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Driven: Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen. Achieved: 52.4 Mpg


2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

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Volkswagen has pumped huge time, effort, and money into its latest diesel offering, a 2.0-liter common rail, piezo-electric-direct-injected four. They call it good, clean diesel fun, but anyone with a memory that stretches back to the early 80s will immediately laugh hysterically at such a claim.

I took a whif near the tailpipe of the Candy White 2009 Jetta TDI Sportwagen and detected zero odor. Only a little wisp of humid air purred forth from the twin pipes.

VW has a storied history with fuel-sipping diesels; from the old Rabbit diesel that kicked just about every other econocar in the pants with its unbelievable economy up to the most recent 1.9-liter TDI that still enjoys a cult following, VW diesels are long-lived and legendary. They had no choice but to get this new engine perfect on the first try.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

Enlarge Photo

I think they did a fantastic job. Number one, the characteristic clatter is gone. The engine thrums its four-cylinder hum a bit louder upon cold warmup, but once underway is no louder than a last-generation Honda four-cylinder. In fact, it sounds for all the world like a gasoline four except at idle, where combustion is noticed mildly but hardly rates as annoying.

Number two, torque production (236 lb-ft) is stellar. As low as 2,000 rpm, a tap on the accelerator results in a nice shove in the back. No need to downshift, just leg the throttle and you're off or passing slow-moving Kias in the left lane. With all this torque, VW was able to fit the manual with six ratios, the last two nice and tall for low highway rpm and thus excellent economy.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

Enlarge Photo

The rest of the car retains all of the basic Jetta goodness; taut handling with a comfortable ride, a standard vinyl interior that looks and feels for all the world like leather, industry-best controls/gauges/interior surfaces, and of course the convenient and capacious cargo hold with fold-down rear seats and a sliding security cover.

VW has been fighting quite a fight with the EPA, who rated the Jetta TDI Sportwagen manual (and the sedan) at 30/41. While these ratings are 9 and 10 mpg better than the 2.0-liter gasoline four, respectively, and 9/11 mpg better than the gasoline inline five, VW kept promising mileage in the 50s. They were so upset with the EPA's ratings that they had AMCI, an independent testing agency, do a thorough assessment. AMCI managed 38/44 mpg. Still not satisfied, VW tapped Australian mileage-busting couple John and Helen Taylor to do a 9,419-mile U.S. efficiency run in a stock '09 Jetta TDI. They managed a staggering 58.85 average mpg.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen

Enlarge Photo

Wondering if the Taylors drafted their way around the U.S. behind 18-wheelers, or perhaps fitted their car with motorcycle wheels and tires inflated to 150 psi, I set out on two journeys to see what our test Jetta TDI Sportwagen could manage.

The first journey was a hill-climb from Atlanta to the North Georgia mountains. I filled up with Shell ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (same as the Taylors), climbed over 1,800 ft. to Amicalola Falls State Park, accelerated moderately but slowly, and always stayed within 5 mph of the posted speed limit. Upon completing the 195.3 mile round-trip and returning to Atlanta, I filled the tank back up with Shell diesel and made my calculations: 40.99 mpg overall. I guess EPA testing now stipulate hillclimbs for diesels.


 
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Comments (17)
  1. "reality"

    Nice to see that the new TDI really works as VW believes. I'd like to understand what the difference is in the EPA testing that knocks down the mileage so dramatically.
    The TDI's reputation has spread by word-of-mouth anyway, so the EPA's numbers will do little to harm its sales.
     
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  2. "Reliability"

    40-50 MPG is a great achievement, and even at the EPA standard, it's still a 40% improvement in mileage over the standard Jetta Sportwagen. Since diesel is only about 20% more expensive that gasoline, you still save overall.
    But the TDI Sportwagen starts at $23,870 (according to VW.com). The 2010 Honda Insight is expected to start at $19,000 and achieve similar mileage ratings (in the 40's - on gasoline). The 2010 Toyota Prius is expected to get a combined rating of 50mpg (again - on gasoline) for a starting price *very* similar to the TDI. And in both cases you are getting cars from companies with considerably better reliability ratings than Volkswagen. VW diesel *engines* may run forever, but the company continues to have considerable concerns with reliability in other areas, such as electronics.
     
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  3. "in a word: Batteries"

    Great info. I suspect running the AC the whole time probably knocks a few MPG off the EPA numbers as well. Odineyes numbers sound about right, but you'll have to include the disposal fee for those hybrid batteries (not to mention the very expensive new ones that would be required down the road to reach the 150K miles a typical diesel engine will last) in the total cost comparison. Incidentally, would love to see a 4motion version of the sportwagon, but suppose the Audi arm objects.
     
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  4. "Reg vs. Diesel in ATL"

    $1.79 vs. $1.92 - it finally started making sense though the price of gas is artificially high right now...
     
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  5. "Diesel in USA :)"

    The new era of clean diesel in America will officially be ushered in by the new VW Jetta TDi when it goes on sale in a few months. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-banger that produces 140 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, it will be the first automobile to meet the world’s most stringent emission control standards, California’s Tier II, Bin 5.
     
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  6. "Tier II, Bin 5"

    Picking up my new TDI wagon tomorrow after 4 month wait, but it is not the first Tier II, Bin 5 vehicle. That distinction belongs to my 2007/8 Dodge 3500 RAM Cummins diesel 6.7L equipped vehicle. It was Tier II, Bin 5 from day 1 of production.
     
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  7. "Lovin the JSW TDI"

    I have had my VW Jetta SportWagon TDI for a week and keep coming up with excuses to drive it. I am a bit worried about reliability. I have had to bring it in to get the IPOD Adapter software fix and now I have the child safety latch not working properly. All covered by Warranty and still hasn't tarnished my love for this car.
     
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  8. "still waiting"

    Sadly I am still waiting for the delivery of my Sportwagen tdi. Ordered last Ausust it keeps getting pushed further out. The latest date is the end of April. I'm sure it will be worth the wait.
    Signed,
    Frustrated in Michigan
     
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  9. "Mine is beautiful Dark Blue"

    I just bought mine yesterday and am very excited. I wanted fuel efficiency foremost and I'm very optimistic! I'm still debating the extended warranty though but I'm leaning away from it.
     
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  10. Diesel is now cheaper in my area than regular gas. The department of energy expects it to stay that way. Diesel got hit with the gas crisis and the change to low sulphur but the conversion is complete. Long live the oil burners!
     
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  11. I think I'm getting at least 56 highway going between 50 and 55. And as stated above diesel is cheaper. What a win win!!
     
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  12. Well I just bought a TDI Sportwagen last week trading in an Infiniti G37 just one year old! It is a great car. I checked out the Hybrids, the A3 and other economical choices and the VW was most like the quality level I was used to. With the exception of the A3 the other cars I looked at drove like economy cars. The Sportwagen is a quality ride with lots of space and good mpg. I hope for great reliability too.
     
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  13. I have had my 2010 TDI sportwagen for one month and 3000 miles, mostly highway to and from work as a daily commuter car. The TDI is everything I imagined it would be; excellent fuel economy, comfort, interior room, styling and AutoBahn inspired German engineering. A 4-motion version would be a great seller!(Hint, VW????) Car should have a few more standard features like auto headlights, foglights and memory seats. Bluetooth should have a touchscreen dialing option. Sure beats driving a hybrid when it comes to acceleration and performance! It was tough giving up my BMW X5 but the fuel economy makes it worthwhile! I would rate the TDI 9.5 out of 10.
     
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  14. I've had my 2011 Jetta Sportswagen for 3 weeks. First tank (or rather 1/2 tank as I couldn't wait for it to run down to empty) all city driving was 35.5 mpg. The diesel gas pump was very dirty. Is that typical? I'll have to carry some paper towels. It is way quick all the way up to 100 mph (beyond that who cares). My wife says it like driving a sports car. I agree. Absolutely love this vehicle and only hope this VW will hold up over time. It's easy to fall out of love with a car that's trouble-prone
     
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  15. Not fully impressed yet... they have a long way to go to win me over. In the first 550 miles and 3 days of ownership my junk heap failed to start due to a "malfunction" in the immobilizer system. It made for a fine recliner for 3.5 hours as I waited for it to be towed back to the dealer. Since the only thing that did still work was the radio, it made for fine company. My wife left work early to come pick me up in our 1990 Honda Accord with 398000 miles. In 21 years my crap box Honda never has let me down. 4 days later and now my dealer raped new VW has a nice scrape down the side and dirty handprints smudged all over the interior and a nice new instrument cluster! Oh, but wait, it was "free" because it was under warranty... junk!
     
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  16. I have a 2011 Jetta sportwagen. The best I can manage on the highway is 46.2 mpg. In the city it varies between 22 and 26. So far I am pleased with it. There are a very few bugs for me to iron out. Its got way too much data for me to absorb. Have yet to test it in rain and snow.
     
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  17. My 2009 JSW TDI has over 75,000 miles on it...all driven in Europe. It is an American spec vehicle, and I regularly get 35 MPG while cruising at 130 MPH on the autobahn. I haven't had one glitch to complain about, and will be looking for a Passat Wagen TDI or will have to get the Audi Q7 (I know, tough luck there). This is not to replace the Jetta, but the kids are going to be asking for the Jetta soon. I am sold on diesels, and will NEVER purchase another gas car again.
     
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