Good review and video
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122289540716195651.htmlA quote in a recent column by WSJ Senior Editor Joseph White kept running through my mind as I piloted the Volkswagen Jetta TDI down the highway while laden with family and luggage from a long weekend trip.
"I go to work. I go to the store," said Richard Kolodziej, president of NGV America, a Washington natural-gas vehicle advocacy group. "That's what 99% of people do. Americans want to be able to drive to California tomorrow. They won't." â€“ Eyes on the Road, Sept. 22, 2008
While Mr. Kolodziej is completely right that most people don't need a vehicle that can drive across the country, the diesel-powered sedan made me want to â€“ if only to see how good my gas mileage might be and how far I could go on a tank.
On a 155-mile highway trip the Jetta delivered 41 miles per gallon while averaging 67 miles an hour, according to the vehicle's trip computer. The average fuel economy over a week of driving was 37 mpg, according to my tracking. There was still almost a half tank of diesel left after traveling 369 miles.
Much like driving a hybrid, it was entertaining to limit fuel usage by driving gently and going easy on the gas pedal and the brakes. Still, the 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine can surge forward under acceleration because it has as much torque as a large V6.
The joy of achieving hybrid-like fuel economy was crushed at the fuel pump. Diesel fuel was 40 cents more expensive than premium and 60 cents more than regular gasoline. That means the roughly 9 cents a mile spent while driving the Jetta was still significantly more than the almost 7 cents a mile it would have cost if I had been driving my Subaru WRX that requires premium.
David PattonStill, those prices are just a snapshot in time and the Jetta TDI's annual fuel costs are much less than the WRX when using Fueleconomy.gov's comparison. Toyota's Prius relies on regular grade gasoline and gets far better city fuel economy than the Jetta TDI so its annual fuel costs are even less.
So why buy a diesel over a hybrid, especially when the sticker price is similar?
For one, diesel is a more established technology and there is less concern about the long-term costs related to batteries and electric motors. Diesel engines are known for the durability and longevity, which has helped old diesel models from VW and Mercedes post impressive resale values.
The 2009 Jetta diesel, and the new Mercedes-Benz diesels, as well as coming models from Audi, BMW and Honda, have new designs and technologies that specifically focus on reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) gas so they can meet emission regulations for all 50 states. While diesels typically produce less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than gasoline engines, they do have higher nitrogen oxide emissions. In the U.S., diesels and gasoline engines must meet the same standards. VW was forced to pull its previous generation diesel engines from the U.S. market after the 2006 model year because they didn't meet the current regulations.
A second reason is the performance. Acceleration with the diesel engine matched to VW's high-tech DSG transmission is dramatic â€“ it almost feels like a V8.
A bonus, the U.S. government is offering a $1,300 tax credit on the Jetta TDI sedan and Jetta TDI SportWagen.
On the road, the Jetta TDI feels similar to the gasoline-powered model. The heavier engine makes it feel less nimble in town, but enhances the already smooth highway ride.
The diesel engine still clatters in city driving, but it's not that much more noisy than a gasoline-powered four cylinder. And the smell and smoke of old diesels is gone. The stinkiest thing that came out of the Jetta was its high-powered windshield washer fluid.