2015 VW Golf TDI FAQ, forum, and buying checklist

with options explained, video reviews, and chip tuning info for VW Golf TDI


This article shows the most up to date info on the mk7 (mark 7 generation) VW Golf TDI. The VW Golf was all new for model year 2013 but it won't come to North America until 2014 as a model year 2015. The projected release date mk7 Golfs will go on sale is fall 2014 in the US. This article is revised with the latest info as it comes out so please check back for updates! Last update: May 15, 2014

The basics
The 2015 Golf TDI could be the best car in its segment because of refinment, build quality, and the TDI engine. The all new mk7 chassis is lighter, stronger, and has a number of major improvements. The mk6 chassis was only around for 3 years and was a major overhaul of the mk5 chassis (used in Sportwagen and Audi A3 until 2013) and the only other US car to use it is the all new Audi A3. The mk7 chassis is modular so the basic chassis architecture will also be used in many other upcoming VW-Audi products.

The all new TDI engine also fixes some common problems that were present in the last generation of engines and the car has better performance, fuel economy, and power. Mk6 used the same basic engine as late mk5 cars and there have been some complaints of hesitation, high pressure fuel pump failures, and frozen condensation in the intercooler. The new generation of engine uses water-air intercoolers which fixes the condensation problem but it's unknown how reliable they will be until lots of miles and a few years are put on lots of cars.

Versus a gas powered Golf, the TDI trim has slightly different trim levels and the TDI engine gives a different driving experience. While the Jetta Sportwagen has "Jetta" in the name in the US, it's really a Golf wagon and is called the Golf wagon everywhere but the US. The release date of the wagon as a mk7 chassis will be later than the Golf, around late 2014 or early 2015 as a model year 2015. The Jetta is built on its own chassis and since 2010, has no longer been a Golf with a trunk and different headlights.

Why not a hybrid? If you take mostly local trips and work in the same town, a hybrid or regular car would probably be a better choice. Short trips don't let an engine warm up or get excercised and the heavy duty diesel engines and emissions systems take even longer to warm up. TDI shine on longer drives and the highway where the hybrid battery becomes mostly dead weight. The price premium on a hybrid or TDI is recouped quickly if you drive a lot but the diesel choice isn't as obvious unless you want a manual transmission or wagon. In short, despite this being a diesel website, the right car for you is one that matches your needs, not mine! And if you're that obsessed with fuel economy, get a bike - it's good excercise too!

If you find the tips on this page helpful, please use the donation button at the top so that I can continue to publish great articles. I do not receive any compensation from VW so you'll get the honest truth in these reviews. If nothing else, it should help you know what to look for when buying a Golf TDI. Thank you in advance!

My mk7 VW Golf review

2015 VW Golf TDI new features - virtual walkaround review

Engine: The all new EA88 engine is lighter, more powerful, cleaner, and more efficient. Here are the major highlights: the new engine loses the piezo injectors and uses solenoid injectors like on the Passat. The high pressure fuel pump HPFP is also new but the differences and reliabilty are not yet known. The electronic thermostat and separate cooling loops for the block vs. cyl head/heater mean that the engine warms up faster and you also get cabin heat faster. Faster engine warm up results in significantly less emisisons and better fuel economy. While peak power is only up 10hp to 150 hp, the power curve is wider which means more real world power. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head and the intercooler is integrated into the exhaust manifold. Both result in better engine response. The air-water intercooler fixes the intercooler icing problem on the last generation engine.

The engine uses a timing belt which is quieter, cheaper, and precise but requires replacement around every 100,000-120,000 miles. This service costs anywhere from $400-1300 depending if you DIY or take it to the dealer.

Other misc features: The gear driven balance shafts are integrated into the block. The oil pump and water pumps are variable output. The variable nozzle turbo (VNT) is now electronicly driven vs. vacuum driven.

Interior: Versus the mk6 Golf, the mk7 has slightly more interior room and the trunk is slightly larger. The overall length and wheelbase are noticeably longer.

The North American spec Golf will get a manual parking brake instead of the electronic parking brake as a cost-cutting measure. Manual parking brakes are better because they're lighter which means less unsprung weight on the rear suspension, cheaper (electronic parking brake calipers are extremely expensive compared to a replacement normal brake caliper), and cheaper to maintain (changing the rear brakes on a car with e-parking brake requires VCDS or dealer tool to release the caliper).

There's a "coupling antenna" near the center armrest which amplifies mobile phone signals. In Europe, it uses the 9ZE module but since cell phones are different in the US/Canada, it's unknown which telephone module will be equipped on the mk7 Golf. As an example of functions, here is a FAQ article for the older bluetooth modules, the highline 9w7 bluetooth. Also refer to 1000q: VW bluetooth FAQ for more information.

VW Golf 7 radio and navigation options

The optional in the US/Canada and Europe are listed below. The midline discover media navigation system is the optional navigation system. The highline is currently not available in the US/Canada.

Here is my review of the discover media navigation system (Euro spec)

2 door vs. 4 door vs. Golf wagon

The 2 door and 4 door are the same overall length but the 2 door is slightly lighter with longer doors (and better visibility from the front seats) while the 4 door is slightly stiffer but heavier with better access to the rear seats. While the mk7 wagon isn't yet released in North America, the specs of the European Golf wagon are known. This model is called the Jetta Sportwagen in the US but Golf wagon everywhere else because it's based off the Golf, not the Jetta. (click to enlarge thumbnail) The wagon will probably be a model year 2015 but have a later introduction.

Using biodiesel in a VW Golf TDI engine

The TDI engines can run on biodiesel but VW only allows up to 5% biodiesel (B5) because of the emission system and engine oil dilution.  VW cannot void the car warranty because you use biodiesel!  However, they could refuse a warranty claim if they believe the problem was caused by biodiesel use and you would have to fight them.  Laws vary by state but this could mean the burden of proof would be on you to prove the car has a defect that wasn't caused by the fuel. VW will warranty biodiesel use up to 20% (B20) for cars registered in Illinois because of their biofuel mandate. To the right is a thumbnail of the letter they sent out Feb 2013.

The new TDI common rail engines and emissions systems haven't been tested long term in real world evaluations yet.  While past TDI ran excellently on high percentages of quality biodiesel, the new concern how biodiesel affects the self cleaning emissions system and engine oil dilution.  During the particulate filter self clean cycle, the engine injects a little extra fuel after the engine combustion cycle.  This post injection regeneration fuel goes into the filters and burns up any trapped particulates.  The filters are why new TDI have very little diesel odor and clean tailpipes.  For more basic information about biodiesel and VW, see 1000q: intro to biodiesel.

Because the self clean cycle injects this extra fuel after combustion, there is some concern that the biodiesel will get into the engine oil and dilute it.  Regular diesel evaporates easily out of the engine oil whereas biodiesel tends to accumulate. Post combustion injection will also slightly lower fuel economy.  The self clean cycle depends on how clogged the particulate filter is so it's unknown how much fuel is used.  On average, the self clean cycle occurs every 4-600 miles or once/tank.  See 1000q: VW DPF FAQ for detailed info on this system.

VW Golf TDI transmission: manual or automatic (DSG)

The DSG transmission is the optional automatic transmission and adds about 46 pounds of weight (21 kg).   Please read 1000q: DSG FAQ for maintenance, quirks, and other common issues with the DSG transmission. 

Although the DSG (automatic) transmission has better performance and fuel efficiency than older planetary gear type automatic transmissions, it has some downsides. In addition to the additional weight and cost, the transmission is slightly rougher when starting because it can't match the smoothness of a torque converter. Although the EPA estimates may be higher, real world experience shows that manuals still get better fuel economy. The most important thing to know before ordering the DSG is the required maintenance: 40,000 mile fluid+filter changes are required. Like any dealer service this can be expensive but it's relatively easy to DIY. See 1000q: DIY DSG fluid change for the how-to article.

Some people report the DSG transmission causing hesitation from a full stop.  Users report it to be more likely if you're fully stopped with your foot on the brake, and then quickly step hard on the accelerator pedal.  This is believed to be from the DSG clutches slipping.  It can be dangerous because this is often done when trying to dart through a gap in traffic.  To minimize the likelihood of hesitation, learn when the car is most likely to hesitate and plan accordingly.  When you take your foot off the brake, wait before stomping on the accelerator pedal hard or gently go through the first inch of travel on the pedal before pressing it harder.

The gear ratios for the DSG and automatic transmission are shown below.

The transmissions use final drive #1 for gears 1, 2, 3, and 4, and the other for gears 5, 6, and reverse.  This is why 4th and 5th manual transmission gears have the same (or almost) ratio.  If you want to calculate rpm in any given gear, see 1000q: tire wheel gearing calculator.  Your mileage may vary!

gear 2010 6 speed manual 2010 Golf with DSG
1 3.77 3.46 
2 1.96 2.05
3 1.26 1.30
4 0.87 0.90
5 0.86 0.91 
6 0.72 0.76
final1 3.45 4.12
final2 2.76 3.04

Delivery inspection

After leaving the dealer, tell anyone who borrows your car to pay you cash instead of fueling it up as a favor.  This is a major cause of misfueling with gasoline!   All TDI now come with misfueling adapters on the filler neck to help prevent adding gas but when someone is really determined I'm sure they can mess up your car! If you ever travel to Mexico, make sure to use only ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) since they still use LSD there and this will damage the emissions system.

Make sure you double check the options list vs. what is on the car! There are a few cases of the customer ordering one option list and getting something else! Once you sign the paperwork and leave the dealer, it's your car and you already signed for it...

Follow the recommendations in the owner's handbook when breaking in the Golf's engine.  Most salespeople don't know anything about cars beyond what's in the sales brochure so don't listen to them.  If you need more advice and tips, read 1000q: engine break in.

The most common reported problem is failure of the dealer to complete the pre delivery checklist.  Since every dealer is independent from VW corporate, there are wide variations on how well they do the checklists.  You pay dealer prep but in some cases they don't really do most of it even though someone signs off on it and you paid for it.  One example is the front strut shipping blocks - many VW still have these in place after delivery.  They are rubber or plastic bumpers that lock the front springs during shipping.  They will cause the front to ride high or hard or cause clunking.  Some examples are below.  It can also dislodge the shock boot.

Expect fuel economy to increase after engine break in by 10-15%.  It's particularly noticeable because the greater the fuel economy, the more mpg you get as a percentage of break in.  In general, car salespeople don't know much about cars other than what's in the sales brochure so I wouldn't take mechanical advice from them.  See 1000q: engine break in for some advice in addition to the instructions in the owner's manual.

If you hear the engine fan running fast and smell something overheating at the tailpipe even after shutting the car off, it means the car was in the middle of a self clean cycle (every 450-600 miles).  It may also occur if you're stopped at a stoplight in traffic.  It will resume once you start driving and the car is warmed up again.  the DPF filter captures soot and burns it off in cycles.  Much more information can be found in the FAQ article: 1000q: DPF and Adblue FAQ for VW.

Because diesel engines are throttled by fuel and run off oil, any diesel engine could have a rare mechanical malfunction called a runaway engine.  If the car is in gear it will also accelerate.  If the engine races on its own, keep control of the car and shut off the engine as soon as it's safe and practical.  Take it to a mechanic before starting it again.  Read more about a diesel engine runaway and some causes at 1000q: runaway engine FAQ.

A common complaint on many German cars is a fast speedometer.  German law doesn't allow for slow speedometers even after equipment variations like different wheel and tire sizes.  The odometer reading should be correct for warranty and maintenance purposes.  The mpg meter is based off that so it should be fairly accurate.  However, the best way to calculate fuel economy is by filling the tank all the way at the same pump each time, and dividing the amount of fuel pumped to the miles traveled.   You can adjust the speedometer and fuel economy meter.  See 1000q: speedometer fix or 1000q: mpg meter fix for more details.  It's for a mk5 Jetta but the same procedure applies to mk6 cars, I don't know if it works on mk7 cars but please report if it does!

All US VW come with 6 airbags.  Some have optional rear seat lower side airbags.  They also have standard ESP, shoulder harness seat belts, anti theft immobilizer, traction control/stability control.   See if any insurance discounts apply.

The TDI engine should only use VW spec 507.00 engine oil for warranty purposes.  DO NOT trust the dealer to comply with this requirement, even under their 2 years/24,000 mile free maintenance program!  Dealer techs are busy and sometimes don't know any better.  It could even be a matter of which bottle is closer.  Always check which oil will be used on your car with the exact mechanic who is changing the oil.  Also check the receipt for the part number.

507 spec engine oil is important because it's very low ash.  The more ash in the engine oil, the faster the DPF exhaust particulate filter will clog with ash.   See 1000q: DPF FAQ for more on this system.  Some oils that meet this spec are Castrol SLX Professional LL03, Motul specific VW 507.00, Total Quartz Ineo 5w30 507.00, and Mobil 1 ESP Formula 5W-30.

To the right is a TSB in .pdf format which lists engine oils approved by VW - click to view it (scroll down to the bottom for 507.00 oils)  The part numbers for 5w-30 507.00 engine oil are:
VW# g v52 195 a1 (gv52195a1) for .5 liter 
VW# gvw 052 195 m2 (gvw052195m2) for 1 liter
VW# gvw 052 195 m4 (gvw052195m4)for 5 liters

If ambient temperature is less than 48oF, wait for the glow plug light to go out before turning the key from ON to START.  It normally takes less than a second.  When it's really cold it could be as long as 2 seconds.  Start the engine as soon as the light goes off or turn the key off and back to ON to recycle it.  When it's less than 39oF, the instrument cluster will ding.  This is a possible icy road warning.  For more information on the multifunction display options, see 1000q: MFD menu FAQ.

Don't add generic green Prestone or any other coolant not compatible with VW G12 coolant or else it will turn brown and sludge. The coolant system is sealed so if it's low, first determine where it's leaking out.  The coolant should be red or light purple/pink.

If you ever need a replacement key, you must buy a new one due to the immobilizer system.  All new VW have them.  An unprogrammed immobilizer chip will shut the engine off after 1 second if it's not correct.  See 1000q: immobilizer FAQ for more details.  At this time, you must buy a replacement key frmo the dealer. There are very few locksmiths which can program mk6 or mk7 keys since the equipment they lease from VW is very expensive and not used often.

Always use the parking brake when parking!  It's good practice with any car but it is important on VWs because this sets the rear caliper self adjusters.  It's best to apply the p-brake before shifting into park (auto trans) or first/reverse gear (manual trans) to put stress on the brake instead of the parking pawl or gears.

Some cars have misadjusted parking brakes.  This robs fuel economy and wears down the brakes.  Safely jack up the rear of the car and spin the wheels by hand.  Do not put yourself in a position where you could be injured if the car falls!  Light touching or scraping on the brakes is normal, resistance is not normal and should be adjusted by the dealer.

One feature past VW have had is slide-out sunvisors.  I don't know if it's been decontented on US spec cars if you test it and find out, please post in the forums, linked at the top and bottom of the page.  An example is shown below.

All plastic headlight lenses will become weathered and pitted over time.  A UV-resistant headlight cover or headlight protector will take the brunt of use and keep your headlights looking like new.  Paint protection film over the front hood and fenders can also help prevent rock chips but it also costs a lot more than simple headlight covers.  Paint protection film does reduce the shininess of the paint but it's not noticeable unless you're up close.  It can also be removed without any damage to original paint.  It should not be used on  repainted panels since it could pull off some paint.

Basic window tint FAQ: Automotive glass locks some UV light but even a clear or light tint will block a lot more UV light.  I like window tint because it helps prevent the interior from drying out and fading, prevent drying out and aging of skin (yours and leather seats), adds privacy, and holds the window better if it shatters.  Window tint that isn't built into the glass is a stick on film that can be completely clear or near black out.  Check your local laws for any restrictions on tint darkness.  Never use ammonia based cleaners on tint since it can damage it.  Use only simple soap and water on window tint for cleaning. If you listen to AM radio, do not use metallized tint because it interferes with AM reception.  Depending on the brand/model of tint, FM reception should be fine with most metallized tints.  This is because the diversity radio antenna is in the hatch window.  The sharkfin antenna on the roof is for the satellite radio and GPS (if equipped).

All emissions equipment is covered under warranty under federal emissions laws.  Do not tamper with any federal emissions equipment.  See 1000q: DPF system FAQ for more details on the "clean diesel" system.  

Do not add aftermarket rustproofing since it will void the factory rust warranty.  VW are dipped in anti-rust zinc coatings and have a few layers of paint to prevent rust.  While it could still happen and the rust warranty only covers certain kinds of rust, the best thing to do is to wash your car regularly, including the undercarriage.  See 1000q: car detailing index for tips on how to avoid scratches and swirl marks from car washing.  The best thing to do is to avoid automatic car washes unless they are "touchless".

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