Review: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

Tuesday October 21st, 2014 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

By David Colman

Hypes: Tremendous Range, Low Speed Torque, Luxury cabin
Gripes: VW lags competitors in JD POWERS IQS (Initial Quality Survey)

It’s really too bad that you can’t use your X-ray eyes to look through the engine shroud covering VW’s all new turbo diesel EA288 engine. If you could, you would realize just how much more sophisticated this new diesel is than its predecessor, the EA189. Only the cylinder bore center dimension remains the same. Everything else about the EA288 is new and improved. Inside you’ll find a cast iron block mated to an aluminum cylinder head, with overhead camshafts operating both intake and exhaust valves from the same cam. This novel arrangement promotes greater air delivery and swirl in the combustion chambers. Net result to you is improved performance and better mileage than before. The new diesel bumps horsepower output to 150 hp (from the EA189′s 140 hp). Torque is abundant, with a wallop of 236 lb.-ft. hitting home at just 1,750 rpm. Best of all, the new diesel’s intelligent architecture yields an eye popping mileage dividend. If you order your TDI with 6-speed manual transmission, expect 44MPG on the highway and a cruising range of 814 miles between refueling stops.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

Our test TDI was equipped with VW’s dual clutch automatic DSG gearbox, a no-charge option on the SEL Premium model. Although the DSG slightly lowers highway mileage to 42MPG, you can still expect 34MPG in overall driving. The DSG is unquestionably one of the best automatic transmissions on the market today. Like the manual, it also offers 6 speeds, with an opportunity to select individual ratios by slotting the floor mounted stick into the manual segment of its gate. However, because the diesel affords so much torque so low in its rpm range, manual gear control is hardly ever necessary. Just press the accelerator and feel that gratifying rush of instant torque.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

The rich interior of the Passat SEL belies its reasonable $33,585 window sticker. If you opt for the SEL Premium version, you will receive leather, rather than vinyl seating surfaces, comfort sport seats, rain sensing wipers, Fender premium audio with 8 speakers and sub woofer, RNS 510 navigation system, 8 way power seats for both driver and passenger, and wood grained dash and door trim. In other woods, the appropriately named “Corn Silk Beige” cabin of this Passat matches up well with BMW and Mercedes products costing twice as much. We put the Fender audio to the test by slipping Linda Ronstadt’s new Starbuck’s CD into the dash slot and cranking the volume way up. The 8 speakers and sub woofer translated her old standards into concert hall sound while conveniently displaying the name and time of each cut on the navigation screen panel. In an increasingly digitized world, the Passat’s interior strikes a calming classic note, with its analog clock face prominently displayed atop the center stack of the dash. Large, round, easily read instrument faces of the 6,000rpm tachometer and 160mph speedometer also fly in the face of the flashy, confusing TFT dials that have become so popular today.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

Handling has long been a VW asset, and the latest Passat continues the tradition, with its finely balanced strut front/multi-link rear independent suspension design. Ride comfort is excellent, thanks in part to the cushy all-season Continental Pro Contact tires (235/45R18) which stress bump absorption over ultimate grip. New for 2015 is electro-mechanical power steering, which places a premium on feedback and precision. Turning radius of the Passat is a scant 36.4 feet, making this sizeable four door feel more like a sports car than a ponderous sedan.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

VW stresses horizontality in the styling of the Passat. Strong chrome grill bands emphasize the sedan’s substantial 72.2 inch width. A swept back roofline culminates in a nearly flat rear window which gives this sedan coupe-like grace. Understated elegance characterizes the interior and exterior design language of the Passat. There is a certain timeless quality to good design, and the latest Passat enjoys that ephemeral virtue. Build quality from VW’s new plant in Chattanooga, TN matches the best output from Wolfsburg, Germany. Doors open smartly to pre-determined detents, interior trim surfaces mate precisely, even the glovebox door glides open slowly and deliberately. No obvious corners have been cut in fabricating this VW.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter inline 4 diesel with Direct Injection and turbocharging
  • Horsepower: 150ho @3,500rpm
  • Torque: 236lb.-ft.@1,750rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/42 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,405
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Friday June 6th, 2014 at 1:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

By David Colman

Hypes: Torque Master, Low Price, Nice Finish Level
Gripes: Needs Plus 1 or 2 Tires and a Rear Wiper

If you’ve ever owned a Volkswagen product, you’ll instantly understand the nostalgic appeal of this latest diesel powered Jetta. From its taut seats to its logical control array, to its bank vault fit and finish, this product distills years of VW tradition into a seductive new package that’s not only affordable ($25,545) and economical (42MPG/ highway), but fun to drive as well.

Even the diesel engine rekindles VW nostalgia, since the very first Rabbit the company built and sold 35 years ago in the USA was available with diesel power. Having driven that Rabbit back in the late 1970s, I can testify that diesel technology has advanced from its Ice Age to its Golden Age. Although the Jetta’s current 2 liter, four cylinder diesel produces only 140hp, the real wallop comes in the torque department, where this TDI (“Turbocharged Diesel Injected”) power plant twists the front wheels to the tune of 236 lb.-ft. of thrust.

You can look high and low in VW’s cupboard for another 4 cylinder engine that matches this diesel for torque. Even the vaunted GLI 2.0 liter turbo gas motor makes just 207 lb.-ft. of torque. The rest of the Jetta engine offerings don’t even come close to matching the diesel. For example, the base 2.0 liter gas motor makes just 125 lb.-ft., and the soon to be phased out 2.5 liter inline 5 cylinder gas motor, which is available only in the Sport Wagon this year, makes 177lb.-ft. of torque.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

In effect, this abundance of torque makes your job as a driver less demanding and more fun. You really need not worry about which gear ratio the DSG automatic 6-speed has selected, because there’s always enough grunt from the diesel to pick up the slack. Of course, if you enjoy stirring the pot on your own, DSG encourages you to do so by offering a manual gate that accommodates sporting override by the driver. No paddles on the steering wheel, however, and you need to remember that the diesel runs through its power band rather quickly and never needs to be wound past 4,000rpm.

The long standing appeal of the Volkswagen family lies in the fact that no matter which model you choose, you can rest assured that the furniture in the living room will be arranged the same basic way. There’s a lot to be said for such predictability in layout, instrumentation and touch surfaces. Familiarity is a strong point that keeps long time VW owners coming back to update their Wolfsburg fix. For example, you can depend on the fact that VW will always offer easily grasped, knurled knobs to control such cockpit essentials as fan speed, temperature setting and vent positioning. You’ll never find this company resorting to the ineffectual slide type digitized controls that have proliferated in so many Japanese products today. VW has also been loath to jump on the bandwagon celebrating the advent of lane departure warnings and cross traffic alerts. Kudos to this company, which still feels that the driver should play the central role in the operation of the vehicle.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Of course, there are a few shortcomings that the owner of a TDI will want to address. The first issue is this Jetta’s diminutive tire size. Though equipped with handsome 16 inch, 5-spoke alloy rims, the accompanying 205/50R16 Continental Sport Contact tires look grossly undersize on this vehicle. While these tires ride quietly and afford excellent comfort, their modest tread width limits the performance of the Jetta when tackling back roads aggressively. Remedy this problem by upgrading to wider tires mounted on 17 or 18 inch rims. In fact VW offers 17 inch factory “Goal” alloys with 225/45R17 all season tires for $1,125 extra. Or you can bump up to 18 inch VW “Motorsport Alloy” rims and tires for $1,400. One thing this Jetta needs that is unavailable from the factory, however, is a rear window wiper to clear that flat, expansive pane of back glass when it rains or mists. But all in all, the short list of needs here is far outweighed by the many virtues of this efficient, affordable and handsome family sedan.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter inline 4 cylinder turbocharged diesel
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 240 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/42 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $25,545
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Saturday July 20th, 2013 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Cruise Range Exceptional, Kal Kustom Look
Gripes: Needs Rear Window Wiper and Stiffer Shocks

To give you an idea of just how efficient the new Diesel Beetle is, we round-tripped from Stinson Beach to Soquel (over 200 miles) in a single day, and when we returned home the trip computer indicated that 250 miles of range still remained. Now that’s a prodigious achievement for a small (2,939 lb.) coupe with a modest-sized fuel tank of just 14.5 gallons. Lately, Diesel fuel has dropped in price locally to a point where it’s less expensive than even the cheapest grade of regular gas, so there’s a double incentive to give this new addition to the Beetle line a good hard look. The other reason is that it’s even more fun to drive than the 200hp turbo version of the same car.

The reason is torque. VW offers 3 engines in the Beetle range. The base motor is a decent 5 cylinder unit displacing 2.5 liters and making 170hp. The 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder, 200hp turbo is a somewhat peaky, finicky engine which requires deft shifting to keep in its powerband. But the key to driving enjoyment is torque rather than horsepower, and here, the new 140hp Diesel outdoes its brethren thanks to the wallop of instant scoot it provides the moment you toe the throttle. Compared to the 170 lb.-ft. of the base 5, and the 207 lb.-ft. of the turbo 4, the Diesel makes 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Couple that to the sweetest shifting 6-speed manual you’ve ever operated and you’ve got a combination sure to please. If you’re not into shifting your own gears, the TDI can be ordered with a dual clutch automatic for an additional $1,100.

Aside from this Beetle’s spunky drivetrain, what else recommends the car to you? Thoughtful design and low price. For example, nice touches abound inside the cabin, even in the trunk. In a nifty replication of ‘50s Beetle design, VW cues painted sections of the dashboard, door panels and steering wheel to the car’s exterior color. In the case of our test car, the overflow of the striking Yellow Rush exterior color to interior surfaces turned the TDI into a genuine Kal Kustom show car. On the floor of the spacious trunk, you’ll find an extremely useful series of space dividers called CarGo Blocks. These modular plastic extrusions adhere to a special Heavy Duty Trunk Liner via Velcro connections. When arranged in the shape of a square, these 6 inch high dividers allow you to stabilize cargo in the trunk. It’s such a brilliant idea that it makes you wonder why no one has offered this before. The CarGo Blocks are part of an optional $235 set of 4 “Monster Mats” that also protect the interior floors.

The Beetle is no sports car. It’s so softly sprung that it heels over rather noticeably in corners. But you could easily rectify this problem by swapping out the standard mushy shock absorbers for aftermarket Bilstein or Koni units. Likewise, the adhesion of the standard Hankook Optimo tires (215/55R17) could stand the improvement that a set of stickier Michelins or Pirellis would provide. But even as it sits, straight from the VW factory in Puebla, Mexico, the TDI Beetle is plenty of fun to drive. The steering is amazingly responsive and accurate, and in our two runs over twisty Highway 17 from San Jose to Santa Cruz, the Beetle never drifted wide of an apex or ran out of grunt before cresting the summit. The manually adjustable front seats lent themselves perfectly to day-long stints in the saddle. Visibility is so good in all quarters that freeway lane changes are never problematic. The Beetle has no need of lane change warning devices.

The Beetle TDI is the perfect conveyance for the long haul. You will arrive refreshed and enthusiastic at your destination, and you won’t need to search for a gas station because this Beetle is good for an overall rating of 32 MPG. At a base price of just $23,295, the TDI Beetle is a top entrant in the new crop of elite and affordable rides for 2013.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

  • Engine: 2.0 liter, inline 4 Diesel
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 236 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/41 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $24,360
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Best Hybrid and Green Cars of 2010

Monday November 1st, 2010 at 8:1111 AM
Posted by: AKramer

CarReview_Best_Green_Car_2010By Alex Kramer

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago gas was cheap, the SUV was king, and fuel efficiency was one of the last things car buyers were concerned about. Surprisingly, it was also ten years ago that Honda and Toyota introduced a seemingly radical technology that involved strapping batteries and an electric motor to a gas engined car, creating the first hybrids.

Fast forward ten years and the traditional SUV has all but died out, gas is $3 per gallon, and hybrids are as common as apple pie. More importantly, awareness of global warming and our dependence on foreign oil, along with a depressed economy, has made fuel efficiency a far more important criteria for car buyers. This, in turn,  has spurred the automotive industry to pursue smaller, cleaner and more efficient designs. The result is a plethora of choices for buyers seeking a more fuel efficient, greener set of wheels.

Although hybrid cars are perhaps the most effective way to significantly increase fuel efficiency, with 9 out of the top ten most fuel efficient cars featuring a gas electric drivetrain, not everyone will be happy with the increased cost and performance sacrifice that often comes with hybrid ownership. Luckily we now also have a new generation of clean diesels that are nothing like the noisy, smoke belching diesels of the past, instead providing excellent performance along with hybrid worthy fuel efficiency. And for those who are wary of all of this alternative technology, there are finally plenty of efficient, well made small cars available in America.

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Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Ford, Lexus, Mercury, Toyota, Volkswagen |Tags:, , , , , , , , || 4 Comments »

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

Wednesday October 20th, 2010 at 2:1010 PM
Posted by: Derek

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.

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Volkswagen Unveils the New Redesigned 2011 Jetta (video)

Tuesday June 15th, 2010 at 2:66 PM
Posted by: Derek

2011 VW JettaThe all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta has been redesigned for the North American market. The 2011 Jetta is built on a new platform and will be larger than the current generation. Scheduled to be on sale at dealerships in fall of 2010 across the U.S., sixth generation (A6) Jetta pricing will start at $16,000 and buyers will have a choice of four engine options. A hybrid version of the Jetta will be available in 2012.

The entry-level Jetta, with a 2-liter, 115-horsepower gas engine, goes on sale in October for around $16,000. The company is going after consumers who previously dismissed the model as too expensive. The list price of the lowest-priced 2010 Jetta is $17,735.

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Posted in Press and News, Volkswagen |Tags:, , || 5 Comments »

2010 Audi A3 TDI Coming To America

Tuesday September 8th, 2009 at 7:99 AM
Posted by: tonyb

Audi A3 TDI

More news on the diesel front: Audi has finally decided to bring a diesel variant of its very popular A3 to America as a 2010 model. The A3, which is sort of the car that people buy when they want more than a Volkswagen and less than a bigger Audi, has been intensely popular. Small and compact enough for urban duty, yet able to travel long distances with ease put the car on a spectrum of car buyers’ short lists.

The only thing missing, for the American market, has been a diesel option. The oil burners have been available since the get go in Europe, where diesel is a popular fuel choice, but Audi has been reluctant to bring any of their diesels to North America. This has been something of a downer for those that want an Audi and are either the frugal type, or more green conscious, but now that’s all set to change.

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2009 VW Jetta TDI Review – Fuel efficiency for the driving enthusiast

Monday August 31st, 2009 at 10:88 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2009 VW Jetta TDI

By Alex Kramer


  • 236 lb ft of torque!!
  • Smooth shifting 6 speed manual transmission
  • Perfectly tuned chassis and suspension
  • Outstanding fuel efficiency


  • Squeal-happy tires
  • Spartan interior

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Posted in Expert Reviews, Volkswagen |Tags:, , , || 2 Comments »

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sedan – First Impressions

Friday July 31st, 2009 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: twain

By Twain Mein

Diesel: what’s old is new, only better
I’ve been unintentionally green for a few weeks now; my beloved 2000 Audi A6 is in the shop getting major surgery including a transmission rebuild, new power steering rack, and catalytic converters. So I’ve been cycling and train-riding to work for the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the train station is quite a ways from work, so I’ve been riding a minimum of 9 miles, and sometimes 40 miles a day (if I forego the train). You can imagine there are times I’m pretty tired.

Luckily, my backside got a welcome break with the chance to test the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta. But the “green” didn’t take a break with this frugal VW. It’s a fantastic car that offers plenty of room front and rear, fold down seats to easily fit the bike into the trunk, excellent handling, and a thoroughly entertaining diesel engine. Entertaining? Diesel? Yep-this sucker features a turbocharger that kicks in for some prodigious torque. While the 2.0 liter 4 cylinder has only 140 horsepower, it packs a whopping 236 foot pounds of torque. While it lags a bit off the line, at highway speeds, the torque makes passing a joy. It is an ideal highway cruiser. Even more impressive, despite my notorious lead-footedness (I infamously logged just 22mpg in the ’08 Honda Fit), I averaged a stunning 37.5 mpg!

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Posted in Expert Reviews, hybrid, Volkswagen |Tags:, , , , || 7 Comments »

New Entry-Level Engines For Audi Q5 and A4 Allroad Quattro

Tuesday July 28th, 2009 at 7:77 AM
Posted by: tonyb

2009 Audi A4 Allroad

More word from Europe on engines and models that car companies should be bringing to these shores. Audi, maker of all things all wheel drive and quick, has just announced some new engines for the euro market that would be really nice to see here in America (along with a model we should see too).

The most interesting of the new mills is an entry-level diesel that will be available for both the Audi Q5 SUV and the A4 Allroad Quattro crossover. It’s a 2.0-liter TDI with a nifty common rail high-pressure injection setup that cranks out 143 HP and a maximum of 236 lb-ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm. Pretty impressive grunt for such a small engine. There’s also a new base 2.0-liter gasoline fueled that puts out 180 HP and 236 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 3,900 rpm for the Q5 SUV. Both engines get a 6-speed manual gearbox.

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