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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI badgeI've gotten more requests for a Jetta TDI test drive than any car I can think of. It took a while, but I finally got my hands on Volkswagen's new 50-state-compliant turbodiesel. I'm sure your dying to know how the Jetta TDI drove and what kind of fuel economy I got, so let's get right to it; the answers await you in my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI test drive.

If you'd rather just look at pictures -- my test car was an awfully pretty shade of blue -- you can check out my 2009 VW Jetta TDI photo gallery. Also updated: My article on the Diesel engine: What it is, how it works. -- Aaron Gold

Photo © Aaron Gold

Comments
November 25, 2008 at 9:54 am
(1) chris says:

:) found a spelling error “yo can check out my”

That said, I like reading yo blog. Thank you!

November 25, 2008 at 10:23 am
(2) Mark Proulx says:

I fell in love with turbocharged diesel cars when I rented one (Ford Mondeo) in Italy. It was huge fun – like driving a go-kart – and helped offset the high price of fuel. I’m hoping that I can get one in my next car.

November 25, 2008 at 10:27 am
(3) lwatcdr says:

I would love a TDI Jetta but…
VWs from Mexico have had about the same reliability as Yugos did.
I know that they have been getting better but I would still put them below the best from Toyota, Honda, and Ford.

November 25, 2008 at 10:30 am
(4) Brian says:

Great review. I would have loved to try out a new TDI when I was car shopping. Problem was they were all sold before they even arrived. Mostly to existing diesel owners looking to update (TDIs haven’t been available in Canada since 2006). If you believe the car salesman, I guess that says something about the loyalty the diesel owners.

November 25, 2008 at 11:01 am
(5) Brian (from Canada) says:

My only question is – How’s the heater?
A friend of mine had a VW Jetta diesel and said that it was the worse car he ever had in respect to the heater. Unless you were driving at least 50 miles, take a blanket.

November 25, 2008 at 11:59 am
(6) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

Chris: Thanks, yo. Fixed.

Brian: Thanks!

Brian from Canada: Unfortunately, living in LA doesn’t give one much of a chance for heater evaluation. I know with older diesels, it can take a while to get heat — diesels cool off at idle, as opposed to gasoline engines which heat up. Back when I drove the Alamo Rent-A-Car courtesy bus in Rochester, New York, it took three laps of the airport with the transmission in 2nd to get any heat. Hopefully modern technology has found a way to fix that, and some ’09 TDI owner can tell us how it works. — Aaron

November 25, 2008 at 12:12 pm
(7) AndyS says:

[#3]
RE: Reliability

We bought out 2009 TDi with the extended 100k warranty (just in case)
…AND…
VW Jetta comes with 3 years of maintenance included.

nothing to worry about. :)

Plus, my family and I have had NUMEROUS TDi’s, and all of them have lasted a very long time (one was 250k when we sold it and it still ran FLAWLWESSLY) with minimal maintenance, and no major issues *knock on formica*.

November 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm
(8) B. Rieder says:

Excellent balanced review, Aaron. Yeah, there are a couple other typos, but the content is spot on, especially your refutation of the old price-of-diesel complaint. One issue that bears discussion is that of the most expensive cost of auto ownership… depreciation. Because of VW diesels’ longevity, they have traditionally had a %-age resale that a MINI or Ferrari would die for. I suspect that a 90k Prius is going to have significant resale value issues, since someone will have to replace the battery pack after warranty coverage expires. Well-maintained 120k mile diesels often sell for amazingly close to their purchase price.

November 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm
(9) AndyS says:

MY 2009 TDi GRIPES:

Poor rear visibility due to higher windowline, trunkline, and chunky headrests. Be very careful when backing up.

Chucky headrests no longer tilt and are not “pony-tail-friendly” (according to my wife). The seats in this small car are just too damn big.

Slidey center armrest is clumsy and flimsy. I can’t even begin to describe it, so just look at one for yourself and you will also find yourself baffled beyond words.

Partial power seats. Either go all the way, or don’t do it at all. But having a button for recline on the driver’s side ONLY, and a crank for recline on the passenger side is just silly. All of the other seat functions are manually-operated cranks, levers, see-saws, hoists, pendulums, trebuchets, etc…

The new double clutch transmission shifts remarkably fast when accelerating normally, but seems notably slower when you need to downshift.

No xenon or foglight or ground effects or big-wheel & suspension option. Why can’t it come with a premium trim package? I want a sporty-looking TDi with the toys!

…just my $0.02
-A

November 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm
(10) Fl. Allen says:

Can anyone explain why for soooo many years diesel was dirt cheap and Always less than gas and now it is 2-3 times as much as gas?
Is it about the way it’s now refined or what is the reason?

November 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm
(11) Frank says:

Brian in Canada.
I have the TDI. I know your friend mentioned the heater being an issue. The heated seats are great to the point they can get real hot. And the heater will put out heat even though the engine is not fully warm. My wife has a Honda CR-V and the car is fully warmed up in about 1 and 1/2 miles. The TDI is about 6 miles. But I can get warm to hot air in the same 1 to 1 and 1/2 miles. Right now the temp in upstate NY is 30 degrees F. The car does have a lot of power, and the mileage is geat. The best I have seen is 53 and the worst is 38. on a full tank I am running about 42 as Aaron did.

November 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm
(12) Frank says:

As for the diesel prices, I was told that since Europe is using more diesel than us and the Euro is doing better than the dollar, they are getting tankers of it and taking it back ad saving even more money.
This is driving our cost up.

November 25, 2008 at 3:58 pm
(13) AndyS says:

[#10]
I heard that DIESEL PRICES went up due to new, stricter emissions standards for diesel sulfur content. Refining process and costs increased, and so did the pump price.

November 25, 2008 at 4:25 pm
(14) zenosf says:

I own a non-diesel VW Jetta (2008) and I agree with the comments above about the sightlines in the rear (be careful backing up), the oddly sliding center console, the non-tilting headrests, and the non-retracting rear headrests. I also concur with Aaron’s earlier review of the iPod adapter. I should have gone with the plain AUX input, as that way I would be able to use any player whatsoever.

With all that being said, I really really really really really want VW to release a Golf/Rabbit TDI. I will replace my jetta in a heartbeat if such a model comes out. Why? It will be easier to park, easier to back in and out of my garage, plus it will have the tremendous legacy goodwill of the Golf TDI brand. I really want a car that will last me for 200k+ miles. Please VW listen to your drivers and release a Golf TDI.

November 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm
(15) hawaiian don says:

Love it, gotta have it, probably will replace my CR-V in 2 years…unless they come out with a Golf TDI…that would perfect!

November 26, 2008 at 1:35 am
(16) doug says:

re:diesel. I’m no scientist, but I believe that quite a few less processes are needed to refine oil into diesel. Allen, I believe the word that you’re searching for is “COLLUSION”. Aaron, could you comment on the EPA figures for mileage on the wagon. About com. article mentions figures of 21/29 with 20.9 observed. Were you traveling downhill?

November 26, 2008 at 1:47 am
(17) doug says:

Sorry Aaron, I should have investigated more thoroughly. The link refers to the wagon gas model, not the tdi, my mistake.

November 26, 2008 at 2:10 am
(18) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

Doug — EPA figures for the TDI wagon are the same as the sedan. One would think aerodynamics might play a role… but apparently not a major one. With any luck, VW will add a TDI wagon to their press fleet (I’d love to try the Jetta TDI with a stick-shift) and I can give ‘er a try. — Aaron

November 26, 2008 at 3:14 am
(19) Kevin says:

I agree with a new Golf TDi. VW needs to get the lead out and release a higher horsepower All Wheel Drive TDi sport version Golf here the states like they’ve had in Europe…that would set some heads spinning.

For those who don’t think you can get any performance out of a Diesel car (Cough..Audi…cough Le Mans winner…cough…several times), I can personally tell you it is possible because I’ve done it. My 01 Golf TDi has some performance upgrades to it. It is not only possible but surprisingly easy to do. I’ve doubled the horsepower and torque on it from 90/155 to 180/320. Having 180 HP is nice, having 320 ft lbs of torque (more than a base Porsche 911) is bloody addicting. There are guys in Europe, where TDi’s reign supreme, pushing 300 hp and over 500 ft/lb of torque and their cars are STILL getting over 45MPG…diesels are weird. Once you go over to the dark side (diesel) you’ll never come back.

The TDi guys are already working on some horsepower upgrades for the 09 TDi’s for the gearhead who wants something different. It probably won’t be long until you’ll see a solid 200hp and 350 ft/lb of torque out of the 09 car (imagine this in the wagon!) Something to look forward to when the warranty runs out (assuming you care about such things).

Also, for those interested in seeing what the 09 Jetta TDi is capable of in pretty much stock form…check out the US TDi Cup racing series on SpeedVision.

November 26, 2008 at 12:41 pm
(20) Brent Rieder says:

Fl. Allen:
I believe Frank and AndyS are correct, concerning factors affecting diesel pricing…mostly. The 1st major burp in pricing was due to the requirement for ultra-low sulfur. That refinement step added several cents to the cost, possibly several dimes! Also, American refineries are designed to provide a higher fraction of gasoline-type components vs the lower distillates that diesel comes from. In previous years this was sufficient for US diesel requirements, and still have left-overs to sell to Europe, whose refineries are exactly the opposite since Europe has a long history of high diesel vs gas useage. Recently, US refineries have been running short of diesel for home use and have been buying excess European diesel (in Euros) to make up the short-fall. As the US becomes more diesel-centric, the too-few US refineries will see an economic incentive to retrofit to high-diesel crackers. Also, diesel comes from the same fraction as home heating oil and its production is sacrificed during the winter useage scale-up, esp. in the northeast. Lastly, diesel pricing has outpaced gas… because it can! The size and volume of the trucking electorate is nothing compared to the general, gas-consuming populace. There is little refinery down-side to raising diesel profits to the max, since protests to congress amounts to little danger to professional politicians. But having unsold diesel at tank farms speaks loudly and short-term events causing that to happen will likely result in the continued (short-term) fall in prices. When continuous US diesel consumption becomes sizeable enough, then we will see a refocus of refinery output which should stabilize pricing with respect to gasoline.

November 26, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(21) B. Rieder says:

Fl. Allen:
I believe Frank and AndyS are correct, concerning factors affecting diesel pricing…mostly. The 1st major burp in pricing was due to the requirement for ultra-low sulfur. That refinement step added several cents to the cost, possibly several dimes! Also, American refineries are designed to provide a higher fraction of gasoline-type components vs the lower distillates that diesel comes from. In previous years this was sufficient for the US diesel requirements, and still have left-overs to sell to Europe, whose refineries are exactly the opposite since they have a long history of high diesel vs gas useage. Recently, US refineries have been running short of diesel for home use and have been buying excess European diesel (in Euros) to make up the short-fall. As the US becomes more diesel-centric, the too-few US refineries will see an economic incentive to retrofit high-diesel crackers. Also, diesel comes from the same fraction as home heating oil, causing it to be sacrificed this time of year, esp. in the NE. Lastly, diesel pricing has outpaced gas… because it can! The size and volume of the trucking electorate is nothing compared to the general, gas-consuming populace. There is little refinery down-side to raising diesel prices to the max, since protests to congress amounts to little danger to professional politicians. But having unsold diesel at tank farms speaks loudly and short-term events causing that to happen will likely result in short-term price stabilization. Long-term will require American motorists acknowledging diesel advantages and buying diesel vehicles in sufficient quantity to refocus US refinery output.

November 30, 2008 at 9:22 am
(22) Eric says:

I can see from your pictures that the center console, where it meets the dashboard, suffers from the same malady that every other small car I’ve driven or sat in over the past 15 years suffers from………it’s too wide. Each of these consoles to a model intrudes so far into the driver’s footwell that I find my let resting against it. After about 30 minutes, it becomes so uncomfortable that I can’t stand to drive anymore. This has been the deal killer for me and small cars for years.

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