Not really but it does keep the engine warmer a little longer. Mostly for sound.
Temp gauge should point straight up but to see the actual water temp you need a VCDS cable to read the sensor.
The car will start fine as long but a block heater is an easy install and will give you instant heat and instant start on cold days. The fuel distributors add a winterizing element but a small splash of powerservice anti-gel additive won't hurt. It'll also raise the cetane and make the engine easier to start.
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