2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition Review – V-dub's cup runneth over

Expert Reviews Volkswagen

By Derek Mau

Props to Volkswagen for trying to inject some fun into a family sedan that would otherwise be more associated with the sober, button-down demeanor of a desk-jockey commuter locked into a 9 -5 job with no hope for advancement beyond his cubicle walls with the neutral tone fabric. Take one tidy sedan powered by a very frugal turbo-diesel and DSG gearbox, dial-in the suspension from the more sporty GLI, dress it up with an aero kit and a shiny set of 18 inch alloy wheels, and the excitement dial gets turned up a couple of notches. Just how exciting is the Jetta TDI Cup Edition? I take the  working man’s coach to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey and push it through the turns to find out if getting 40 mpg and having fun at the same time is possible.

The engine remains standard: It’s VW’s 140-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel four, mated to either a six-speed manual or the undeniably high-tech six-speed direct-shift gearbox automatic. No powertrain changes between the standard Jetta TDI and the Jetta TDI Cup Edition, but it does get a bigger set of binders in addition to the performance mods mentioned above.

2010 Jetta TDI Cup Edition posing the paddock at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Turning Laps at Laguna Seca

Sadly, the TDI has only 140 hp to its name, and worse, it’s reluctant to rev, making top speed and fast exits out of the corners a little difficult. Racing any diesel — whether it’s a family sedan or a semi-tractor — strikes me as the height of silliness. This tiny turbo-diesel engine doesn’t rev up and the usual mountain of torque doesn’t fully compensate for the stunted power curve. That’s not to say this Jetta TDI is without virtue. Its ability to haul five comfortably while delivering 40 mpg qualifies it as the family sedan of the future.

The Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a very good car in base trim, so I was surprised at just how much better the TDI Cup Edition is. The sport suspension and sway bars taken from the GLI transforms this Jetta from a doldrum commuter to an engaging companion. Turn-in response is excellent with a good amount of feedback. Even better, the improved handling comes at virtually no cost to the ride quality. This is still a very comfortable car for daily driving.

The Pirelli PZero Nero all-season tires are a great choice for daily street use, but a huge weakness when trying to turn some fast laps at the track. In addition to announcing myself at every corner from the tires squealing louder than a 10 year-old school girl, braking had to be initiated a little earlier and I had to be mindful of my speed carrying through the turns.

2010 VW Jetta TDI Cup Edition

More Than Just a Pretty Face

Inside, sports seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel set this Jetta TDI apart from its lesser counterparts. A little flair was added with the brushed aluminum door sills.

The other significant change is plaid, bolstered seats that are much more embracing than the flat, leatherette chairs in our 2009 Jetta TDI tested last year. However, the $2160 premium over a base TDI is money well spent, as the suspension creates a wholesale change in how the Jetta drives. I was pleasantly surprised by the Jetta TDI Cup Edition’s sportier-yet-just-as-comfortable chassis.

2010_VW_Jetta_TDI_CupEdition_03_400x600Decals aside, the differences between the standard Jetta TDI and this Cup Edition aren’t all that dramatic — and that’s a good thing. In daily driving I thought the Jetta TDI Cup Edition was comfortable, wonderfully efficient, and even rather entertaining to drive. The Cup Edition amps up the fun-to-drive quotient just a bit without detracting from all those other benefits. On the open road, the turbo has time to spool up into is power band and it is actually fun squirting in/around traffic. “Shoot the hole! Shoot the hole!”

Even with the firmer damping and larger, low-profile tires, it does a great job absorbing road imperfections. The reduction in sidewalls has also improved the precision of the steering, which was quite good to begin with.

If you’re in the market for a Jetta TDI sedan and like to drive, this is your car. The firmer GLI suspension, larger brakes, and upgraded antiroll bars go a long way towards making the Jetta sedan exciting to drive. Of course those upgrades do nothing to address the modest horsepower of a TDI engine, but we’re especially sensitive to the TDI’s horsepower output because we flogged the TDI Cup Edition harder than an old  horse headed to the glue factory around Mazda Raceway and could only muster 82 mph on the front straight. For spirited driving on the roadways near your hood, the suspension upgrades do the job of making you seek the long route home after a hard day at the office.

Pricing for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup “Street” Edition begins at $25,000. The car also qualifies for a federal tax credit of $1,300.



2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition

Base price (with destination): $25,740
Price as tested: $30,013

Standard Equipment:
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Electro-mechanical power steering
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Electronic stability program
Electronic differential lock
18-inch alloy wheels
Climatic air-conditioning
Power and heatable outside mirrors
Cruise control
Leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel
In-dash 6 CD changer with MP3 capability
Auxiliary input jack
Sirius satellite radio
Bluetooth connectivity
Power windows
Jetta TDI Cup Edition side decal

Options on this vehicle:
Jetta TDI Cup Edition body kit — $2350
Power sunroof — $1000
Jetta wing spoiler — $499
Jetta mat kit — $225
iPod interface — $199

Fuel economy: 30/41/34 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 2.0L turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 140 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1750-2500 rpm

Drive: Front-wheel

Transmission: 6-speed DSG

Curb weight: 3285 lb

Wheels/tires: 18-inch alloy wheels

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Rating: 4.5 stars
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“Equipped with a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine (170-HP, 177 lb-ft of torque) and a 5-speed manual transmission, the Jetta SEL is no pocket rocket.”

2011 Volkswagen Jetta First Impressions Review: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
By David Colman

“Although the Jetta’s reconfiguration will appeal to family types, the basic sporting strengths of the sedan endure in this latest iteration. Jetta continues to shine in the motivation and handling departments.”

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI – First Impressions
Rating: 4.5 stars
By Twain Mein

“So what’s it like to live with a diesel? This VW is impressive. While there is a slight “dieseling sound” at start up, it is not much louder than a standard engine.”

2009 Volkswagen Jetta 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Review
Rating: 4.5 stars
By Derek Mau

“The Volkswagen TDI engines are no where near what many Americans think of in terms of the old generation diesel engines that were noisy, spewed black soot out the back, and smelled like rotten eggs.”

2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Review
Rating: 4.0 stars
By Gary Chan

“If you’re looking for a car that’s easy to drive, has decent gas mileage, and a multitude of utility value, the Jetta SportWagen is a great choice.”

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Rating: 4.5 stars
By Alex Kramer

“The Volkswagen Jetta brings German design and engineering to a car that starts at well under $20,000.”

Photo Galleries:
2011 Volkswagen Jetta | 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI | 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen | 2008 Volkswagen Jetta
VW of AmericaOfficial website for Volkswagen of America – www.vw.com

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  • francois says:

    Seriously? No comments on this vehicle. This machine is a groundbreaker! It crosses the boundaries of diesels from American trucks to sporty cars.

    This car is sporty. Suspension is taut and balanced and the chassis is solid. And this car is a joy to drive around town and on twisty mountain roads. The TDI just pulls from 1500 rpm to 3500.

    On the wide open road, there’s nothing really there. One just needs to chill and watch the trip computer rise to 55 mpg!!!


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