia has been narrowed and widened for a sleeker look, and black window trim gives the vehicle an upscale demeanor. An integrated roof rack comes as standard on all models to increase the SportWagen’s versatile storage abilities.
Weighing in at 3283 lbs, The Jetta Sportwagon TDI measures 179.4 inches long, 70.1 inches wide and 59.2 inches high on a 101.5-inch wheelbase with 5.4 inches of ground clearance.
My Platinum Gray Metallic test ride’s exterior was accented by a Cornsilk Beige Leatherette interior that measured front head room of 38.4 inches, front shoulder room of 54.8 inches and front leg room a comfortable 41.1 inches. Rear seat measurements are headroom: 38.1; shoulder room 53.1 and leg room a tight 35.5.
Cabin accouterments included air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD stereo system with MP3/CD readability, eight speakers (upgraded to 10 speakers in an optional add-on), an auxiliary input, ergonomic HVAC controls, eight-way adjustable support front seats, a three-spoke steering wheel with tilt-and telescope capabilities, Bluetooth® mobile phone connectivity, trip computer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and parking brake.
One of the big stories associated with the Jetta SportWagen is its power plant. TDI muscles up with an aluminum alloy 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder in-line engine with sequential multi-point fuel injection and digital electronic ignition that delivers 140hp and 236 lbs-ft of torque (the standard in-line 5 engine provides 170hp and 177 lbs-ft of torque on regular unleaded gas).
The front wheel drive, manual transmission vehicle averaged 33mpg during mixed-use tests, and while finding clean diesel fuel was problematic, the ride was responsive and quiet for a diesel.
Some test results have come back claiming a zero to 60mph time under 9 seconds, but my test ride, prepared as any standard car you would drive off a car lot, and tested in normal conditions not tailored for hotshoe times, came in at 9.6 seconds and a 17.4-second quarter-mile.
Acceleration at speed is labored at times, but you generally get good pop when you need it. Steering is better than average for the segment – not sports carlike, but better than most wagons, thanks to TDI’s rack and pinion electro-mechanical power assisted steering.
The enhanced all-steel monococque chassis utilizes independent McPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and integrated stabilizer bar up front and a multilink rear suspension with coil springs, telescopic gas pressurized shock absorbers, stabilizer bar for smooth sailing and a passenger-comforting ride, while the standard anti-lock braking system with electronic brake pressure distribution supplies attentive stopping.
Safety measures include front, thorax, and side curtain protection airbags for both the driver and front passenger, as well as side curtain protection airbags for rear passengers. Jetta’s electronic differential lock and electronic stability control automatically brakes individual front or rear wheels and/or reduces engine power as needed to help maintain directional control.
The 2011 Jetta SportWagen TDI has a base price of $24,730. With $2900 in options and a $770 destination charge, my test vehicle had a drive-off sticker $28,400. Additions included the Premium Package for $2550 (power sliding panoramic sunroof, navigational system with 5-inch screen, media interface and 17-inch Porto alloy wheels) and rear side airbags for $350.
The Jetta TDI combines sportwagon utility with eco-friendly performance.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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