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2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI

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Published on Sat, Oct 6, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The 42-mpg Volkswagen Golf TDI

It looks like a GTI. Walks like a GTI. Talks like a GTI. Negotiates turns like a GTI. Even its off-the-line grunt is familiarly GTI-like. But it gets 42 miles per gallon, and is all but impossible to find on the used-car market. That’s because owners never let them go. It’s the direct-injected, turbo-diesel powered 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI. Editor-at-Large Zoran Segina reports. A DOCILE MISSILE By Zoran Segina “It does not feel like diesel.” Coming from anyone else except Mynor this remark would not be surprising. After all, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI is a rather spirited hatchback, and does not display any of the usual characteristics that we associate with diesel-powered cars—noise, smell, and sluggishness. The new common rail technology, developed jointly by Volkswagen and Daimler-Benz, makes the modern diesel engines nearly indistinguishable from their gasoline brethren. To an ordinary ear the Golf is quiet, reliable and can be exceptionally fast if one steps on the pedal and engages DSC paddle shifters. But Mynor is a marine mechanic by trade. He lives with diesel engines, albeit of the water-plying variety. His finely attuned ear can easily detect faint sounds of problems or malfunctions deep within the ship’s entrails to determine what needs to be done to keep the machinery humming smoothly. So a comment by a seasoned professional that the Golf TDI does not feel like diesel like this speaks volumes as to the sophistication of this car’s 1968 cc four-cylinder powerplant. The maximum horsepower is only hundred and forty, but the miracle of the low-end torque so characteristic of the diesels provides 236 pound-feet at a low 1750 rpm. The respectable eight seconds from zero to sixty feels much faster.


The Golf and its various iterations (remember the Rabbit?) have been with us for almost forty years now. The front wheel drive Golf was Volkswagen's replacement for the air-cooled, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Beetle. In fact, this platform was used to build the New Beetle. So, when it comes to upgrading the company’s best-selling model, and the world's third—with more than 29 million built by 2012—the prudence dictates that that the manufacturer finely balances the novelty with the tried and true. Indeed, one of the most appealing features about the Golf is its unassuming demeanor. While the familiar hatchback VW form is instantly recognizable, the LED daytime running lights with rotating adaptive high-intensity headlights, the sport tires on seventeen inch wheels, and a simple discrete functional spoiler in the rear give the Golf racy design and aggressive surefooted stance. The crease just below the beltline makes the car visually wider. The overall feel is one of functional simplicity—this Golf is elegantly conceived and well presented. Inside, the passengers’ gluteal muscles are firmly positioned in heated bucket seats with lumbar adjustment. While I would have preferred to sit lower, the Tall Girl—my ultimate arbiter of automotive comfort—finds the arrangement quite comfortable. The seatbelt attachment points on the B pillar are height-adjustable. The overall sense of the sporting luxury is emphasized by a thickly padded steering wheel equipped with button controls for the audio and all other electronic gizmos. The paddle shifters are well-positioned should one choose to forgo the docile diesel driving. In the same vein, the center armrest console, which ordinarily provides comfort for the driver’s forearm, can be pushed back for more spirited maneuvers.


And spirited maneuvers abound. After all, the Golf is a relative of Audi (and vice versa), and the racy suspension, firm handling, and confidence-inspiring brakes, will quickly bring smile to any driver’s face. The Golf can be driven aggressively with a nod and a wink to its performance-oriented family members. As the 225/45R17 Conti Pro Contacts begin to sing in tight corners one can sense the TDI letters in the back slowly metamorphosing into a GTI moniker. Mynor’s grin is growing proportionately with the increase in RPMs. This Golf comes with a long list of equipment. There is a plug for outside media. Touch screen provides easy input for satellite radio controls. The multi-speaker sound system envelops the passengers in music. Keyless access with push-button start adds to a sense or luxury. And yet, there is a wonderfully practical aspect to the Golf. Front doors have deep pockets. Should one need to haul more, such as an outboard engine, the rear seats fold revealing an ample storage space. For the smaller items the trunk comes equipped with a handy cargo net. An exploratory trip under the hood reveals a rather flimsy plastic engine cover, and something that resembles a paper bag for the battery holder. But overall, the car exudes German solidity. Three days into a test drive, I noticed that the light fixture would not turn off. After initially accusing VW of shoddy workmanship on a brand new automobile, I discovered that one of the grocery bags in the trunk blocked the hatch locking mechanism, which caused the light to go on. Sorry, VW.

The Golf TDI is available with the 6-speed DSG automatic with sport mode

A week later, the odometer was way past the three hundred miles, and the Golf still had more than a quarter tank of diesel left. Perhaps, therein lies a secret in popularizing diesel in the United States. Make the car look and feel like something different. And yet… Early morning in the Marina Del Rey. The fuel dock hand is asking me to verify in writing that the boat I am handling on should be filled with diesel. “Why do you need the verification,” I ask, almost belligerently. “Don’t boaters know what kind of fuel they need?” If the captain does not know what fuel he needs—and you’d be surprised how many do not—we’ll try our best to determine the type of engine in the vessel. But the captain has to confirm it, comes the reply. In our brave new world of alternative fuels and propulsions, the venerable phrase: “Fill’er up,” is now frequently followed by a question: “With what?” Gasoline, diesel, E-85, compressed natural gas? It’s getting complicated. Mynor assures me that fueling a modern diesel engine with gasoline will most certainly damage the entire fuel system causing extensive damage. Okay, perhaps making a diesel-powered Golf TDI look and feel like a gasoline powered GTI has its disadvantages. Oh, but the advantages… SUMMARY JUDGMENT Tastes GTI great; less fuel-filling. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 Golf TDI with Tech Package Price: $24,235 (base 3-door hatchback) $24,935 (base 5-door hatchback) $30,210 (as tested, with Tech package and six-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic) EPA mileage estimates: city/highway 30/42 Engine type: 2.0-liter inline four cylinder, turbocharged TDI clean diesel 16 valve single overhead camshaft Horsepower: 140@4400 rpm Torque: 236@1750-2500 rpm Transmission type: Six speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Suspension Front: MacPherson struts, coil springs, fully independent Rear: Multi link, independent, coil springs Steering: Electro-mechanical power assisted rack and pinion Wheels and tires : 17-inch alloy, with 225/45 R17 H Conti Pro Contact all season tires with tire pressure monitoring system. Brakes Front: 11.3 inch vented discs with ABS anti-lock, and power assist Rear: 10.2 inch solid discs with ABS anti-lock Dimensions Length: 165.4 inches Width: 7.3 inches Height: 58.3 inches Curb weight: 3096 pounds Performance: 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds; Top speed of 125 mph electronically limited

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