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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 Sun, Nov 21, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz


As the price goes past the $50.00 for a barrel of oil, the price for a gallon of gasoline rises even faster at the gas station. High-mileage vehicles are the new game in town, as big and heavy pickups and sport utilities sit waiting for takers at the dealership. The smart money is on gas-electric hybrids to stretch out the miles, but the number of models available is limited. Honda has the Insight and Civic Hybrid, but they are too small for a growing family with the many different uses it goes through for the everyday family, couple or single person. The new Toyota Prius hybrid is larger, but the waiting list at Toyota dealers is out the door and delivery time can be over three months. Here comes Volkswagen to the rescue with the new, 2004/2005 Jetta GL TDI model, equipped with a powerful 1.9 liter TDI, (turbo-direct-injection), SOHC, in-line four-cylinder diesel engine that generates 100 hp at 4,000 rpm - and a more impressive 177 lb.ft. of torque from 1,800 rpm to 2,400 rpm. That's plenty of low-end torque for quick acceleration and mid-range power - and more useable torque than the more expensive Prius hybrid.

The cast-iron block/aluminum head 1.9-liter diesel engine is remarkably fuel-efficient, delivering 46 mpg in highway driving and 38 mpg in city driving when combined with the five-speed manual. The standard 14.5 gallon fuel tank gives you a 551 mile city driving range and 667 mile highway driving range between fill-ups. My GL model came with the five-speed manual that shifted up and down very smoothly. I quickly accelerated from first gear into second and all the way up as the speeds increased. A five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic driver-shift mode is optional. This was the first time that I have driven a diesel-powered automobile and I was very impressed driving the Jetta around town, on the freeways and around curving roads.

I was really surprised by the quietness of the diesel engine, with just a hint of chatter at idle, but no noise when at speed or when the four windows are closed in the comfortable, roomy and well-appointed cabin. The new Jetta TDI is the car of choice for drivers who are looking for the precision and performance of German engineering but who also look for value for their money. The base price for the Jetta GL TDI is just $18,670.00. The starting price for a new Toyota Prius is just over $20,000.00. Exterior styling enhancements combine to update the dynamic German style of the 2004 VW Jetta TDI and include a new chrome treatment for the front grille and bumpers, aluminum side body moldings, re-designed taillights, and a sportier trunk-lid edge. The Jetta TDI provides the secure traction of front-wheel-drive, with rack & pinion steering and a fully independent suspension for precise handling and a firm, comfortable ride. The front suspension features MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic gas-charged shocks and a 23mm stabilizer bar, while the rear independent setup features a torsion beam axle, coil springs, telescopic gas-charged shocks and a 18mm stabilizer bar.

The Jetta quickly slows down with standard power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes, 280 mm vented discs up front and 232 mm solid discs in the rear. ABS is standard on the GL model, but Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist are optional. The Jetta GL TDI rides on P195/65R15 all-season radial tires that are wrapped around 15X6 steel wheels. Alloy wheels are optional. The cabin is roomy, ergonomic, and very safe. The front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive for daily driving. The tilting/telescoping, four-spoke steering wheel makes for the perfect driving position and feels great in my hands. The new aluminum-plated instrument cluster rings look great and make the driver display information easier to read. The dashboard is slightly canted for easier reach to the dials and buttons and the dashboard surface itself has a finely textured treatment. The standard VW AM-FM stereo audio system includes both an in-dash CD player and cassette-tape player with sounds coming through 8-speakers. Other standard equipment include air conditioning, CFC-free with pollen and dust filter, cruise-control, power windows/door locks with pinch protection, folding key with remote keyless entry, power/heated outside mirrors, adjustable intermittent front wipers, height-adjustable front bucket seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seats that expands the rear cargo capabilities, dual front visor vanity mirrors, rear reading lights, and remote/keyed releases for the fuel filler door and trunk.

For strength and durability, the body of the VW Jetta is fully galvanized and is constructed using high-tech bonding agents, laser welding and self-piercing riveting to produce exceptional high torsional rigidity-a key to its handling dynamics as well as why the Jetta receives the highest government rating 'five-stars' in frontal crash tests. Standard safety equipment include front and side airbag supplemental restraints, as well as side-impact protection with Side Curtain airbags deployed from the roof liner to cover side windows both for up front and rear seat occupants. Three-point safety belts and headrests in all seating positions add to overall occupant comfort and protection. Front seatbelts come with pre-tensioners and shoulder-height adjustment. The collapsible steering wheel and column helps absorb energies during impact. The Jetta also has Daytime Running Lamps and side-turn indicators to help let other drivers know where you are and of your intentions. The Jetta also comes with the LATCH system for child passengers and rear-door child safety locks to add extra protection and peace of mind when driving. Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) is standard on the GLI model and optional on the GL model that I tested. Also optional this year is OnStar, the world-class communications and assistance program that enhances safety, security and convenience. If you are thinking about changing over to a higher mileage sedan but don't want to have to wait three or six months for delivery, test drive the new VW Jetta TDI and you'll be very impressed with the quieter, cleaner, more powerful diesel engine.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Volkswagen products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2004 VW Jetta TDI Price of vehicle: $28,679.00 Engine type: 1.9-liter SOHC, 2-valves per cylinder, turbo-direct injection, in-line four-cylinder, diesel engine with a cast-iron block and aluminum head. Horsepower: 100 at 4,000 rpm Torque: 177 lb.ft. of torque at from 1,800 rpm to 2,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front transverse mounted/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: Five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic with Tiptronic semi-manual shift Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic gas-charged shocks, 23mm stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent torsion-beam axle, coil springs, telescopic gas-charged shocks, 18 mm stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 15X6 steel wheels with alloy optional/P19565R15 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front: 280 mm vented discs Rear: 232 mm solid discs ABS standard with Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist optional Overall length: 172.3 in. Overall width: 68.3 in. Overall height: 56.7 in. Curb weight: 2,970 lbs. EPA mileage: 46 mpg/highway, 38 mpg/city

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