The New 2011 Jetta Diesel Sedan
The new 2011 Jetta sedan gets its own platform—it’s no longer a Golf hatchback with a trunk added to the rear end. The new car strains the definition of compact, pushing the envelope nearly into the mid-size arena. Its wheelbase has grown 2.9 inches, to 104.4 and overall length is increased the same, to 182.2 inches.
By adding nearly three inches to the space that must be negotiated by hips, thighs, knees and toes, VW has turned the backseat into adult-ready territory. And the trunk is large enough to handle more gear than any other sedan in the compact class.
The growth is accompanied by a new body-style. Gone is the distinctive wide mouth grille, replaced with a more determined and synchronous face. Rearward of the toned down proboscis, the new look is less Germanic, more generic. The new Jetta has clean with sharp lines that provide an overall appearance of understated sophistication. It’s a look that outdistances its intended competitors.
We recently took the 2011 TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection) diesel for a weeklong evaluation. We did three stints with our six-speed manual Jetta TDI to get a reading on fuel economy: We clocked 56 miles on city streets, 241 miles of mostly Interstate driving and a fun-filled 137 miles on two-lane back county roads. EPA’s fueleconomy.org website’s rating for the 2011 edition is 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway, and that’s for either the manual shifter or the six-speed DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox) automatic that can operate in full automatic or semi-manual mode.
During our in-town driving trek, we put on our "conservative" driving hat and forced myself to shift gears according to the up shift arrow on the instrument cluster. Shifting into fourth gear at 30-32 mph, as the arrow directed, was difficult. But apparently the folks at Volkswagen know how one should drive to squeeze out fuel economy because we wrung out 33.8 mpg. (So much for the way EPA arrives at their numbers.)
On the highway stretch, we drove mostly in the right lane and limited speed to between 60 and 65 mph. On the return, far left lane driving seemed more like the natural place for the Jetta and we cruised most of the way at 75-80 mph. We exited where we started and pumped 5.63 gallons of diesel. That’s 42.8 miles per gallon.
Three days later it was time for the turbo to spool up and stay there, fuel mileage be damned. There are some marvelous, seldom-used two-lane roads in the South Sound area of Washington State (Olympia/Tacoma). Blacktop surfaces range from silky smooth to almost gravel, with stretches of flat or hilly straight-aways and an abundance of blind corners and off-camber hairpin turns. For most of the 137 miles the transmission was in 3rd or 4th gear, making sure that the 30 to 50 mph posted speeds weren’t exceeded by too much. The 236 pounds-feet of torque produced by 2.0-liter four arrives at 1,750 rpm, proving that you don’t need a large displacement gas engine to have fun. And a 140 horsepower diesel validates that you can have a smile on your face while averaging 32.3 mpg.
The stretched wheelbase improves the Jetta’s ride quality and despite the switch to a torsion-beam rear suspension, the sedan hasn’t lost its taut, Teutonic feel on the road. Steering is tight, well weighted and communicative and the brakes are strong under foot and linear in their response. Cabin noise is at a minimum, even at highway speeds, with less road noise and wind whistle than expected for the class.
Base price for the Jetta TDI is $22,995, and that includes Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio, iPod connectivity and sunroof. For $24,195, Volkswagen adds keyless access and push-button start, a 5" touchscreen satellite navigation system, lumbar adjustment for the driver, fog lamps and chrome grill.
Once upon a time, we all figured exceptional fuel efficiency would be the modern hair shirt—righteous but painful. With the 2011 Jetta TDI, Volkswagen has delivered a car that not only dispenses exceptional fuel efficiency, it’s actually a lot of fun to drive.