Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Premium

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Premium

Many cars these days are available in only a couple of flavors at best, with a few trim levels. One neat thing about Volkswagen is that you can get many of their vehicles in multiple configurations. Take for instance VW’s bread-and-butter Jetta sedan. You want a Hybrid? They’ve got it. Sporty, turbocharged GLI with dual-clutch trans? Yep; that’s available. Want a bare-bones entry-level version with a manual transmission? Sure thing. You can option them up, take them with standard equipment, whatever. And we appreciate it. Variety is the veritable spice of life, and VW understands that different people want different cars.
We’ve driven many Jetta combinations over the last few years, and now we can check another one off the list: The Jetta TDI Premium.

This vehicle mates VW’s popular sedan along with its legendary TDI diesel engine. Our version was mated to the company’s six-speed DSG transmission with Tiptronic shifting. This is a dual-clutch setup that allows you to shift it manually using the gear selector (no paddle shifters on this one).

You’re probably familiar with the TDI, or turbo direct injection engine; we reviewed the Beetle TDI Convertible last year, and it’s the same mill. It produces 140 horsepower and 236 ft/lbs of torque. It’s a wonderful little oil burner with a surprising amount of thrust. It’ll light up the front wheels from a dead stop with ease, there’s no worries about passing on two-lane roads, and it’s remarkably quiet and refined. The DSG feels like it doesn’t engage quickly enough from a stop sometimes, and does take a bit of getting used to. But once you get used to the sensation, the combination of TDI and DSG functions satisfactorily. A six-speed manual transmission is also available.

Aside from the engine, my favorite thing about the Jetta is its solid feel. There were no squeaks or rattles, despite our terribly rough aggregate highways. The ride is quiet and extremely comfortable, too. And while it’s comfortable cruising at 65 MPH, it feels like it’d be just as composed at 100 MPH—something we didn’t try. The overall feeling is sturdy and assured. The Jetta corners confidently, albeit with some body roll. VW made the previously-optional independent rear suspension standard for 2014, and that likely helps. Other things that assist in the Jetta’s handling are the electronic differential lock and slip regulation. And while the standard 205/55/16 tires help with keeping the ride quiet and cushy, you’ll want to opt for the 225/45/17 tires—standard on the TDI Premium with Nav—if you want more grip.

While the simple, cleanly styled interior, with its basic yet modern feel, is very comfortable, its cream color is just waiting to get dirty and stained, including the floor mats. I almost felt like I wanted to take my shoes off before getting in. Heaven forbid you spill your coffee in here. My other gripe is with the placement of the panic button on the key fob. When you insert the key into the ignition and turn it, I bumped the panic button a number of times, which set off the car’s alarm. I’m sure the neighbors loved that at 6:00am.

Other interior high points included the Fender audio system, which was fantastic, and an enormous trunk, that easily swallowed up three suitcases on the way home from the airport.

Sans the sporty Jetta GLI, VW’s compact sedan has an introverted styling personality. It isn’t going to attract much attention when you pull into a gas station. However, with the TDI, that’s probably not somewhere you’ll spend much time anyhow. Rated at 30 city, 42 highway, and 34 combined, the Jetta is a fuel-economy champ, especially on the open road. In fact, the Jetta TDI has a range of up to 795 miles according to VW. I could drive from Portland, Oregon, U.S. to Calgary, Ontario, Canada on one tank of gas. That’s pretty impressive.

The Jetta, along with the Golf and Beetle, are the three most reasonably priced diesel-powered cars in the U.S. The ’14 Jetta TDI Premium stickered at $27,215 including $820 for destination. If you’re looking for a less expensive Jetta TDI, the TDI Value Edition can be had for as little as $22,115 delivered. Granted, you’re not getting niceties, such as alloy wheels, the Fender audio, a power moon roof, heated washer nozzles, or soft-touch dash materials, among other things. You are, however, getting the TDI engine, heated seats, and other standard features. The Premium really does add some nice creature comforts along with your fuel efficiency. I’d go as far as to say the Jetta TDI Premium is the most comfortable compact on the market. With great range and efficiency, solid build quality, and gobs of torque, the Jetta is a very appealing car. I just wish the exterior styling were as appealing as its other qualities.

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