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Volks + Wagon

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Oct 4, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI

By John-Fredrik Wright There are a few things that I keep close at heart when it comes to the automotive world. One is station wagons—I just love ‘em. I like being able to carry just as much stuff as in many SUVs, while keeping the driving characteristics of sportier sedans. In later years, I have also grown very fond of diesel engines. Now, this may be because of my upbringing in Europe – you know that place where half the cars are diesels and there are more station wagons than SUVs (by a whole lot)? Or it may be because I just love being able to go further on one tank of ga… erhm diesel, and bring family, including various four-legged friends, along for the ride. So, what’s better than a week in the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen with the TDI (turbo diesel injection) engine*?


Not much. In fact, with a sticker price of just over $26,000, you really can’t go wrong. Those dollars will secure you a station wagon with an inline four-cylinder diesel generating 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Reading “140 horses” might not make your heart gallop, but, together with the torque (diesels are good at low-end torque) it will definitely make this little station wagon move. From a standstill, it is pretty invigorating to unleash all the torque and watch the speedometer climb. Going from 50 mph to 70 mph it is even more fun. The automatic DSG gearbox (more on that later) will shift down if you let it, but if you are in “manual mode” the low-end torque will accelerate with amazing ease. Sure, there is some turbo-lag, but as soon as it spools up, you are good to go. And you know what? It doesn’t take more than a second. The Volkswagen DSG (direct shift gear) transmission is, as always, very quick. Coupled with the torque offered up by the engine, this wagon can almost give you whiplash (minor exaggeration). On the other hand, all this kind of performance, at least when found in a regular gas-powered vehicle, usually adds up to fairly expensive trips to the gas-pump. Not so with a diesel (not this diesel anyway). The SportWagen TDI is rated at 29 mpg (miles per gallon) for city mileage, and 39 mpg for highway driving. Including the obligatory test-driving where we push the throttle a lot, some city driving, and a lot of highway and freeway driving, our average was 34.5 mpg.


Cruising on large city streets, such as Jamboree in Orange County, where the speed limit is circa 50 mph, the Jetta SportWagen kept getting above 40 mpg. We even got used to seeing the mpg meter get close to 50 if we were being very gentle. On the flipside, even when pushing 80 mph, the TDI kept our mileage between 30 and 35 mpg. So, fill this bad boy up and you can go an easy 500 miles on one tank, and that’s when you’re not even trying. Once you do need to refill, you’ll only be paying for 14.5 gallons—not the usual hefty amount often found in other cars that go 500 miles on one tank. All this driving on one tank, you surely want to have friends or family in the car with you. Don’t get me wrong, the car has more than enough features to keep a single driver happy and entertained for longer drives. The Bluetooth synchronizes easily with your phone, and with the satellite radio you can continue to listen to the same station as you travel through different cities, counties, and states on your 500-mile journey. For the rides where you do bring someone along, though, the lucky one to call “shotgun” first will enjoy the ride almost as much as the driver. Comfortable seats up front and in the rear, with the major difference being the lack of legroom for the rear passengers. If they are kid-sized, there should be no problem. Once you start hauling around adults, however, the mood in the back seat will start to fall. But again, for the family with pre-teen kids, this is perfect. Heck, you can even add a dog to the mix, problem-free!


What we have here is a kid-packing, dog-hauling, eco-friendly(er) station wagon, with more than enough get-up-and-go for the daily drive—and space to accommodate most anything (it’s actually easier to pack stuff into a station wagon than a SUV, since there’s much less of a height-problem). The Jetta SportWagen TDI definitely hits a home run with us. And for those who think that diesels are not cool, or that they make the click-clacking noise, man do we have news for you! * Volkswagen will tell you that TDI is really an abbreviation for turbocharged direct injection, but all TDIs just so happen to be turbo-diesels. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Jetta SportWagen TDI Price: $26,095 (base) $26,825 (as tested including destination charge) EPA fuel economy rating: 29 mpg (city) 39 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 2.0L, 4 cylinder, in-line, turbocharged direct injection, Common Rail, Diesel


Horsepower: 140 @ 4,000 rpm Torque: 236 @ 1,750-2,500 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed DSG® automatic transmission with Tiptronic® and Sport mode Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Steering (type): Electromechanical power steering with variable assistance and active return Suspension (front and rear): Front independent suspension with MacPherson struts Rear fully independent four-link suspension with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and stabilizer bar Brakes and tires: Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD), Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA). 225/45R17H 17" all-season tires Dimensions Length: 179.4 in Width: 70.1 in Height: 59.2 in Curb weight: 3,283 lbs

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