OK, it’s sort of damning with faint praise, but even Popular Mechanics knows a nice ride when it sees it.
Sure, winning notice from Popular Mechanics doesn’t rank up there with an award from Road & Track or Car & Driver, but it does count for something, and they are recognizing a pretty nice car.
Volkswagen’s new, 50 state legal Jetta TDi has been getting lots of praise from lots of points on the compass, and really what’s not to like? The styling is quite handsome (although some take issue with the cow-catcher grill), it’s got all the gizmos a bunch of German engineers can dream up (and those guys can dream up a lot), it goes, turns & stops with competence, you’re ringed with airbags, and the thing gets upwards of 45 MPG on the highway. Also, you can buy it, new, in all fifty states – California used to have a ban on new diesel sales, but the latest TDis and Mercedes BlueTecs now meet CARB requirements.
There’s also a couple of other things about TDis that don’t get mentioned as often.
First you can run them on bio-diesel. Last time I checked, VW says you can run up to 5% bio-D, and since this is a new car and would be under warranty, I wouldn’t mess with that figure much, but once it’s been on the road a bit … well, let’s just put it this way: I had a friend when I was living in Hawaii. Serious aircraft mechanic/gearhead/tinkerer sort of guy. One day he finds out about bio-diesel. Next thing you know he’s gotten local restaurants to give him their waste oil (“Chinese joints are the BEST. They use TONS of the stuff.”) and he’s refining it into fuel, at home, for his growing fleet of VW diesels. As far as I know, he hasn’t bought gas since 2003.
Second, there’s some serious fun to be had with aftermarket parts for these things. They race TDis. There are ECU chips out there that get VW TDi engines cranking out around 250 foot pounds of torque with no adverse effect to fuel economy. That’s a lot of torque for a car this small … you can see where this is going, can’t you?
The new Jetta TDis, and believe it or not, the Jetta TDi SportWagens are really impressive cars. If I was a family sort of guy, they’d be on my short list.