2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE Review

Wednesday March 15th, 2017 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

By David Colman

Hypes: Interior Layout Simplicity, Handling Balance
Gripes: Launch Hesitation in First Gear, Sticky Brake Feel

For 2017, Passat continues to benefit from the major makeover it received in 2016. In addition to restyled front and rear fascias, the Passat’s 6.3 inch graphic user interface touchscreen now includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Also now standard are VW Car-Net upgrades, including App-Connect (Smart Phone integration and interface) and Security & Service (Emergency Assistance). This latter feature is operable at delivery time, but must be subscribed for continued service. Also standard on Passat is a suite of technology safety upgrades. A rearview camera helps you reverse safely. Front Assist helps bring your Passat to a halt when frontal blockage is detected. Blind Spot Monitor is now standard, and features Rear Traffic Alert. These safety improvements operate silently and seamlessly, without the noisy intrusiveness characteristic of many such systems.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

If you select the SE level of Passat, VW literally upgrades your wheels from 16 to 17 inch silver alloys wearing Continental ProContact mud & snow rubber (215/55R17). Another advantage of opting for an SE level Passat is inclusion of KESSY, keyless access with push button start. After spending a week fumbling for the keys of a VW Alltrack to gain entry and start the engine, the proximity system and push button of the Passat saved a lot of key search time. The Passat’s huge 16 cubic foot trunk includes a spare tire buried in a mat covered well. This emergency unit is made by Firestone and measures a scant 135/90/16, but gets the temporary job done since it matches the rolling diameter of the Continental radials. A jack and lug wrench are included.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

The Passat is not designed for extroverts. You appreciate its subdued nature the minute you scan the quiet color choices available: 3 shades of silver or gray, muted blue, very muted red, beige or black. You certainly won’t find VW’s outrageous Beetle shade of Fresh Fuchsia Metallic available to dress your Passat. Rather, our test sample was painted Platinum Gray Metallic, set against a Titan Black interior. This is not to say the combo was objectionable. In fact, it looked handsomely subdued, in the way a Brooks Brothers suit is fashionably reserved. Adding to the pleasing medley of interior tones and patterns is a wide strip of what appears to be varnished driftwood. This material, set off in turn by an inlay of finely corrugated matte aluminum, stretches across the dash, and continues through all four door panels.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

What we continue to love about VW vehicles and the staff that designs them is their resistance to sublimating vehicle operation to touchscreen menus. Here is a short list of vintage features that make Passat so much easier to operate than the current competition: a fly-off handbrake that is conveniently located and easy to operate; three large knobs to control temperature and fan operation; seven prominently positioned buttons to operate seat heaters and air flow; one overhead swivel knob to control slide/tilt operation of the standard sunroof; conveniently located manual lift/slide/rake controls for both front seats. Car designers today have abandoned this mode of simplicity in favor of complex, unnecessary, menu-driven operations that invariably deflect your attention from the serious requirements of driving. Bravo to VW for refusing to turn their Passat into a motorized smart phone.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

This largest of all VW sedans is meant to be a family hauler, a mission it accomplishes with customary German dexterity. The Passat is without question a spacious sedan, with its wheelbase of 110 inches insuring that both front and back seat occupants will never wont for legroom. Even though the weight distribution of the Passat’s 3,220 pounds is heavily biased toward the front (59%F/41%R), this mini limo still covers twisty back roads with surprising agility. The front end never plows through tight turns, and the lively 170hp TSI turbo 4 unleashes enough zip to make exiting corners exhilarating. While the Passat’s deadpan looks may not give a clue from the outside, its sporting nature is always ready to be unleashed. If 170hp is insufficient, VW offers an even quicker variant in the V6 Passat, which makes 280hp from 3.6 liters. Either way, the Passat earns its stripes as a premium German sedan, which flies fast under the radar, and does so without draining your wallet.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

  • Engine: 1.8 liter DOHC turbo 4 cylinder with direct injection (TSI)
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,315
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack 4Motion Review

Friday March 3rd, 2017 at 12:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack

By David Colman

Hypes: Strong Drivetrain, Useful Interior, Great Price
Gripes: Needs Headlight Flash When Locking/Unlocking

So far, the new Alltrack VW had checked all my boxes. Was it fast enough? Yes. Did it handle well enough? Absolutely. Did it look good inside and out? Check and check again. But as a sportive player, now it would have to pass the bike test. With rear seats folded flat, would the Alltrack have enough room to stow my mountain bike? Yes, with surprising room to spare – as long as the bike’s front wheel is folded back 180 degrees. Clearing that final impediment makes the Alltrack as close to perfect as you can get. With its Falken Sincera tires (205/55/R17) churning through slosh and mud, this newest addition to the company stable is good for virtually any foray, off or on road. It deals equally well with either eventuality. And it provides you with lots of driving fun to boot.

2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack

This latest brainchild from Wolfsburg is a crossover of sorts. VW appropriated the basic architecture of the Front Wheel Drive Golf SportWagen, transforming it into an All Wheel Drive variant that excels in all terrain performance. VW calls it “All Whee Drive.” In addition to 4Motion (VW’s name for all-wheel-drive), engineers have raised the Golf’s suspension enough to clear off-road type obstacles. They have even provided an underbody guard to prevent damage in the outback. A “Driving Mode” selector on the center console allows you to chose ride height appropriate for Sport, Normal or Off Road driving adventures. Even though I never ventured far off pavement (VW calls such excursions the “road less graveled”), I did drive this VW for two hours through a pouring rainstorm, where I found its 4Motion traction capable of providing reassuring comfort in even the most adverse conditions.

2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack

Similar Japanese products I have recently driven seem underpowered compared to the Alltrack, which depends on 1.8 liters of direct fuel injected, turbocharged, “TSI” 4 cylinder power to sprint away from stop lights like its sporty cousin, the Golf GTI. Helping allocate the power is a 6-speed automatic transmission equipped with a manual control gate and small paddles at the 9 and 12 o’clock positions behind the steering wheel. The Alltrack produces 170hp and makes 184lb.-ft. of torque while posting an overall EPA fuel consumption figure of 25 MPG. For the record, we never came close to exhausting this Golf’s 14.5 gallon supply, or invoking its 1.3 gallon reserve margin.

A week of nearly constant wet weather operation revealed a few niceties missing from the Alltrack equation. Rain sensing wipers would have been useful, as I spent an inordinate amount of time fiddling with the wiper stalk to keep pace with conditions. The power door locks, operated by the keyfob, lack a proximity sensor, so you need to push the appropriate button on the keyfob. This tends to complicate the boarding process in a downpour. And finally, when you unlock or lock the Alltrack, your action is confirmed by a blink of the turn indicators. But there is no accompanying timed illumination from the headlights. This makes for difficult approach or departure at night.

2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack

Despite these minor oversights, the Alltrack is a startlingly well equipped vehicle, especially considering its bargain base price of $26,950. For example, both front seats are heated, with 3 stages of temperature offered. The wipers are also heated, along with the outside rear view mirrors. The Golf has been granted a substantial makeover for 2017, and one of the new features is a larger 6.5 inch touchscreen that displays a sublime level of clarity for operation of the 8 speaker AM/FM/SiriusXM radio unit. Thankfully, VW have avoided the temptation to incorporate all HVAC commands into this digital display.. Instead, the Alltrack provides welcome dial controls for temperature and fan settings, as well as separate buttons for A/C, defrost and rear window heat. It is also thrilling to discover that your seat settings (fore/aft, tilt, height) are all controlled by you, not a series of heavy, expensive and completely unnecessary electric motors. You also need to insert a key in the ignition which is something else of a delightful throwback these days when hard-to-find starter buttons have become the norm. In an era of increasingly overcomplicated auto design, VW takes a refreshing stand for simplicity of operation.

2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack

The Alltrack is the perfect answer to a question asked by many families. What vehicle is sporty, all terrain capable, yet not configured like a tippy SUV on stilts? the answer to that quandary is this newest member of the VW clan, the quick, grippy and practical new Alltrack wagon.

2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI Alltrack 4Motion

  • Engine: 1.8 Liter TSI DOHC inline 4, turbocharged with direct injection
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $27,770
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium Review

Wednesday February 22nd, 2017 at 11:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium

By David Colman

Hypes: Loaded, No Options Needed
Gripes: Cheap Plastic Back Seat/Trunk Divider

It’s always reassuring to scrutinize a vehicle’s price invoice (called a Monroney Sticker) and discover that absolutely NO extras have been added to inflate the base figure. In this case, $26,995 is what you will pay for a very fully equipped Volkswagen four-door sedan. This tidy, tight little package is a lot of fun to drive. Best of all, it’s so fully equipped in SEL Premium form that you can enjoy this Jetta without so much as adding a single extra cost option. Try performing that parlor trick the next time you step into an Audi, BMW or Mercedes dealership.

In addition, VW has been taking such a beating over the last 18 months for its diesel malfeasance that dealers are hungry to move 2017 Jettas at attractive price points. Among the extras here that you won’t pay extra for are: a rearview camera, a dual zone HVAC system, a keyless push button starter, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, app-connect smart phone integration, navigation and Fender infotainment system, bi-Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers with heated nozzles, and a power sliding/tilting sunroof.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium

Of course all those standard niceties wouldn’t mean so much if the basic architecture of the Jetta inhibited driving fun. Such is not the case, however, because like most V Dubs of yore, even this rather inconspicuous, decidedly family-oriented sedan has its driving chops down cold. Tucked sideways under the hood is the VW organization’s go-to powerplant, a 4 cylinder turbocharged 1.8 liter motor making 170hp and 184lb.-ft. of torque. Other versions of the Jetta can be had with a 1.4 liter turbo (150hp) or a GLI Jetta with a 210hp 2.0 liter turbo 4. Our test Jetta, finished in a spectacularly flaky metallic shade called Platinum Gray, bolted a 6-speed automatic gearbox complete with paddle shift controls, to the 1.8 liter Direct Fuel Injection engine. The engine of this “German” Jetta is built in Mexico while its transmission is imported from Japan. Performance with the mid-range Turbo and the automatic is always sprightly since the Jetta weighs just 3,040 lbs, giving it a sporting power-to-weight ratio of 17.8 lbs./hp.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium

Standard fare also extends to the Jetta’s alloy 17 inch rims shod with premium 45 series Continental Pro Contact tires which put 225 mm of all-weather rubber at each contact patch. A standard tire pressure monitoring system keeps track of the air in your Continentals. Despite their short sidewalls, the Conti Sport Contacts afford more than a modicum of ride comfort to passengers. Along with a well modulated suspension system, these tires keep the interior of the Jetta quiet, comfortable and unperturbed even when traversing the nastiest bits of broken pavement.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium

With its spacious back seat, slouchy-comfortable front seats, and airy cabin windows, the Jetta constitutes a pretty fair substitute for a living room on wheels. The 54.5 inches of front shoulder room and 53 inches of rear shoulder room make for a spacious conversation pit. The 16 cubic foot trunk keeps a foursome’s possessions neatly stowed out of sight. At one point during our week with the car, a trio of occupants found this VW so comfortable after a drive that we all sat together chatting for over an hour without ever feeling like we needed to climb out of the Jetta.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium

Volkswagens have always had a way of ingratiating themselves into your life like that. Pretty soon, they become trusted members of your family. That kind of reasoning keeps loyal customers coming back to this marque for one generation of VW after another. There aren’t many automotive refuges where you can still find solid German engineering and driving pleasure at a price that makes you double-check the Monroney Sticker to make sure you read it right the first time. Other German manufacturers wonder how VW can turn the trick for the money they charge. If you can live without the needless burden of a chic nameplate, but still seek the best that German style motoring has to offer, take a close look at the loaded 2017 Jetta SEL Premium.

2017 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SEL Premium

  • Engine: 1.8 liter TFSI Direct Injection inline 4, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/35 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $27,815
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon Review

Friday August 26th, 2016 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

By David Colman

Hypes: Bauhaus Stark and Efficient
Gripes: Dump the Turbo for a V6

This VW comes with a longer name than any vehicle in recent memory. Let’s try to break down the mystery of a title that requires 5 separate descriptors. The first and most important is “CC” which refers to a sedan that originally derived from the Passat line but now stands on its own as a spacious mid-size product that will seat 4 adults luxuriously, 5 in a pinch. The “R-Line” descriptor refers to a stealthy looking trim package that differentiates the CC in the following ways: special front bumper, model-specific exterior and interior trim, including chrome plated threshold strips emblazoned with discreet “R-Line” logos. The “Executive with Carbon” finery consists of extensive carbon fiber inserts on the dash face, and all four door panels. VW has integrated the subtle look of the carbon weave into the upholstery design as well. The bolsters of both front and rear seats are stamped with a matte black cross hatching (called “Carbon Seat Cover Inserts”) that replicates the look of carbon weave. All in all, this multi-titled, baronial German aristocrat looks much more expensive than its sticker price of $38,685. In the long history of VW, few products – with the possible exception of the short-lived Phaeton – have come close to matching the current CC for unadulterated beauty of line, or elegance of design.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

Unfortunately, the 2.0 inline turbo straight four which powers our test version of the CC fails to provide the kind of acceleration you would expect from such a sleek package. Even if you manually select first gear for a traffic light getaway, the CC is hesitant to cover the initial 30 yards of pavement with dispatch. While the DSG gearbox does better at managing acceleration as the rpm and boost level of the turbo increase, the CC is slow to gather speed. That’s because VW has tasked this 200hp motor with the job of moving 3,370 pounds. The resultant power-to-weight ratio stands at 16.85lb/hp. Better you should opt for the available 3.6 liter V6, which makes 280hp and gives you a power-to-weight ratio of 12.0lb/hp.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

Certainly, the chassis and suspension of the CC is up to the task of sports sedan performance. The Executive package includes a very handsome set of 5 made-in-Germany ATS alloy rims (including a full size spare) that mount 235/40R18 Continental (Conti Pro Contact) tires. The rims measure 8J x 18, so you know the footprint of this car is solid. Considering the minimal sidewall height of the 40 series Conti tires, the ride of the CC is surprisingly tame. VW has selected shock absorber settings that damp out unwonted road incursion while still maintaining good control when you’re zipping through the bends.

Although VW markets the CC as a sports sedan, it’s really more of a mini-limousine than a 3 Series BMW. Standard comfort niceties include a 3 position memory system for the driver’s seat, spacious map pockets behind each front seat, an ingenious rear armrest that contains two beverage holders, a hidden storage compartment, and a flush fold feature that permits carriage of long objects like skis or boards. The headrests on the front seats slide fore and aft for optimal positioning, and the interior features two separate key locks to secure the spacious 13.1 cubic foot trunk from interior access. One is located on the driver’s door, the other inside the rear armrest.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

New for 2016 is a 6.3-inch touchscreen for navigation which also doubles as a rearview camera monitor. The DSG twin clutch shift system utilizes small paddles located next to the steering wheel to accomplish up shifts and down shifts. The central info display on the instrument panel records the gear you have currently selected, but it’s virtually inconspicuous due to the small 15-point size of the number displayed. A handy trip computer is standard fitment and displays the following information – elapsed travel time, instant fuel consumption, average fuel economy, range, distance covered, average speed, current speed. You can access all these bits by wiggling your thumb on a steering wheel mounted recall button.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

Despite the fact that VW has been lambasted of late with endless bad press about the diesel fuel imbroglio, the company still manages to churn out lovable, handsome, efficient products like the long-lived CC, which gets better looking and more accommodating with every passing year.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter TSI DOHC Turbo 4-Cylinder with Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 207lb./ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $38,685
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Review

Friday July 22nd, 2016 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

By David Colman

Hypes: $100,000 Custom Look at 75% Off
Gripes: Small Trunk

You’ve got to hand it to Volkswagen. Here’s a company that does a better job of mining its own history than any other car maker. The latest nugget they’ve resurrected from their past is pure 24K gold, both in color and in spirit. Harkening back to The Sixties, when sand racers in California jacked VW Beetles up on Jeep wheels to attack the sand dunes of Baja, comes the appropriately named Beetle Dune. This package successfully resuscitates the myth – if not the off road performance – of those primordial Baja Bugs. VW accomplishes the transformation of the New Beetle into the Baja Beetle of yore through sleight of eye. Thanks to new front and rear fascias, black wheel arch extensions, and skid plate underpinnings front and rear, the 2016 Dune looks ready to tackle a run from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

But the Dune’s diversionary looks can be deceiving. Even though ride height is half an inch taller than that of a stock Beetle, the Dune still clears the ground by just 5.9 inches. And VW’s use of 8 inch wide “Canyon” alloy rims with 235/45R18 Continental ProContact tires affords very little sidewall buffer for safe travel over unimproved roads. That restricted ground clearance means you’ll want to stick to paved roads or well groomed dirt trails because this Beetle, despite its promising looks and name, is no off-roader. Rather, it’s just dressed up to look like one.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

Dressed to the nines in fact, with a flashy exterior and a jaw dropping flash-point interior, both of which look best in all revealing Convertible form. Although both closed and open versions of Dune are available in three shades (Sandstorm Yellow, Pure White and Deep Black), the only color that does justice to the visual symphony is Sandstorm Yellow. Call this one Dune Messiah. Only the Sandstorm Yellow Dune includes upper door trim panels and dash pads finished in exterior color. The White and Black versions both make do with boring black door and dash trim. The net effect of the dazzling metallic gold exterior paint finding its way into the interior is eye popping. VW then takes the audacious custom look to the next level by fitting the Dune’s interior with gray cloth and black leather sport seats double seam stitched in Sandstorm Yellow thread.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

We enjoyed several pleasurable long drives in the Dune’s cockpit with the top stowed, the four side windows up, and the huge rear seat wind blocker erect. These measures cancelled virtually all air swirl inside the Dune, allowing open air motoring without the constant draft hassle. Of course, you are free to drop the windows and wind block for a more motorcycle like experience. The convertible top is beautifully constructed, with enough padding and insulation to make the Dune a true all weather proposition. VW provides a tonneau cover for a finished look when the top is down. A single button on the windshield frame operates the top’s mechanism, and operation is automatic from start to finish. There is no need to latch/unlatch the roof from the windshield manually, and Dune even drops or raises all four windows as needed during each cycle.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

Although Dune is designed to look like the original rear-engined Beetle, the engine is now located up front rather than out back. In fact, this Beetle is built on the same platform as the current Golf, so you can expect performance to mirror that of the Golf range in terms of acceleration, handling and fuel consumption. Which is to say the Dune performs well on all counts. It’s powered by a 170hp version of the Golf’s 1.8 liter turbocharged inline 4, which produces 184lb.-ft. of torque. Our test Dune fed its horsepower to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic gearbox which could be shifted manually via the floor mounted stick when in Sport mode. No paddles are provided, however.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

The Dune Beetle is the ultimate illusory car. It looks like an original rear engine, rear drive Beetle, but in reality features a front engine and front wheel drive. It mimics the looks of a Baja Bug thanks to its medley of evocative styling clues, yet it will be driven off road rarely due to limited ground clearance. In view of all these tricks, you might call Dune the ultimate poseur’s car. But oh, what a lovely and unforgettable pose it has struck.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

  • Engine: 1.8 liter inline 4 cylinder,16 valve, turbocharged and intercooled
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 25MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,815
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE Review

Friday March 18th, 2016 at 12:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

By David Colman

Hypes: Fantastic Performance/Mileage Balance
Gripes: What’s Not To Like?

If there’s a better buy in the compact sedan marketplace than VW’s turbocharged Jetta, I have yet to find it. The new 1.4 liter four cylinder turbo becomes the base model engine for 2016, replacing the 2.0 liter straight four of previous years. The new engine produces 150 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. These numbers compare very favorably with the discontinued base motor, which made just 115 hp. Although you can still option up your Jetta to GLI specification with a 2.0 liter turbo producing 210hp, the 1.4 turbo is such a gem of an engine that you have little incentive to do so. It produces all of its torque as soon as you level the throttle. There’s absolutely no turbo lag, and the standard 6 speed automatic hooks up power so quickly that there’s no need to shift gears yourself. However, VW does afford you the opportunity of prolonging up changes and performing earlier down changes by utilizing the “S” (for Sport Drive) quadrant of the gearbox. There’s even a full manual mode, should you so desire, which VW dubs “Tiptronic,” that allows full manual gear ratio selection with the console mounted stick. Paddles, however, are absent.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

The 1.4 liter turbo Jetta, which is built in VW’s Mexican factory, achieves a remarkable 39 MPG on the highway. In a full week of sustained driving around town, we barely dropped the fuel level gauge below the half tank mark. With a capacity of 14.5 gallons, including a reserve of 2 gallons, the range of the Jetta 1.4T on the open road stands at a stunning 565 miles.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

While the interior of the Jetta is not luxurious, neither is it plebeian. The seating surfaces are cloth, with bolsters done in a sturdy woven material, and inserts finished in high sheen, triangle patterned brocade. The front seats are heated, a bonus you don’t expect to find on a $20,000 car. Another nicety is the presence of a full size spare tire stored beneath the floor of the Jetta’s sizeable 16 cubic foot trunk. The roof of the trunk also provides pull releases to lower both folding back seats. There’s even a couple of tools included in the tire change kit. That’s more than BMW gives you in the $84,000 6 Series Gran Coupe.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

Inside the cabin, industrial grade, ribbed rubber floor mats are more practical than beautiful. Likewise, expanses of pebbled black vinyl that cover the dash, flat bottom steering wheel, and center console are serviceable rather than charming. But the Jetta offers undeniable practicality, from its exposed engine components under the hood to its easily accessible engine compartment battery location. Where other manufacturers strive to hide the location of the all important battery under the seat or in the trunk, VW is literally up front about the location of this important piece of equipment. Likewise, the interior designers are honest about the design and use of all HVAC (Heat/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) controls. On the center stack of the Jetta, you’ll find three large, simple dials. The left one controls temperature, the center operates fan speed, and the right one changes airflow position. This tried and tested system has evolved over years of automotive practice. It remains the best of all layouts, superior in every way to the current trend to bury HVAC options within layers of digital menus. You will never have an accident in this Jetta while searching hard-to-decipher menus, because VW refuses to succumb to the idiocy of such needless complication.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

Driving the least expensive Jetta turbo is a joy. Although its diminutive Bridgestone Ecopia tires may not look the part of performance rubber – with a width of just 205/45R16 – they definitely get the job done on twisty back roads. The Jetta SE strikes an intriguing balance between ride softness and buttoned down control. The key to the rarely achieved combo is perfectly calibrated shock absorber valving. When you accelerate this Jetta over pavement height changes, the snubbing of the shocks instantly compensates for pitch change. There’s absolutely no follow-on wallowing so typical of sedan’s with comfort biased suspensions. On snaky back roads, the Jetta SE is all business, but on pock-marked freeways, it’s all about comfort.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

The Jetta for 2016 constantly surprises you with amenities you would never expect to discover on a $20,000 car: electric window lifts with automatic up and down, heated front seats, push button start and stop, and standard 6 speed transmission containing real gears rather than funky CVT belts. If you’re searching the sports sedan market for an ultra high mile-per-gallon candidate that’s still fun to drive, the eminently affordable 1.4 liter Jetta SE turbo is your number one choice.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4, DOHC, turbocharged, direct injection
  • Horsepower: 150hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/38 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $20,915
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line

Saturday October 3rd, 2015 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volkswagen 2.0T R-Line

By David Colman

Hypes: Full Size Spare with Alloy Rim, Bewitching Looks, Manual Transmission
Gripes: GTI-spec Motor on Wish List

If you’re interested in buying an Audi but have VW money to spend, then take a close look at the VW CC in R-Line trim for 2015. At 56 inches in height, the CC matches Audi’s low slung A7 exactly. Both share the same sweeping corporate roofline, and streamlined good looks. As VW says of the CC, “In some cases, looks are everything.” But where the Audi’s price range starts at $68,300, the CC tested here costs just $35,100 out the door. Granted you’ll have to forego the Audi’s 333hp supercharged V6 and hatchback in favor of the CC’s 200hp turbo straight 4 nand enormous but conventional trunk, But the recent addition of an Audi-inspired R-Line package (revised front bumper, side skirts, threshold scuff plates and model specific wheels) brings the four-place VW coupe even closer in spirit to its much more expensive cousin from Ingolstadt.

Unlike so many other current VW offerings (Beetle, Golf, Passat), the CC is still built in Germany (Emden). In fact, 62 percent of its parts are built there, including the 6-speed manual transmission we had so much fun shifting all week. Its 200hp turbo motor originates in Hungary. The result is an immaculately finished product with typically clean Teutonic lines, high quality materials, and a quaint German resistance to modern driver aid trends. By that I refer to the 2015 CC’s lack of lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. If you want those features, the 2016 CC will fill the bill. Another strange anomaly in the CC is the circuitry for the headlamps. There is no switch setting to activate just the driving lights, which are unique to the R-Line. Also, if you happen to leave the dash selector switch in the headlamp setting when you kill the ignition, the main lights will remain on until the battery dies. I made just that mistake on an early CC I drove several years back.

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Seating surfaces are supportive but hard edged. You won’t confuse the CC with your favorite arm chair. There’s a business-like tone to the interior that places function above form. You won’t find any fancy stitching on the dash, or R-Line embroidery in the headrests, though the scuff plates bear the R-Line logo. VW’s effort to differentiate this model from the basic CC rests in its new lower grill and front bumper. This assembly sports a more pronounced and angular splitter. Fluted rocker panels exaggerate the CC’s fluid lines to good effect, and help focus on its special Uniwheel 8×18 inch double five spoke alloys bearing Continental Pro Contact tires (235/40R18). Subtle R-Line badges on the front grill and rear deck lid complete the transformation.

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With virtually the same 2.0 liter turbo engine powering the 3,420 pound CC as that used in the 3,155 pound GTI, the CC comes off as somewhat less sporty than its cheaper and lighter brother. It would be nice to see VW install the GTI’s optional 220hp turbo 4 in the engine bay of the manual transmission 2.0T CC. Of course, if you crave more horsepower, you can always opt for the 280hp V6 4Motion version of the CC (base price: $43,140), but you’ll have to forego the joy of shifting a manual transmission since the V6 CC only links to a 6-speed automatic.

With its wide stance, excellent performing tires, and sports calibrated suspension, the R-Line CC whisks through twisty back roads with an élan that is scintillating. Granted, there’s a fair amount of body roll, but that same spring rate compliance that rocks the boat ever so slightly on challenging terrain also leavens unwonted feedback over speed bumps and broken pavement. In sum, the ride quality of the CC manifests a tolerable compromise between outright grip and all-around comfort.

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In many ways, the R-Line CC, with its swath of matte alloy interior trim, carefully organized exterior airflow, and driver-oriented manual gearbox, epitomizes the best of German engineering and German construction. That it’s available for such an affordable price is as surprising as it is inviting.

2015 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter Turbocharged DOHC 16 Valve 4 Cylinder with Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 207lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/32 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $35,140
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

Thursday August 13th, 2015 at 1:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

By David Colman

Hypes: Luscious Power Curve, Impeccable Handling, Killer Seats
Gripes: None

Recently, MOTOR TREND conducted a comparison test of 2 seat sports cars, pitting the new Mazda Miata against Subaru’s BRZ. As an afterthought, they brought along VW’s GTI as a stalking horse to compare to the “real” sports cars. In the end, the GTI blew away both the Miata and the BRZ by posting the fastest acceleration times and lap times on the road course at Willow Springs Raceway. Of course, the experts at the magazine then had some explaining to do about how a modest $27,000 four seat sedan could possibly have beaten those certified sports cars in every verifiable test. Oh, they went on about how the GTI lacked the ride and steering perfection of the Mazda and the Subaru, but in the end, they couldn’t dispute the fact that VW’s long lived little hot rod, now in its 30th year, had managed to kick the stuffing out of the vaunted competition. In order to perpetrate the sports car superiority myth, MOTOR TREND should have left the GTI home.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

Golf for 2015 is completely new, with new power sources, revamped styling, better safety features, and upgraded connectivity. The Golf range starts with the Launch Edition price leader at $17,995 and works through several gas (TSI) and diesel (TDI) powered variants. Most expensive Golf is the all-electric e-Golf at $35,445. The GTI we drove is the performance king in the model range, with a base price of just $27,395. Since there were no extras at all, our test car retailed for $28,215 after the addition of $820 for Destination Charge. In today’s market, an option free model like our test GTI is unheard of. Similarly unlikely is the fact that the base GTI wants for absolutely nothing because it is so well equipped in standard form. Start with the turbocharged, direct injected 4 cylinder 2.0 liter engine, the most powerful GTI motor in 30 years, at 210hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque. The surge this fuel miser is capable of generating will knock your lederhosen off. MOTOR TREND clocked it at 99.7mph @14.6 seconds in the quarter mile, with a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds. Yet despite the supercar punch, the GTI still returns 28MPG in overall driving.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

Although you can option your GTI with a DSG semi-automatic gearbox, it will cost you $1,100 extra and you will be eliminating one of the best 6-speed manuals in the automotive world. I found the dimpled golf ball shift knob atop the GTI’s short stalk manual to be such a pleasure to shift that I made up excuses to run through the gears just for the pleasure of snicking that stick from gate to gate. The GTI’s electro-mechanical power steering is as precise as the weighted dial on a pricey FM tuner. The standard issue Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires (225/40R18) mounted on Cuisine Art bladed alloys, plant the GTI so firmly that side slip is never an issue, no matter how hard you press through turns. The stellar front seats, with copious side and lower back support, are miles ahead of the seats you’ll find in competitive vehicles like the Ford Fiesta ST. While the GTI’s seats may not look as racy as those in the ST, they are much more comfortable over the long haul. We spent five hours in them on a single day roundtrip from the Bay Area to the Sierra foothills without experiencing a moment of discomfort or tedium. Also, the standard Fender audio system proved easier than ever to use. Its new visual display shows pre-selected stations on the XMSirius radio in a bar format on the 5.8 inch touchscreen. This revised layout is easier to read than VW’s former telephone dial tuning system. Also easier to use is the simple overhead control for the standard tilt and slide panoramic sunroof. Instead of the twist dial VW used for so long, a slider button now gets the job done faster.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

In the sub-$30,000 market, it doesn’t get any better that the GTI, the original German hot hatch. And if 210 hp are insufficient to your neck snapping needs, the GTI Performance Package is about to be released. This one, which will retail for $29,280 with manual gearbox, is rated at 220hp. There’s even an R Golf in the works with 290hp on tap and all-wheel-drive. But for those on a mission AND on a budget, the base model GTI just has to be the best Golf of them all for the money.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE

  • Engine: 2.0 liter in line 4, TSI, turbocharged with direct injection
  • Horsepower: 210hp
  • Torque: 258lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 25MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $28,215
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

Tuesday August 11th, 2015 at 12:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

By David Colman

Hypes: 500 miles to the 11.8 Gallon Tank!
Gripes: Spongy Brakes

May 2015 was a happy month at VW. U.S. sales soared by 8 percent to 34,758. Compare that to Fiat/Chrysler’s rise of 4 percent, GM’s 3 percent growth, flat sales for Nissan and Toyota, and Ford’s 1 percent loss, and there’s finally a reason for optimism at VW’s beleaguered North American outpost. If the 2015 Jetta Hybrid we recently tested is indicative of the company’s newfound attention to detail and quality, then VW has reason to be optimistic about May’s sales portending a sustained trend here. Unlike most hybrids, which require performance sacrifices to compensate for fuel savings, the Jetta Hybrid lets you have it all. Not only is it satisfyingly fast in acceleration, but it is also the exceptional at conserving fuel. This Jetta posts an astonishing 45 MPG overall rating, with 42 MPG available in city driving and 48 MPG on the highway. Given the Jetta’s fuel tank capacity of 11.8 gallons, your range between gas station pencils out at 531 miles. In view of the Hybrid’s moderate base price of $31,120, this VW offers affordability at purchase reinforced by economy throughout the ownership cycle. It’s no wonder that EPA/DOT’s “Fuel Economy & Greenhouse Gas Rating” confers a perfect score of 10 out of 10 on this Hybrid.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

But unlike so many other Hybrids with their dodgy steering, tiny rock hard tires, and futuristic interiors, this Jetta is no Jetson. Rather, it behaves like any other VW product engineered in Wolfsburg, Germany. The seats, dashboard layout, instrumentation, and shift mechanism will all look familiar to longtime VW owners. The super supportive front seats are exceptionally comfortable and nicely finished. The back bench seat works well for medium sized adults, with a useful drop down armrest available between the two outboard positions. Those taller than 5’8″ might find foot room restricted when the front seats are positioned at their mid-track position. Although the Hybrid unit necessitates a rather large hump intruding into trunk storage, you can partially overcome the problem by folding both rear seats flat to gain more space. That armrest between the back seats contain a handy knockout panel which allows you to carry elongated cargo like skis while still leaving the seat backs in their upright position. All in all, a typically useful VW smorgasbord of carriage options.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

Whereas most Hybrids inflict jerky power transitions in the switchover from electric to gas operation, this Jetta makes the switch quietly and unobtrusively. The only time you really notice the amalgamation of power sources is when you tromp the accelerator. That’s when the sudden infusion of turbo boost and electric motor thrust enables the Jetta to spring forward decisively. In fact, the seat of your pants will quickly inform you that this Jetta’s 177hp is more than enough to cope with any power need you may encounter. The first time I pulled out to pass a slower car on a 2 lane highway, I was gratified to complete the maneuver with a huge safety margin I frankly did not expect. You can drive this Jetta over challenging terrain, safe in the knowledge that it will handle crisply. The surfeit of adhesion is due in part to the Hybrid’s stable platform, precise electro-mechanical speed sensitive power steering, 17 inch standard alloy rims, and sportingly serviceable Continental Conti Pro Contact rubber (205/50R17).

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

From a performance standpoint, the one area where the Hybrid is deficient is braking feel. Like so many others of its ilk which depend on regenerative braking to recycle brake heat into energy, this one too suffers from a somewhat spongy and unpredictable pedal. When the same amount of braking force does not always produce the same stopping result, it leads to the inescapable conclusion that pedal feel is a crap shoot that varies from stop to stop. But in the big picture, it’s a relatively minor irritation that can be avoided by always braking earlier than you normally would.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

Aside from that caveat, the 2015 Jetta is a thumbs-up proposition all around. VW has done a minor facelift of the grill, and added Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights to the SEL Premium package, along with a new dash center stack, and upgraded interior materials. All in all, the Hybrid Jetta garners best-n-class honors by offering scintillating performance combined with stupendous fuel economy.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4, turbocharged & Electric Motor with battery Pack
  • Horsepower: 177hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 42MPG City/48 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,490
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T

Friday July 31st, 2015 at 12:77 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T

By David Colman

Hypes: Premium Build Quality, German Engineering
Gripes: Chintzy Door Pocket Straps

There’s only one VW model you can order in Yellow Rush for 2015. It’s also the only one you can order in Denim Blue. Let’s see, Rush Yellow and Denim Blue – colors that have kind of a Hippie ring to them, don’t you think? A nostalgic ring that’s not at all out of keeping for prospective buyers of the reinvented Beetle. After all, both owners and car came of age in the Age of Aquarius. For color loving Hippies and even their Hipster offspring, VW offers no fewer than 11 standard colors for the current Beetle. That’s nearly twice as many as you can select for the Golf (7) or the GTI (6).

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T

Color is just the beginning of the long, strange trip you’ll take when you saddle up a new Beetle. Our test model, finished in a fetching shade called Reflex Silver Metallic, featured the standard engine in the Beetle line, a 170hp. 1.8 liter turbocharged 4 driving through a 6 speed automatic transmission. This model, replete with a sunroof, Fender premium audio system and RNS 315 touch screen Navigation, retails for $26,985. This affordable package is but one of no less than 30 (!) different options VW offers for the Beetle model line. Breaking things down to the simplest split, you can order a 1.8 liter turbo stripper, with manual gearbox, for as little as $20,195. The 150hp Diesel-powered Beetle TDI, making 236lb.-ft. of torque, starts at $24,795 for a manual gearbox version.

The top line 2.0 liter “R-Line” turbo, making 210hp and coupled to a DSG gearbox with full manual override, lists for $30,525 with sunroof, sound system and navigation. If you upgrade to an R-Line convertible, you’re looking at a $35,095 Beetle. In fact, although the test car we drove for a week doesn’t even break into the top half of the Beetle expense spreadsheet, it still makes for a very enjoyable ride. Its turbo 4, which benefits from direct fuel injection streamed at high psi, offers more than enough performance to make even rabid lane changers happy. The transmission happily accepts commands to hold gear choices, though it lacks the steering wheel paddles supplied with the expensive DSG option.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T .

Bearing in mind that the Beetle is really nothing but a re-clothed Golf, it should come as no surprise that its handling is nimble, accurate and pleasurable to control. The Servotronic speed-variable electro-mechanical steering achieves a happy combination of feedback, precision and intuition. The Beetle always obeys your positioning commands with grace and dispatch. Premium Continental Pro Contact tires (235/45R18) are well suited to the task of clipping apexes accurately. The 18 inch chromed hub alloy rims lend a retro note to the Beetle, looking a bit like the original model’s steel wheels and poverty chrome center caps. Especially appealing is the oversize VW logo featured on each wheel.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T

There’s nothing poverty stricken about the Beetle’s interior. Its fit and finish are fastidiously delineated. The dash and doors feature a handsome sweep of Silver Reflex Metallic paint that matches the exterior color and lends an elegant complicity to the interior. The standard heated “comfort” front seats, new for 2015, look fetching even in the Titan Black leatherette application of our test VW. A diagonal pattern of stripes distinguishes the side bolsters from the seating surfaces in a look that mimics silk and satin. The glovebox features a delightful latch that owners of earlier Beetles will recall with fondness.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T

But this interior is not showy at the expense of utilitarian virtue. After a shopping trip to Home Depot garnered a couple of 4′ light fixtures and a 10′ pole for cleaning windows, my wife and I debated whether some of the purchases would be poking through the sunroof on the trip home. I said no, she said yes, and when we got to the Beetle, we discovered that because both rear seats fold flat, everything would fit inside the car, including that 10′ long pole. Given its diminutive size, the Beetle offers an amazing compendium of space efficiency, fuel efficiency (28MPG overall) and driving joy for a very modest investment.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T

  • Engine: 1.8 liter turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves, direct injection
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $27,805
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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