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TDI Archives - DrivingScene

Tag Archive | "TDI"

Oily Goodness: Jetta TDI

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Oily Goodness: Jetta TDI

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Would you trade a four-course meal for a Slim-Fast shake? Seeing an epic movie for reading the Cliff Notes? Partying with friends for Skyping with them? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you take the those same watered-down routes and choose the Prius over a torquey and delicious diesel. Millions have. The car above is what they should have chosen.

The car I’ve been given for a week is the VW Jetta TDI, and let’s not muck about –  it’s fantastic. You name it and I love it – and you will too. Trunk? Several ladies-of-the-night enormous. Backseat? Comfy as a best Western Hotel and without the bedbugs. Volkswagen should be paying me for this review because I frickin’ love this car.

Show me another vehicle that so deftly combines comfort, luxury, style, speed, AND fuel economy. You do that and I’m sure I’ll love that car too. And this isn’t just me, people have been lining up at dealerships  to step inside the leather wrapped interior and partake this Jetta’s pavement crushing torque.

On the road the TDI is like any other Jetta – planted and quiet. Add in the bonus of the 2.0 litre’s 236 lb-ft of torque to get you on your way and you’re left with a very capable machine. The horsepower figure of 140 may seem small by today’s standards, but you have to remember that horsepower’s important at freeway speeds – torque is king for getting your fat ass from 0 to 60. The steering is a little more numb than I like, but that’s true of 90% of modern cars I drive. Like every VW, the 6-speed manual is crisp and rewarding with every gear change. What’s it like driving a diesel? Total non issue here. It goes when I want it to go, stops when things get risky, turns sharply, and even rewards with little tire-chirps when you’re a bit too heavy-footed. The TDI engine is known for its lagginess down low, but this never pops up if you just equip the car with the manual transmission I have here. Having driven the automatic, trust me that row-your-own is the way to go on the TDI.

I’ll leave exterior judgments to the eye of the beholder; I found the curves and creases rather catching in the flesh. The Toffee Brown Metallic my car was delivered in may sound 80’s-esque, but in reality it gifted the Jetta some maturity that would be missed in your garden-variety silver. Overall the proportions are good and I never spied any awkward angles on the car.

Inside you’re greeted with that familiar VW cabin quality – great swaths of soft leather and upscale switches. You want negatives? Well the shift-boot frame was already broken on my car and the major let down with the interior is the hard plastic that covers all but the frequent touch points.

The back seats offer an enormous amount of room for your passengers/kids/hostages. The layout and grouping of the switches is fairly intuitive and I was able to figure everything out – including the unlabeled auxiliary music source feature – in my first two days without ever reading the manual. Overall it’s a classic VW interior, and you’re reminded why they are ranked as one of the best at this.

Somehow Wolfsburg has been able to package this lovely engine, good looks, and reasonably solid interior for $23K. I never did wrap my head around that low price. I’ve paid almost as much for a used car and the thought that I could’ve had this instead is staggering to me. Unluckily for me to TDI wasn’t on offer then. Lucky for you it is now. This is the kind of car you’ll love equally from day one to day 1,001. Given the fact that previous Jettas have aesthetically aged well, held strong resell values (although it’s too early to tell what the diesel engine will do for that) and the strong aftermarket support available – run don’t walk and get yourself a test drive. I mean unless you really wanted that Prius.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

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A3 TDI: Miser in King’s Clothing

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Webster’s dictionary defines the worst way to start any piece of writing as quoting Webster’s dictionary. What’s the best way? Science has yet to tell us. Just one more thing those pompous scientists have failed us on. Others include decent pop music, microwave meals that don’t suck, and a way to get great gas mileage without having to be inside a Prius.

The lab coats at the Volkswagen Group are actually coming along on that last one. The TDI engine has owned the diesel passenger car market here in the states for years now, mostly being led by the TDI Jetta – which has been killing the sales charts. But what if the lovely VW is not enough for your bourgeoisie tastes? How will you know if Audi’s entry into diesel locomotion can satisfy you? That’s why I’m here friend.

The A3 TDI takes all that diesel goodness – great fuel economy, buckets of torque – and wraps it in the svelte A3 silhouette. The A3 has always been a handsome car, and having an oil burner upfront does nothing to change that. The long hood and short rump hint at a sporting character that is not altogether absent. The large chrome grill is well suited for mowing down bugs and the proletariat alike. The LED running lights may no longer be unique, but I still think Audi has some of the best executed.

Inside the cabin you’re greeted by a sea of black leather. I hope monochrome and drab are two of your style points, because the A3 interior is not what anyone would call adventuresome. Despite it’s one-note appearance, because it’s an Audi you know everything is screwed and bolted together with a ruthless efficiency. Don’t expect any squeaks or rattles out of this cabin for sometime to come.

The gauges are bright and modern; I especially enjoyed watching the thin needles sweeping across the digits when illuminated at night. The HVAC controls are logically laid out, and the stereo had no problem destroying my eardrums. Despite the car’s small exterior footprint, it capably handled large and oddly shaped loads (there’s a porn joke in there somewhere everywhere), including  my bicycle. I’m glad it’s good at hauling cargo, because it is less well suited for handling passengers. The rear seats offer only enough room to accommodate short trips or gawky teenagers. Despite the four doors, I used this car as more of a two-door wagon.

And what of driving the A3 TDI you ask? Well that depends on how well socially adjusted you are. If you vote, pay your taxes, and don’t have homicidal thoughts at grocery checkout lines, then the A3 TDI will probably do you just fine. If none of those things are true – and thus you are like me – you will find the turbo lag utterly infuriating. Not just infuriating, but also dangerous. 0 – 2500 RPM produces nothing – I mean nothing  – in terms of forward progress. This makes jetting from light to light an awkward process, and jumping out into oncoming traffic a treacherous one. You might get used to the lag and be able to time your maneuvers out correctly, but over my week with the car I was never able to get used to it.

Drive the A3 like a spinster librarian and it is quite good. Get the TDI up and moving and it is quite good. It is just from 0 to 30 mph when the trouble lies. Is it enough to ruin his car? Maybe, maybe not. Look at your driving style now and ask yourself how often you got your right foot planted into the carpet when the lights turn green.

In the end this is a compromise car. Luxury inside and out, huge cargo capacity, and a pretty decent canyon carver. Day-to-day driving is a little worse off. Depending on how you drive, you’ll either feel ensconced in luxury and smugness from your MPG numbers, or trapped inside a post modern German prison. For your sake, I hope you drive more rationally than me.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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Diesel Duel: Jetta vs A3

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Diesel Duel: Jetta vs A3

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski


The original premise of this review was to see who did the VW family 2.0 diesel better, the Jetta or the A3. Fail. This engine, in either application, is a thing of beauty. It can also be a terrible piece of junk. Let me explain.

This 2.0 liter diesel engine is great. It is utterly clear why the TDI Jetta is cleaning up the sales charts and moving diesels engines back into the mainstream of the American car buying consciousness. The engine is smooth, dynamic, fast, full of effortless torque, and quiet – although it is quieter in the VW for some reason. It pulls really well at freeway speed – where horsepower is more important than a diesel’s tsunami of torque – and is punchy whenever you need it to be.

Like I said, the engine itself is great, but as I learned over the week with both of these cars, it’s the transmission that makes all difference. You see, turbo lag is still a very real and unshakeable part of this modern TDI engine. In the automatic A3, it feels like 1975 all over again when turbochargers just began to hit the market in the form of the 930 Porsche 911. Until that snail-shell breathed its fire on the engine it felt like the accelerator pedal wasn’t connected to anything. You’d mash your right foot into the shag carpet and have enough time to think that maybe a linkage was broken or maybe you’re out of gas or BAAAAMM an explosion of thrust and wheel spin and oh god why am I pointed that direction now? Those bad old days are back with this engine when paired with Audi’s S-Tronic automatic gear box.

Now given modern technologies and the fact that both cars are front wheel drive means only slight wheel spin (chirps if you will) and some mild torque steer instead of face and roadside hedge rearranging amount of chaos. No, the danger lies when you want to merge with oncoming traffic. I repeatedly punished the accelerator only to creep into some barn-storming Merc’s path rather than charging ahead of it. The moment always passed and torque pulled me out of danger, but I never quite got used to the change of timing this engine requires of the driver.

That said, If you drive like less of a maniac than an auto journalist does you’d probably never even notice. When I stopped trying to go 0-60 in 3.0 from every stop sign or set of lights the A3 was extremely capable. Calmly merge into traffic, gently accelerate like a well-adjusted human, always pay our taxes, and you wouldn’t want for more than the A3 TDI. Great looks – the Monza Silver is understated and classy, great gas mileage – 30/42, plenty of cargo room – 38.85 cu ft, and more luxury than you can shake a peeled mink at.

If for some reason you wanted to actively choose to drive like a sociopath, then you need the manual transmission only offered in the far cheaper Jetta TDI to do away with the lag-monster’s effects. In truth, the Jetta is far better a car than it has any right to be given its price range. Stacked up against the A3, it comes out the clear winner. The VW is roomier, just as luxurious feeling, smooth, and fast – more Autobahn cruiser to the A3’s athletic canyon carver.

Yet for all the greatness of the VW, when I had keys to both I consistently kept choosing to drive the A3. It’s the badge snob in me. Blame my weak self-esteem, the fact that I’m a young aspiring yuppie, or my upscale Santa Monica neighborhood. I wanted to be behind the wheel of the Audi more than I wanted to have a faultless driving experience. You are now thinking what every girlfriend I’ve ever had thinks – I am sufficiently and completely broken. I know.

The Jetta is objectively the better car when judged on interior space, comfort, drive train, and especially price. When the VW arrived at my doorstep, I thought it was sexy and especially catching in its Toffee Brown candy coating. The yuppie in me was very happy, excited even. But then the Audi arrived the next day. That deep grey little hatch with two-toned alloy rims had me hook-line-sinker. Once I had the option of which one to drive every day, I didn’t really have an option anymore.

But that’s me. You’re more mature and intelligent than me, right? Of course you are. If you are in the market for a Teutonic diesel sled you’ll choose the logical option and go with the Jetta. And you’ll be very pleased.

Either way you’re going to get excellent gas mileage, be coddled in leather and serenaded by great stereos. Either way you’ll be able to smugly look down on Prius and Volt owners for choosing such compromised rides when they should have gotten a diesel instead. Either way you’ll be quite happy.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Would you rather drive like a maniac and wring pleasure out of every last mile in the Jetta, or would you prefer to lord above the peasant folk and drive in a mobile announcement that you’ve arrived into the upper class. Choose wisely.

– Adam Kaslikowski

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