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Published on Sun, Dec 19, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 SEL

By Harvey Schwartz The all-new 2011 VW Jetta is larger and more comfortable than before. Its front fascia design is more formal, the interior features better ergonomics, and a class-leading 38.1 inches of rear seat legroom. VW’s best-selling sedan is now more versatile in regards to cargo carrying capability than before with the added 2.9 inches longer length and the 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat that expands the already large 15.5 cubic feet trunk. With the Jetta competing head-on with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, VW decided to lower the starting price to a more affordable $16,800.00 for the base 2.0 liter inline four-cylinder engine model. As a result, VW has cheapened several important components that made the Jetta so attractive in the small, four-door sedan segment. While the new, more upscale-looking styling and the larger interior space is good news. The less than good news is that the Jetta now contains more plastic, especially on the dashboard which last year had soft-to-the-touch material that is now replaced with textured plastic. In addition, VW decided to ditch the independent rear suspension in favor of a less expensive twist beam solid axle setup, went back to a hydraulic rack & pinion steering system from the electro-hydraulic rack & pinion system of last year, and fitted rear drum brakes to the low-end models. On the other hand, the longer wheelbase and exterior length contribute significantly to a smoother ride, more space and greater comfort inside.


The new, formal look on the outside starts with a new front fascia highlighted with prominent horizontal lines with chrome inserts, a high gloss black radiator grille and the car’s new trapezoidal halogen headlight clusters that create a distinct look. Under this is a fully painted bumper that is cleanly designed, and below that is another cooling air intake ringed with chrome, and a tray-shaped front spoiler giving it a more luxurious, sporty and aggressive look. The edges feature integrated foglamps. The upper front end section shows a powerful transition from the V-shaped engine hood to the fenders on the sides. From the side is a silhouette featuring steeply raked windshield pillars, a rising crease just below the beltline that starts after the front fenders to the beginning of the rear fenders, a rear shoulder or ‘tornado’ line with flared lower fender arches that can handle larger, 18-inch wheels and tires, deep lower side extensions, pull-out door handles and aero-styled, power-remote/heated side mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators. The C-pillar design lends to a larger, more extended appearance. A horizontal chrome strip at the bottom of the beltline shows another luxury touch to the side view.


At the rear is a bold bumper, a trunk lid that features an aerodynamically optimized trailing edge to minimize air turbulence and increase downforce at high-speeds and taillights split into two sections extending to either side from the fender into the trunk. Down below on the right side are dual exhaust tips gathered together for a smart finishing touch. Under the skin of the top-of-the-line SEL model that we tested featured the same powertrain formula as last year with the proven, high-mileage, 2.5 liter DOHC in-line five-cylinder engine that makes a generous 170 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport-Mode and Tiptronic Sequential shifting when you want to change the forward gears yourself –e.g., to start the car in second gear, such as deep snow at launch, or when you feel a little excitement is called for on your drive. The fuel mileage figures are impressive with 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. Another cost savings change this year is the new hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion steering system that replaces the electro-mechanical rack and pinion from last year’s model. The feel of the new system is a little light at highway speeds but the response is quick and precise to your inputs.


The independent front suspension setup remains MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescoping gas-pressurized shocks and a stabilizer bar. The new ‘twist-beam’ rear suspension setup features the solid (non-independent) twist beam, coil springs, telescoping shocks, trailing arms and stabilizer bar. This setup is used in many vehicles, from mini-vans, small sedans and small coupes that need the extra space in the rear and a lower price for the unit. It works well on smooth straight-aways and manages well driving through curving roads. Its only drawback is when traversing from one type of pavement to another at highway speeds. It can cause a little shutter or hesitation as it gets a grip on the new type of pavement. Last year’s set of four steel disc brakes have been shorted to just the 2.5 SEL model that I tested. All other Jetta models get the front disc/rear drum brake setup. While the drum brakes have been around for many years in all types of vehicles, you can’t beat the steel disc brake setup for fade-proof and extra-power when you need to stop at high speeds. All models do get ABS, EBD and BA, as well as stability control and traction control to help shorten and control your braking power in all types of situations. Our 2.5 liter SEL model came equipped with 17X7 alloy wheels and 225/45R17 All-Season Radial tires for a smooth ride and great traction. Besides the new larger length and aggressive styling, the real story is inside where you will be spending your time behind the wheel as you commute to work, take care of you and your family’s needs, or pack up for your annual vacation.


More room equals more comfort for you and your passengers. The hard dashboard surface is not that bad, as the surface is a luxurious textured pattern. The new instrument cluster is easy to see and understand with a driver information readout in between the speedometer and tachometer. The fuel gauges is an LED readout, also between the two large gauges. The buttons, dials and switches in the nicely laid out center stack and around the cockpit are wrapped in aluminum trim for an added luxury touch. Overall, the interior is pleasantly comfortable with easy-to-use controls. All readouts are illuminated in red for safe nighttime driving. The center console features a padded armrest and deep storage bin. You get dual cupholders just in front of the console. The shift gate is placed in an aluminum plate with a leather topped shifter stick that matches the new, leather wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel with an aluminum insert at the bottom, audio controls and Bluetooth controls for added luxury touches. The roomy 60/40 split folding back seat features a pull down armrest with dual cupholders. I was impressed with the interior design and amenities. Standard equipment not mentioned above in the 2.5 liter SEL model includes a power sunroof, AM-FM/CD player, VW navigation system, Bluetooth, SIRIUS satellite radio, iPod cable, deep glove box, storage slots in front doors, trip computer, very comfortable and supportive heated/6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar control/4-way manual passenger seat, Engine Start/Stop button on the center console, cruise-control, AC with pollen filter, cruise-control, all windows with express up/down, power door locks, intermittent wipers/washers, illuminated vanity mirrors, thick pile-carpeting with floor mats front and rear, and an immobilizer with theft deterrent system. The SEL also comes with a sport-tuned suspension if you don’t want the power sunroof. Another luxury and convenience feature in the Jetta SEL is that when you have the keyfob in your pocket you can unlock the doors by simply pulling out the door handle and not having to push the ‘door open’ button on the keyfob.


Standard safety features includes driver/front passenger airbags, driver/front passenger side airbags, 3-point safety belts for all 5-passengers with front load limiters/pretensioners, head restraints for all 5-seats, LATCH system for child seats, child safety rear door locks, daytime running lamps, height-adjustable front seatbelt anchors, side protection door beams, tire pressure monitoring system and front/rear crumple zones. The base price for the all-new 2011 Jetta 2.5 liter SEL model is $23,395.00 and my loaded test model stickered for $24,165.00 including destination charges. Compared to a loaded Civic, the loaded SEL is less money, and when compared to a loaded Corolla, it is slightly more. All-in-all, this new Jetta may be exactly what’s needed to persuade buyers over to Volkswagen. The larger size, more luxurious and aggressive looks, the larger passenger space and luxury amenities inside are compelling bottom lines.


© All pictures by Harvey Schwartz For more information about Volkswagen products, go to For more information about Harvey’s photography, click here


SPECIFICATIONS Name: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Price: $23,395.00 (SEL base) $24,165.00 (as tested with destination) EPA mileage: 24mpg/city, 31mpg/highway Engine: 2.5 liter, DOHC, cast iron block/aluminum heads, in-line 5-cylinder Horsepower: 170 hp at 5,700 rpm Torque: 177 lb.ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual base/6-speed automatic with Sport Mode and Tiptronic Sequential Shifting Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bar. Rear suspension: Twist Beam Rigid Axle, coil springs, telescopic gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 17X7 alloy/225/45R17 all-season radials tires Brakes: Front: 11.3 in. vented discs with dual-piston calipers Rear: 10.6 in. solid discs with single-piston calipers ABS, EBD, BA Total length: 182.2 Total width: 70 in. Total height: 57.2 in. Curb weight: 3,109 lbs. 0-60 mph: 8.5 seconds

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