VW TDI and Audi TDI buying guide and reviews, page 2

myturbodiesel.com TDI forum buying guide with model specific lists of pros/cons - page 2

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1996-early 1999 VW Jetta TDI, 1996-1997 VW Passat TDI (mark3/mkIII/3rd generation body style)

a3/b4 VW refers to the mk3 1996-1999 Jetta (a3) or 1996-1997 Passat (b4). These are usually the least expensive cars to buy because of age, mileage, and standard features.  Since they're already depreciated, you won't pay to hold the car but be prepared to budget for "catch-up" maintenance.  These are the first Volkswagen TDI sold in the US (there were non TDI diesels as early as the 70's).  They share a 1.9L 4 cylinder 90hp/149 lb-ft engine and are manual transmission only.  All cars are front wheel drive.  Jetta is 4 door sedan only but the Passat was available as a station wagon or sedan.  Because of a 28 gallon fuel tank, the wagons can go over 1000 miles per fill up!  Expect 38-50 mpg by the average driver in real world conditions.  They weigh less but have less luxury and safety features compared to later cars..  

See 1000q: mk3 Passat/Jetta TDI new owner checklist to see a detailed list of common problems and immediate maintenance these cars need, below is a summary.  For a full list of "how to" maintenance on these cars, refer to 1000q: mk3 "how to" index.

Pros:
-Usually the least expensive due to age and trim levels
-The 1996-1997 passat wagon has the largest fuel tank (~28 gal) and longest range of all the VW diesels, 1000 miles/tank is possible
-Easiest for do it yourself maintenance, simpler systems
-Lightest weight, similar engine as later cars
-Steel oil pan reduces chance of damage to engine from road damage
-Excellent choice for running biodiesel
-Front airbags
-Loosest emissions standards
-Manual transmission only

Cons:
-Manual transmission only, not really a con for most since the automatic transmission delivers lower fuel economy and they were available on the newer cars
-Loosest emissions standards
-The least luxury and safety features, most miles due to age.  Look for rust in the wheel wells, bottom of the door, and windshield "a" pillar.
-Not much cheaper than next generation cars depending on the used car market.
-4 lug wheels mean less choices for aftermarket wheels.
-Jetta has front disc brakes but rear drum brakes.  (Rear disc brakes can be retrofitted)
-ABS optional, most TDI don't have it.
-Only front airbags, side airbags not an option.

Short list common problem areas (see 1000q: mk3 jetta/passat new owner checklist for a detailed long list)
-Cracked vacuum or pressure hoses due to age and wear, the small hose in the ECU should always be checked before replacing a bad ECU, see 1000q: ecu hose for details.
-Cloudy plastic headlight lenses, see 1000q: polishing headlights for the solution
-Windows fall down/stick due to broken window regulator clips, see 1000q: window regulator recall for details
-Failing door handle on the Passat due to wear and poor design, see 1000q: door handle fix for details.


1999.5-2005 Jetta, 1998-2006 New beetle/Golf, 2004-2005 Passat (mk4/4th generation/a4/b5.5 body)

a4 refers to the 1999.5-2005 Jetta, 1998-2006 New Beetle, and 1999-2006 golf.  b5.5 (or b5) is the 2004-2005 Passat TDI.  These are the most common TDI because more cars were imported to North America than other generations.  The 1999.5-2003 engine is now rated at 90hp/155 ft-lbs torque because of a newer turbo design which gives better low end power.  All Passat have a 2.0 pumpe duse 8v engines with 134 hp/247 ft-lbs torque.  2004+ a4 cars feature "pumpe duse" BEW TDI engine rated at 100hp/177 ft lbs.

Both manual and automatic transmissions are available but the auto transmission gives lower fuel mileage and typically does not last nearly as long as the manual.  All cars are front wheel drive.  Jetta available as station wagon after 2002, Passat wagon available 2004-2005 (auto trans only with Passat).  MPG est. 35-42 city/45-50 hwy.  Later cars after 2002 have 80,000 and 100,000 mile timing belts that can be retrofitted to earlier mk4 cars.   Budget some "catch-up" maintenance.  See 1000q: pumpe duse vs. direct injection to see some mechanical differences between the pumpe duse and non pumpe duse cars.  

See 1000q: mk4 Jetta/New beetle/Golf new owner checklist to see a detailed list of common problems and immediate maintenance these cars need, below is a summary.    For a full list of "how to" maintenance on these cars, refer to 1000q: mk4 "how to" index and 1000q: mk4 how to index for pumpe duse cars.  For the 2004-2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI, see 1000q: B5.5 Passat "how to" list.

Pros:
-Newer interior/exterior styling and more features than earlier cars.
-Newer variable vane turbo design and misc. small engineering and design improvements.
-5 lug wheels mean much greater choices for aftermarket wheels and brakes than mk3 cars.
-All cars now have disc brakes in front and rear.
-Front, side airbags, ABS standard in North America.
-Side curtain airbags and stability control optional, standard in later years.
-Some cars have ESP (stability control) or ASR (low speed traction control).
-Longer 100,000 mile timing belt standard on later mk4 cars can be retrofitted to earlier mk4 cars.

Cons:
-1999-2003 auto transmissions higher than normal failure rate, 2004+ auto transmissions are much better
-VW Passat station wagon automatic transmission only, all auto transmissions give less mileage than manual
-Aluminum oil pan can be punctured by road damage, bottoming out on railroad crossings, or improper towing, damaging engine
-Later style "pumpe-duse" engines prone to camshaft wear.  See 1000q: camshaft inspection for more details.  This may be related to thinner oil, 5w-40 or thicker is recommended.  Refer to 1000q: pumpe duse engine oil for a list of approved engine oils.  Check 1000q: a4 body differences to see some differences between pumpe and non pumpe duse body styles.

Short list common problem areas (see 1000q: mk4 Jetta/New beetle/Golf new owner checklist or 1000q: 2004-2005 Passat TDI new owner checklist for a detailed long list)

-MAF (Mass Air Flow sensor) often slowly fails, creating gradual loss of power, see 1000q: MAF FAQ and 1000q: MAF testing and replacement
-Engine vacuum lines aged and cracked causing loss of performance or limp mode
-Windows fall down/stick due to broken window regulator clips, see 1000q: window regulator recall for details
-Cloudy plastic headlight lenses, see 1000q: polishing headlights for the solution
-Rust on the drivers side front fender then on the passenger front fender, see 1000q: fender rust for more details on the cause and solution.
-Some 2004-2005 VW Passat TDI had failed oil pumps which caused major engine damage.  Refer to 1000q: oil pump FAQ for more details and possible causes.  See 1000q: balance shaft module replacement for the repair procedure.

For a full list of "how to" maintenance on these cars, refer to 1000q: mk4 a4 "how to" index and 1000q: mk4 a4 index for pumpe duse cars or 1000q: 2004-2005 Passat TDI how to list.


2005 (2005.5)-2010 Jetta (5th generation, mk5, mkV, a5 body) sedans

See 1000q: 2005.5-2006 Jetta pumpe duse checklist and buyer's guide for the earlier pumpe duse VW Jetta TDI (sedans only)
See 1000q: 2009 2010 VW Jetta diesel buyer's checklist and guide for detailed dealer invoice price, MSRP, options, and other buying tips on the newer common rail engine VW Jetta TDI (sedans only)

a5 refers to the late 2005-2006 and 2009-2010 Jetta sedan.  While it also includes the 2009 wagons, they are in a separate section below for organization.  Due to emissions, not available for model year 2007 or 2008.  They are among the best condition cars because they are only a few years old but are generally the most expensive.  2005.5-2006 TDI use the pumpe duse engines, 2009-2010 use the common rail engines.  See 1000q: pumpe duse and common rail for technical descriptions of the engines.  They also have the option of the DSG automatically shifting manual transmission, a totally different technology vs. the conventional automatic transmission found on most cars.  Introduction of the independent rear suspension on Jetta.  The new TDI has a federal income tax credit so check your local laws for any tax benefit or exemptions for high mileage cars.

See 1000q: a5 VW Jetta TDI "how to" list and FAQ for a list of "how to" and FAQ specific to these cars.

Pros:
-Nicest interior with more features than previous generations, more luxury and standard safety features.
-New car smell and most have a known maintenance history.
-All TDI now use independent rear suspension for better handling and comfort.
-Common rail engine quiet, efficient, clean, and more powerful.
-Common rail engine available in a new car in all 50 states due to cleaner emissions.

Cons:
-Were more expensive because they are the newest and because VW moved their cars slightly upmarket.
-There were potentially defective clutches on all early build cars, see this defective clutch TSB for details.
-Some DSG "auto" transmissions have bad flywheels, see 1000q: DSG FAQ for details
-Not recommended with grease car "veggie oil" conversions.

Short list common problem areas (see 1000q: mk5 Jetta 2005-2006 or 1000q: mk5 Jetta 2009-2010 for a detailed long list)
-Dual mass flywheels having problems.
-Many 2005-2006 wear down their camshafts, see 1000q: camshaft inspection for more details.
-All engines should use engine specific engine oil.  See 1000q: pumpe duse oil for more details for 2005-2006 models.  2009-2010 TDI must use only VW 507.00 spec oil, see the 2009-2010 buyer's guide for a list of approved oils.
-Some 2009-2010 TDI have stalling or engine stuttering at certain throttle/rpm positions that is probably linked to EGR metering and tuning.


2009-2013 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI (also called JSW or GSW Golf Wagon) (5th and 6th generation cars)

See 1000q: 2009-2013 Sportwagen buying guide for wagon specific information.

The 2009 wagon was called a 5th generation car and the 2010 wagon was called a 6th generation car despite only being refreshed.  See See 1000q: 2009 vs. 2010 TDI for a detailed list and gallery of differences.  Even though the Jetta wagon is built off a different chassis, no longer resembles, and has different features from the VW Jetta TDI sedan, it's still called the Jetta for 2011.  The pros/cons are the same as the a5 generation cars.

The Jetta Sportwagen is still built on a mk5 Jetta chassis so it didn't get the mk6 Golf upgrades like thicker glass or stronger chassis but it didn't get the mk6 Jetta sedan downgrades either, like loss of the independent rear suspension.  It's sold in Canada as the Golf wagon and the rest of the world as the Golf variant but it's not built on a Golf chassis.  See the buying guide for detailed differences and revisions over 2009 vs. 2010 vs. 2011.


2010-13 VW Golf TDI (6th generation cars, mk6, mkVI a6 body)

See 1000q: 2010-13 VW Golf diesel buyer's checklist and guide for detailed dealer invoice price, MSRP, options, and other buying tips.

a6 refers to the 2010 and newer 6th generation Golf.  They use the same common rail engine as the 2009-2010 Jetta but in a revised next generation body.  The new body features revised suspension and chassis tuning and is a total overhaul of the mk5 body.  The 2010 Jetta station wagon sportwagen TDI still uses the mk5 body with some updates for 2010.  VW considers it a mk6.  The 2010 Golf uses the full new mk6 body.  They also have the optional DSG automatically shifting manual transmission.  The 2010 TDI have a federal income tax credit .  Also check your local laws for any tax benefit or exemptions for high mileage cars.

See 1000q: 2009 vs 2010, mk5 vs mk6 TDI differences for a detailed list of differences between the 2009-2010 cars and 5th gen-6th generation bodies.

Pros:
-Golf and Jetta wagon have new generation styling and more standard features like touchscreen radio, multifunction steering wheel, and bluetooth (USA).
-Common maintenance issues in last generation addressed
-All TDI use independent rear suspension for better handling and comfort.
-Common rail engine quiet, efficient, clean, and more powerful.
-Common rail engine available in all 50 states due to cleaner emissions.

Cons:
-2009-2010 TDI must use only Volkswagen 507.00 spec oil, see the buyer's guide for a list of approved oils.
-Not recommended with grease car "veggie oil" conversions.
-Some 2009-2010 TDI have engine stuttering at certain throttle/rpm positions or stall easily that is probably linked to EGR metering and tuning.


2010-2012 Audi A3 TDI clean diesel (8p body)

See 1000q: 2010-13 Audi A3 TDI buying guide, FAQ, and checklist for detailed MSRP, pricing, options, and other tips.

The 2010 Audi A3 TDI is built off a stretched mk5 Jetta a5 body and uses the same engine and transmission as the other front wheel drive VW TDI.  The chassis code is 8p.  It gets different trim/interior, suspension tuning, and a longer hatchback body vs. the VW.  The main advantage of the Audi is that you can equip it much higher than the VWs.  Some examples are the standard s-line exterior, dual zone climate control, optional Alcantara suede interior, sport package, or power seats.  See the buying guide for more details.  The 2013 is the last year of the current body style, the A3 returns for model year 2014 in sedan form.

Pros:
-Slightly nicer trim, can't really see it in pictures but you can touch and feel it.  Slightly nicer components like sharper HID headlights and LED running lights
-Can option much higher than VW
-Halfway in size between Jetta sedan and wagon
-Brand name = image

Cons:
-Brand name = $$
-Uses 5th generation body even though the VW Golf gets the 6th generation body
-Everything should be better in the Audi vs. the VWs but it's not.  Some examples are the GPS system, base stereo, and free initial scheduled maintenance on the VW.


2011-13 VW Jetta TDI sedan (a6/6th generation body)

See 1000q: 2011+ Jetta TDI sedan buying guide, FAQ, and checklist for detailed MSRP, pricing, options, and other tips.

The mk6 2011 Jetta TDI lost a number of features vs. the mk5 generation car but it also lost over $1000 to address complaints that the last generation Jetta were the most expensive Jetta yet.  They also simplified the available packages.  The car changed from independent rear suspension to torsion beam rear suspension.  See the buying guide for detailed examples and pictures of the differences.  For the wagon, see above.

Pros:
-Refreshed styling over controversial last generation styling.
-Cheaper
-Slightly bigger yet lighter

Cons:
-Cheaper...torsion beam rear suspension, articulated trunk hinges, dashboard plastics


2009-2010 VW Touareg TDI (V6 engine)

See 1000q: 2009-2010 VW Touareg TDI buying guide for detailed info on the car like explanation of features and more useful info

The 2nd generation VW Touareg TDI (Touareg2) has an unbeatable blend of fuel economy, towing capacity, and off road capability.  The big difference vs. the Audi Q7 is that it's 5 seats and lighter.  They use the same engine.  The VW has less high end luxury features and available options but can tow more.  Some have the special order air suspension.  Some other diesel SUV are the BMW xDrive35d (X5 with diesel), Mercedes ML 350 Bluetec and GL 350 Bluetec. 

Pros:
-True 4x4 construction and capability
-excellent towing capacity (7,716 lbs) and ground clearance
-excellent fuel economy/power/weight ratio for SUV

Cons:
-Load up the options and it gets very expensive $$$


2009-2013 Audi Q7 TDI (V6 engine)

See 1000q: 2009-2013 Audi Q7 TDI forum, FAQ, and buying guide for detailed info on the car like explanation of features and more useful info

The 2009-13 Audi Q7 TDI had small changes every year.  The 2009 came with standard s-line exterior, the 2010 got the MMI3 and refreshed bumpers/lights, and the 2011 gets the new 8 speed transmission.  The engine and chassis remained the same and the engine is the same as the Touareg.  They all have 7 seats in 3 rows standard. For 2013, the Q7 gets a new engine that is lighter, slighlty lighter, and warms up faster, all of which results in slightly greater fuel economy.

Pros:
-max tow 5,500, 6,600 w/tow package
-excellent fuel economy/power/weight ratio for SUV

Cons:
-Start loading up the options = $$$$
-Heavy, last 2 seats very small


2011-13 VW Touareg TDI (V6 engine)

See 1000q: 2011+ VW Touareg TDI guide for detailed specs, order guides, and explanation of features.

The 3rd generation VW Touareg TDI got a totally new body and interior for 2011.  While the V6 TDI engine is carried over, the transmission is now 8 speeds and the chassis lost about 450 lbs which increases performance and fuel economy.  The interior took a step up in luxury and is even bigger despite the exterior not growing much.  There's also a hybrid Touareg. For 2013, the Touareg gets a new engine that is lighter, slighlty lighter, and warms up faster, all of which results in slightly greater fuel economy.

Pros:
-lighter, larger chassis
-8 speed transmission means better performance and fuel economy
-same towing capacity as last generation car

Cons:
-less real world stability while towing at the limit due to weight loss
-no more 4xmotion, only 4motion (no low range transfer case or locking rear differential), lower ground clearance


2012+ VW Passat TDI

See 1000q: 2012+ VW Passat buying guide for detailed specs, order guides, and explanation of features.

The VW Passat is all new for 2012...and 2011. Since this website is mostly North American market cars, this section will focus on the 2012 North American Passat which is a totally different car than the European Passat which was heavily refreshed for 2011. The 2012 is the first year for the mk6 generation Passat and is currently only available in a sedan body style. There were no mk5 Passat TDI in North America.

Pros:
-1 mpg city/highway EPA rating higher than the Jetta, Golf, and Sportwagen
-most fuel efficient European mid sized sedan available in US-Canada
-upscale features you can't get on Jetta or Sportwagen
-larger cheaper car built for North American tastes

Cons:
-larger cheaper car built for North American tastes
-currently no plans for a station wagon!


Introduction to biodiesel

To dispel one of the biggest myths about biodiesel, it's not used grease or straight veggie oil.  That's like saying gasoline is the same as crude oil.  Biodiesel is a fuel for diesel engines that is made from refined and processed oil, fat, grease, and even algae.  It's one of the most commonly used alternative fuels that will, in my opinion, gain more widespread use in the future.  It's cleaner burning than petrol diesel, normally domestically grown and processed, and a 100% renewable fuel.  It can be used in modern diesel engines and oil-fired home heating systems with little or no modifications.  It's also biodegradable, less toxic than table salt, and with greatly reduced odor and emissions compared to diesel fuel.  From an environmental perspective, it is greener than petrol diesel. From an engineering perspective, it lubricates better vs. ultra low sulfur diesel.  From a geopolitical and national security perspective, it can be domestically grown and produced.  

While it can never replace all the fuel needs of the world, it's important because research on biodiesel yields valuable knowledge on making biofuels and on future fuels like synthetic diesel fuel, because it's renewable, and because it decentralizes fuel production.  By decentralizing fuel production and distribution, it's possible to have small scale refineries located very close to their retail fuel pumps.  This reduces transportation costs as well.  The main problem is the higher cost to produce biodiesel.  It's sometimes cheaper and sometimes more expensive than petrol diesel depending on market conditions, government regulations, and subsidies for clean fuels.  This is just a summary, for more details please see 1000 answered questions: introduction to biodiesel.

The viscosity of biodiesel is also much closer to of diesel fuel vs. veggie oil, reducing the chance of stressing the mechanical fuel pumps.  Using biodiesel requires no modification to use in a modern diesel car.  A grease car, greaser, or WVO car that runs on veggie oil requires minor modification to the car and must be started and stopped on diesel fuel to flush the fuel lines.  If the fuel lines are not flushed prior to shut down, a grease car may not be able to start with veggie in the fuel lines.  A negative of using pure biodiesel is that it gels at a higher temperature than diesel.  Diesel fuel begins to gel at -20oF, 100% biodiesel without winterization begins to gel anywhere from 14oF to 50oF depending on its ingredients.  Many retail pump biodiesel is 20% biodiesel 80% petrol diesel and won't suffer from these problems because they have winterization anti-gel additives and are cut with petrol diesel.

Biodiesel is also better for a diesel engine.  There is no question that it lubricates the engine better than petrol diesel and has a cleansing effect upon the fuel system, cleaning out any old diesel build up.  Because of the new ultra low sulfur fuel used in the US and Europe, using just 2% biodiesel will lubricate the engine and fuel pumps very well.  Because the longevity of a well maintained diesel engine is already so long, the added lubrication will help guarantee a long engine lifespan.  The only possible problem with biodiesel involves high percentage bio used with the post combustion injection and the particulate filters found on the newest TDI with diesel particulate filters.  Read 1000q: DPF and Adblue filter FAQ for more on these systems.  The newest generation engines are too new to know of any long term issues.

Another reason or its popularity is that it can be made inexpensively by the user.  Its cost may be anywhere from 25 cents/gallon to $1/gallon if you make it from used grease from local restaurants that normally have to pay to have their grease removed.  Please note that biodiesel making materials, processes, and equipment may be regulated by fire codes and is a potentially hazardous activity so always follow safe and prudent operating procedures.  Always comply with any local, state, or federal regulations regarding your biodiesel making materials, processes, equipment, or biodiesel use.  

For more information on making biodiesel at home, click here for 1000 answered questions: Intro to making biodiesel

 

If you'd like to hear first hand accounts of what it's like to be a TDI driver, please post in the Volkswagen and Audi TDI discussion forums.  If you need more help navigating the site, use the search bar below: