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BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL

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 Sat, Sep 20, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL By Doug Stokes

Sir! Thank you very much for sending us on this one for LA Car! We had a great time driving the brand-new (and brilliant) 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI through the wilds and woodlands of Malibu. The car is even better than ballyhooed by VW! Clean, quick, roomy, brisk, bracing, taut, and torquey - my only complaint is that it was almost impossible to think of it as diesel-powered at all when driving. Of course, the slightest application of the loud pedal was enough to invoke tons of grunt (in any gear, at any speed), and a willingness to make tracks that tells your butt that there is something different, something very husky and somehow very different, quietly working its magic up there under the hood.

Just for the record there is NO diesel: smoke, smell, rattle, vibration, sound, stubbornness, pre-heating, or anything else associated with diesels of old. But for the TDI designation on this one's derriere, none knows that it wants to drink cetane and not octane. The nice Volkswagen people (they spelled my name "Strokes" on my ID tag and I wore it proudly all day to the consternation of the VW press corps, but to the delight of many old friends like the incomparable Denise McCluggage) put 80 journos in 40 Jetta TDIs, gave them full tanks of ultra low-sulfur Shell diesel 2, handed them the car keys, a route book, bid each team: "Have a good time!" on Ocean Boulevard in Santa Monica, and then stood back, and waited for our impressions. I really don't know how many of us free-loading fifth-estaters came back to the Lowe's and tried to order one of these wonder-wagons, but I've sure got to have one and I heard the same from many of my colleagues. The car is that good, that journalists were thinking "buy". In fact the car is so good, that certain short-sighted (S.O.B.) dealers are taking orders and putting a 2-3,000 dollar (over list) premium on the Jetta TDI. Some of those bastards will get the extra geetus, and some owners will justify paying the bucks by saying that they want one real bad, and that the fuel mileage and the $1,300 federal tax credit will offset the reaming that they're taking. But remember the NSX, the Miata, the early Hondas, iPods, iPhones, and whatever ... Those shyster dealers stuck customers with paying extra for the privilege. None of it lasted long and no one, no one ever boasted about paying over list that I can remember.

But, enough of the diatribe, back to the cool car. It is hard to explain just what a shot-in-the-arm this little 50-state legal machine is to the environmentally-aware side of the ledger. Yeah, hybrids are cool, but this car is the real thing, one engine (tough enough to run forever), readily-available fuel, great handling, superb brakes, a six-speed automatic that is never wrong, real German car seats (you know: firm but supportive with "low-fatigue long-trip" written all over them), and range that can be measured in meal stops, not snack breaks. All the tech-stuff and numbers are attached. I'm sure that they are both respectable and realistic. I, for one haven't even looked at any of them. The one thing that I did look at in 80+ miles of "spirited" driving (Hell, my driving partner was Ricardo Rodriguez ... Honest ... only this Ricardo is originally from Argentina, is a bi-lingual motoring journalist, and lives in Fullerton). We both would have bet big money that the fuel gage needle had been painted on by the Volkswagen press people ... It never moved away (or if it did, one would have needed a micrometer to tell) from the 1/1 (that's "Full" in Euro-markings) mark.

Remarkable machine. I'm thinking that all 80 of us had similar reactions to the first 50-state legal diesel powered car sold in the States. If you need, want, covet, long for, or just think it would be cool to do, go drive this car. Restrain yourself from offering to pay any "tribute" above the sticker, and if you are so confronted, just trudge over to another VW dealer with a soulful look in your eye saying, "You're not like that bastard, So-and-So Motors over in Screwtown, are you sir (or madam)? This is just the beginning, but what an auspicious one for commuters and thrill seekers. This is the most fun you can have being frugal (with your gym shorts on). I had a ball, and was almost reluctant to turn this $20,000 dollar car in, and get back behind the wheel of the $54,000 dollar review car that I have on hand. Thanks again. I'm going to break off now and audit my piggy bank and the couch cushions for a down-payment on the future. Aufweiderzein! Yours truly, Doug Stokes For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com.

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 U.S. Jetta TDI Sedan Price: $21,990 EPA-rated miles per gallon (city/highway): 29/40 Federal 50 state approved LEV II LEV/T2 BIN 5 : EVAP N.A. CR Diesel AMCI real world estimated miles per gallon (city/highway): 38/44 Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, in-line, turbocharged direct injection, Common Rail TDI engine Power: 140 horsepower Torque: 236 pound-feet Transmission: 6-speed manual; optional 6-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic® and Sport mode Steering: Electro-mechanical variable assist power rack-and-pinion steering Suspension: Front - Independent McPherson struts with stabilizer bar Rear - fully independent four-link suspension with coil springs, telescopic shock Traction Control ASR - Anti-Slip Regulation EDL - Electronic Differential Lock EBA - Engine Braking Assist prevents compression-induced skidding in slippery conditions ESP - Electronic Stabilization Program Tires 205/55 R16 H, all season tires Wheels 6.5J X 16'' alloy wheels Brakes: ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) power assisted front vented disc brakes with rear solid disc brakes, EBD (Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution) and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistant) Overall length: 179.3 inches Overall width: 70.1 inches Overall height: 57.4 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 3230

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