They didn't test the TDI but they state its target is the Civic and Corolla.
What is it?
Volkswagen has sold almost 10 million Jettas since the first one rolled into showrooms in 1979. This 2011 Jetta sedan rides on a largely new chassis with what eventually will be five engine and four transmission choices.
When the first two models enter showrooms in October, you will have a choice of a 115-hp 2.0-liter four or a 170-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder powerplant mated to a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
A 140-hp, 236-lb-ft, 2.0-liter TDI diesel will come by the end of the year. In early 2011, the GLi arrives with a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbo TSI engine. The turbodiesel comes mated to your choice of a six-speed manual or Volkswagen's vaunted and efficient DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. The GLi will have the DSG, but we don't know yet whether another transmission will be offered.
A hybrid Jetta is due out by 2012.
All those models sit on a new chassis that looks, from a CAD printout we saw of it, to consist of about equal parts carryover, modified and new pieces. The goal with the new chassis was to strengthen it for stricter crash-test standards but at the same time, lighten it up. Engineers accomplished both, shaving off about 40 pounds depending on which configuration you weigh. Curb weights for the new car start at 2,804 pounds.
The new body is 2.9 inches longer overall, 2.7 inches of which translates directly to more rear-seat legroom.
How's it drive?
The Jetta is now a good bit larger inside and out, considerably quieter and quite comfortable. The back seat is indeed roomier, and we sat back there for a good portion of the afternoon while someone else drove. As with many smaller cars, though, the rear seating position was way louder than the front, especially over eaten-up pavement.
While it is sportier than the generic Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic that VW lists as competition, from behind the wheel, it accomplishes that somewhat sportier feel in a way that does not sacrifice the ride and features owners now look for in this car.
We drove it a couple hundred miles on coastal two-lane highways and found it to be a capable craft. But, while the roll is well controlled and damped firmly enough, slightly more so in the Sport version, the initial turn-in and general cornering is a little more muted than a real enthusiast driver would like. This is not in GTI territory, for instance.
The suspension is MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam rear. An independent rear is coming on the GLi.
The Sport suspension is lowered by 15 millimeters and features stiffer springs and shocks. It does not go far enough in terms of lively handling. At first we felt this stiffer setup was perfectly fine for daily commuting. But after an hour or so of mostly cracked pavement, we decided it was best suited for slightly harder-core drivers. It didn't really improve handling all that much compared with the stock setup, so in the end we decided we would chose the base setup. Boy racers will want to look toward the aftermarket, at least until the GLi arrives. Maybe we'll see one or two Jettas at SEMA?
Both the stock and Sport suspensions we drove came with the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine attached to a six-speed automatic. No other drivetrains were available. There are no paddle shifters on this setup so gear changes were done with the console shifter by banging the lever over to the right and pulling it back to the appropriate gear. Shifts were quick enough and plenty smooth but again, it is angled more toward smoothness and comfort than out-and-out performance. VW lists 0 to 60 mph in the 2.5-liter Jetta at 8.2 seconds when mated to the manual transmission and 8.5 seconds with the automatic.
The outside is nicely cohesive and conservatively styled, some will say a little too conservatively. It was anonymous enough that no one seemed to notice it at all during our day-long drive through Northern California. Even when we passed Jetta owners, no one pointed, honked or even looked. Again, maybe SEMA will have to finish it of with some aero items, hopefully done with good taste.
Do I want it?
If you consider the competition to be the Civic and the Corolla, then yes, you want it. You're not likely to find a sportier take on this size of sedan unless you get the Civic Si with all the HFP gear on it. (Now that one's a fun ride!) It feels more substantial than the Civic/Corolla both in interior trim pieces and shock tuning, as if this car has better plastic and more expensive shocks.
VW lists entry price for the base S model at $15,995, and that may be the price you'll see in marketing and advertising for the car. But when pressed, VW planners will admit that figure doesn't include the $760 destination charge, bringing the entry level to $16,775. Nonetheless, that's almost a grand less than the previous entry-level Jetta. Good luck finding an entry S, though. You'll probably spend about $20,000 when you equip it to your taste. A well-equipped TDI with nav will be $24,955, including destination. No pricing yet on the GLi.
Volkswagen seems to finally be taking the U.S. market seriously, after seriously screwing things up here in years past, including one period in the early '90s when there was no product at all for more than a year and half and VW had to pay dealers a stipend just to keep the signs up and the lights on. If Wolfsburg really is serious about selling cars here, and chairman Martin Winterkorn has stated a goal of 800,000 sales in North America by 2018, then things can only get better for us.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta
On Sale: October
Base Price: $16,775
Drivetrain: 115-hp, 125-lb-ft 2.0-liter four; FWD, five-speed manual
0-60 MPH: 9.8 sec (mfr)
Curb Weight: 2,804 lb