Volkswagen Jetta Review

Volkswagen Jetta ReviewAn all-new line of Volkswagen Jetta models has been fully realized for 2006 with the addition of a turbocharged GLI and a fuel-efficient TDI turbo diesel. Redesigned and re-engineered from the ground up, the launch of the all-new Jetta lineup began midway through the 2005 model year and has been expanded for 2006.

A new 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine powers the standard models and it's pleasantly robust, with a broad power curve and a raspy sound. Clean-running Partial Zero Emissions, or PZEV, versions of this engine, are available in some states, and fuel-efficient TDI models are available in 45 states featuring Volkswagen's renowned turbo diesel. The new 2006 Jetta GLI features a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a broad power curve boasting 0-60 in 6.7 seconds.

Regardless of engine, we found the new Jetta responsive around town and comfortable on long trips. Volkswagens are known for handling, and the new Jetta carves through corners with precision. Indeed, the GLI reminds us why Germany is renowned for building excellent sports sedans.

The new Jetta is larger than previous models, and it features a more spacious interior stuffed with convenience and lavished with Volkswagen's legendary attention to detail. Even the least-expensive model offers an elegant, high-quality cabin. Its driver enjoys excellent visibility and ease of use with logical controls and instruments. Build quality is superb inside and out. All in all, the new Jetta is a solid car.

The 2006 Volkswagen Jetta comes standard with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine rated at 150 horsepower. The base model is also available as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (no charge) that uses a version of the 2.5-liter five-cylinder that emits almost no pollution. The Jetta can be ordered in 45 states with VW's highly regarded 1.9-liter TDI turbodiesel four-cylinder. The GLI comes with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine boasting an output of 200 horsepower.

The base Jetta, called the Value Edition, comes with a choice of five-speed manual transmission ($17,900) or a new six-speed automatic ($18,975) featuring a Sport mode and Tiptronic gear selection. Standard equipment on these base models includes air conditioning; cruise control; tinted windows; power windows with one-touch open and close; AM/FM/CD/MP3 with 10 speakers; external temperature display; eight-way front-seat adjustments; heated power outside mirrors; split/folding rear seats; remote central power locking; two power outlets in the center console and one in the trunk; remote trunk and fuel-filler flap releases; and an anti-theft alarm. Standard running gear on Value Editions is 6x15-inch steel wheels with 195/65R15 all-season radials and a full-size spare wheel and tire.

The standard Jetta 2.5 ($20,290) upgrades this with dual-zone automatic climate control, premium audio with a 6CD changer, an integrated antenna, automatic headlamps, a trip computer, auto-dimming mirrors, heated power seats, fold-flat rear seats, a front spoiler, chrome trim, and 205/55R16 all-season tires. It's also available with the automatic ($21,365). Options include XM and Sirius satellite radio ($375); DVD satellite navigation ($1,800); and 17-inch alloy wheels and tires ($1,350).

TDI models with their turbo diesel engines are equipped the same way and are available with the five-speed manual gearbox ($21,290) or Volkswagen's DSG twin-clutch semi-automatic ($22,365).

The turbocharged GLI comes with a choice of six-speed manual ($23,790) or the DSG semi-automatic ($24,665). GLI adds or upgrades a number of features: eight-way manually adjustable height and reach sport front seats with fabric upholstery and adjustable head restraints; a three-spoke sport leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and telephone controls; alloy interior trim and drilled pedals; metal loading edge protection for the trunk; special blue-tinted glass; bi-xenon headlamps with auto-leveling and headlight washers; and halogen projector lens foglamps. GLIs ride on 17-inch summer performance tires on 7x17-inch alloy wheels. Optional fitments for the GLI are 17-inch all-season performance tires or 18-inch summer performance radials on 7.5x18-inch alloys ($750).

Options for the GLI include DVD navigation with a 6CD changer in the front armrest ($1,800) and XM or Sirius satellite radio ($375). Package 1 ($1,460) includes a power sunroof, the satellite radio, and a 115-volt power outlet. Package 2 ($3,200) adds leather seating surfaces, heated front sports seats, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, and all the stuff in Package 1.

Safety features that come standard on all models include front airbags, side-impact airbags for torso protection, and curtain airbags for head protection come standard along with crash-active front headrests and safety belts with emergency locking retractors for all five seating positions. Rear side airbags are optional ($350). Active safety features include anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), traction control (ASR), and an electronic differential lock (EDL). Electronic stability control (ESP) is standard on all but the Value Edition ($280) and comes with hydraulic brake assist.

WalkaroundVolkswagen Jetta Review
The Volkswagen Jetta was completely redesigned and launched as three major model lines through the 2005-2006 model years. It's larger, dimensionally as well as visually, in every direction. Compared to the previous Jetta, it has a longer wheelbase and wider track. It has also put on a little weight, tipping the scales at a little over 3,200 pounds. However, that extra mass was put to good use, as the greatly improved structural rigidity now puts the Jetta at the top of its class, and there's a larger trunk and more interior room, particularly for rear seat passengers.

The eye is drawn at once to the chrome-framed front grille. Like it or not, get used to it. This is the new face of Volkswagen. Chrome is also used in eyebrows atop the large engine air inlets in the front bumper and, on 2.5 and TDI models, for the side-window surrounds. GLI models are clearly differentiated by a black honeycomb mesh grille with a red surround strip and foglamps integrated into the front bumper.

The most striking design element is the aggressive thrust and slope of the car's snout. Compared to some other recent nose-forward designs, however, the composite headlamps and various inlets and grilles are well integrated into the Jetta's raked rearward flow. A striking vee, created by the slant of the headlamps and sloping hood lines, is carried strongly toward the rear by the steeply raked windshield and character lines running along the flanks. The rear window is carried deeply into the well-defined C-pillar, accentuating the designers' quest for a coupe-like sweep to the rear quarters. Flares at the four wheels blend into well-defined side skirts and, at the rear, into a lower valance panel accentuated by twin chrome-tipped tailpipes.

The car's tail is a significant departure from previous Jetta styling. The whole structure appears longer, but the larger taillight clusters, now divided between the trunk and rear fender, help widen the proportion of the car's hindquarters in relation to its height, giving the car a more substantial, less boxy-looking stern. Also helping to integrate the increased bulk of the trunk into the fenders is the coupe-like sweep of the C-pillar and the extensive rear window, which slants deeply into the trunkline.

The round tail lights and brake lights will likely be singled out as the new Jetta's most derivative statement, giving the car a blander, more Asian look to it than previous models.

In short, we find the new Jetta's look more pleasant than exciting.

How well this new design is accepted by the beholder is, however, an entirely different matter from the execution. And the execution is where Volkswagen excels. The body panels fit tightly and the paint finish is exquisite. If there's little excitement in the Jetta's styling, there's certainly a perceptible aura of rational engineering everywhere you look.

InteriorVolkswagen Jetta Review
Volkswagen interiors are closely studied by the competition for good reason. Volkswagen designers accomplish more with less, combining expensive-looking materials with simple but attractive styling and excellent ergonomics. The result is inviting cockpits that are pleasant places to spend time behind the wheel.

The leather upholstery in a 2.5 we drove was well fitted and stitched around contours that provide a high degree of support. The Tamo ash wood trim is indeed trim and not the great expanses of lumber that are sometimes used in a lame attempt to class up an interior. To the contrary, the Jetta's wood is tastefully applied to complement the interior's sweeps and angles. Helping to relieve the eye of any monochromatic monotony are such touches as metallic trim around the shift lever, metallic instrument cluster rings; chrome door handles, glovebox lock cylinder and trunk release switch, and the button for the parking brake lever.

Finding a comfortable driving position is aided by an eight-way power adjustable seat with a power lumbar adjustment, an adjustable steering column and a height-adjustable safety belt. The driver's seat can be positioned using controls on the side of the seat cushion or by pressing of the three memory buttons (which also adjusts the outside mirrors) or by the key fob (which can be programmed for each driver).

The GLI interior is a bit dressier than the standard cabin thanks to touches of bright trim and the handsome three-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel. The sport seat fabric is a plaid-like material that harkens back to previous interior designs from VW, and it may not be to everyone's taste. The durable-feeling leather is really the way to go for a full upmarket experience.

A short styling aside here: Exposed windshield wipers were a pet peeve of former VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, and so he ordered that all future VWs would have hidden wipers. To aid in this design, a cowling now sits along the base of the windshield and cuts off some of the view over the nose of the car. It's not a safety issue, but former VW owners will notice the difference right away. To Piech's credit, the hidden wipers do indeed lend a more upscale look.

Three-point safety belts with emergency locking retractors are provided for all five passengers, and each position has an adjustable headrest. The front seat belts also have pre-tensioners with load limiters for a more effective reaction, and the front headrests are active, automatically moving up and forward if the occupant's torso is pressed back in the seat, as happens in many kinds of collisions. To help reduce leg injuries, the pedals get away from the driver in the event of a front-end collision. Six airbags are ready to deploy if needed, including side curtains to help provide head protection for the four outboard passengers.

The thick-rimmed, padded three-spoke steering wheel frames a gauge cluster dominated by the two large dials of the tachometer and speedometer, well shaded from ambient light by a curved cowl. In daylight the graphics read white on black, at night changing to white on soothing swimming-pool blue with lighted red pointers. In either case, the data are easy to comprehend at a glance. Within both the tach and speedo are a number of warning lights and advisories about secondary functions, including one thoughtful warning that the fuel filler door was left opened after gassing up. Optional steering wheel buttons can be used to operate a phone, mute the radio, or toggle between the various modes of the sound system.

To the left of the steering wheel is the headlamp switch, which has three positions: When turned off, the daytime running lights are activated. Click the dial once to the right, and automatic headlight control is activated, which measures ambient light and turns on the headlights when needed, such as in a long tunnel or as night approaches. A third click and the headlights are turned on. Front foglamps will also be worked with this switch.

A large electronic message pad sits dead center, just over the water temperature and fuel gauges. In addition to more warning and diagnostic symbols, its display includes trip computer read-outs. The red graphics on the pad are quite readable in the daylight, but, even at the pad's dimmest setting, glow too brightly at night for this writer's old eyes.

The trip computer's data are accessed by one of three levers mounted on the steering column (or, with the GLI's multi-function steering wheel, buttons adjoining the horn pad). Jutting to the right, it also operates the wiper/washer system; to the left are the levers for the turn signals/headlamp flashers and cruise control. Though easy to use, the levers feel a bit flimsy and are one of the few interior elements that have a cheap, plasticky look.

A major revamp of the sound system and climate controls began by moving them higher up in the center console for better viewing and operation. The adjustment buttons for the stereo, which surround the display screen, are in full view, a setup many of us prefer over hidden controls. Unfortunately, the display's graphics are not easily discernible in daylight. At night, though, the display reverts to the trademark VW blue backlighting and is then easily read.

All Jettas come standard with Climatic, which automatically maintains a chosen temperature throughout the cabin. It features a rotary dial on the left for temperature, one in the middle for fan speed, and a third on the right for directing the air in the cabin. Just above are the buttons for the windshield defroster, recirculating air and economy modes.

Upgrading to Climatronic provides separate temperature adjustments for the left and right side of the cockpit. With Climatronic, the left dial adjusts temperatures on the driver's side and also contains the front and rear defroster switches. The center dial incorporates the on/off button as well as a manual fan speed controller; and the right dial has switches for automatic operation (stored if pressed for more than two seconds) or economy. The buttons just above the dials handle air direction and recirculation. They're flanked by rotary seat heater switches, which in turn are bracketed by digital interior temperature readouts.

Four large air vents are nicely integrated into the top of the dash panel. In cars with Climatronic, those who don't like direct breezes can enjoy the indirect ventilation provided by a large center air outlet that sits top-center on the dash. Climatronic also provides, via switchable nozzles, cool air for the amply sized glovebox and both cool and warm air for the storage bin beneath the center armrest, which adjusts for height and slides forward or backward.

The central console extends between the front seats and includes a covered storage bin in front of the ESP switch, the shift lever, parking brake lever, two cupholders, a power outlet, and climate system vents for the rear passengers.

The toggle switch for the outside mirrors (plus heating) and the power window switches are on the driver's door armrest, within easy reach and sight. The windows feature anti-pinch protection and one-touch up or down. As a further convenience, they can also be opened or closed, along with the sunroof, with the master key in the driver's door lock.

Further down in the door are the release switches for the trunk and fuel filler door, plus a lock that prevents the trunk from being opened without the master key. The power door locks are operated by a switch in each door, and they're illuminated to reveal their status at a glance. In fact, every button and switch is pleasingly backlit.

A small ceiling console, just aft of the inside rearview mirror, holds a pair of reading lights, the sunroof's rotary switch, interior light switches, a sunglasses bin and ambient lighting elements that softly illuminate the dash area at night. Other nice touches include sunvisors with lighted vanity mirrors that slide on rods to extend their reach over most of the side window, and a self-dimming inside mirror that can be switched on or off but which automatically goes on when reverse is chosen. The driver's side visor also includes the buttons for the HomeLink system, which can be programmed to handle the chores of up to three remote control devices.

The rear of the cabin is significantly more spacious than before, the seats nicely contoured and raked for comfort. A six-foot-tall driver still leaves room behind for a similarly sized passenger, and there's enough headroom to accommodate someone much taller. However, there's no way an adult will fit comfortably in the center rear seat if there are adults to each side.

A 60/40 split folding rear seat is standard across the line, but 2.5 and TDI models also get a center, fold-down console that contains two pop-out cupholders and a storage bin, and a lockable pass-through door to allow the hauling of such long items as skis. An optional sunshade effectively covers the whole window and is a worthwhile addition for cars in hot climates.

As in previous Jettas, the trunk seems larger than is possible in a compact sedan (16 cubic feet). When the trunk lid is opened, it rises to a completely vertical position, out of the way of any loading or unloading. Completely carpeted, it also has a storage cubby wall; four tie hooks; and, like all new cars, a glow-in-the-dark release handle in case anyone gets trapped inside.

Driving ImpressionsVolkswagen Jetta Review
Climb in the new Volkswagen Jetta 2.5, turn the key and the driver is greeted by the raspy growl of the new five-cylinder engine. It's definitely an in-your-ear sound that will find favor with those who appreciate mechanical sturm und drang, but it might be a little annoying to drivers who'd rather talk on the phone.

As soon as the Jetta pulls away from the curb, there's a noticeable feel of solidness and a clear sense of high build quality. As there should be. A large part of the investment in the Jetta went toward increasing structural integrity. The stronger structure forms not only a more solid grounding for suspension and drivetrain components, it helps reduce unwanted noise from being transmitted into the cabin.

The other element that was considered most critical in the design of this performance-oriented car was the suspension. This is, without question, the best handling front-wheel-drive car Volkswagen has ever produced yet, somewhat paradoxically, it all starts with the new multi-link setup in the tail of the car.

The physics are complicated, but, simply stated, if the rear end of the car won't properly follow the front, then handling limits are low and the driver has to work harder. Replacing the old solid-beam axle with the new four-link rear suspension (with telescopic gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs and stabilizer bar) means reduced body roll, better contact between the wheels and the pavement, and improved ride quality. Angling the shock absorbers and combining them with oval helper springs also contribute to a wider trunk opening for easier loading.

Changes to the front suspension also made dramatic improvements to the feel of the Jetta. The MacPherson strut arrangement (with coil springs, telescopic shocks and a newly designed, integrated stabilizer bar to reduce weight) has improved geometry to increase front wheel location and reduce torque steer to unnoticeable levels, even when the throttle is maxed out in a corner. This is an amazingly balanced car, with little or no sense that the front end is doing the work of both pulling and steering the car.

Credit the new Servotronic power steering for the sharp response through the steering wheel. It not only adjusts to speed, providing more assist at low speeds and higher effort on the open road, but, through electronic control of the steering column, it automatically corrects the car's direction when such external forces as crosswinds threaten to move it off track. It's a bit disconcerting at first for the car to do something a driver expects he'll have to do but after a short time becomes very welcome in its ability to reduce driver effort.

Getting the car underway is generally effortless, even in slippery conditions due to the application of various standard traction aids. Every Jetta comes with an electronic differential lock, or EDL, that varies power to either front wheel depending on which one has more traction. It works by applying the brakes very slightly on the wheel that has lost traction, while at the same time it sends more torque to the other wheel. Also standard across the line is anti-slip regulation, or ASR, which reduces engine power to both front wheels if slip is detected.

Both EDL and ASR are part of the electronic stability program, or ESP, which is standard on all models except for Value Editions. ESP incorporates ABS to brake any of the car's four wheels individually and reduce the risk of skidding. It all starts sounding like alphabet soup, but all these systems work together to help the driver maintain control of the car. Studies in Europe have shown how effective electronic stability systems are in helping avoid accidents. They should be considered a standard item on any driver's order list.

The only commotion during take-off, then, is the raspy growl of the new five-cylinder engine, which has been tuned for instant gratification. Throttle tip-in is aggressive, especially when the Sport mode is chosen from the automatic transmission's shift pattern. Upshifts and downshifts then occur at higher engine speeds; also, the engine does not provide any braking while driving downhill.

The new six-speed automatic with Tiptronic is unusual in this class of car and does just about everything an automatic should do. In full automatic mode, the transitions between gears are quick and slip-free, pedal-activated downshifts are crisp, and a kick-down mode holds the chosen gear until redline and then swiftly shifts up to the next ratio. Tiptronic, the manual mode of operation, is activated when the shift lever is moved into a gate to the right of main gear track. Shifting the lever forward chooses a higher gear; lower gears are selected by pulling back on the lever. In Tiptronic mode, without the driver's intervention, a gear is held until engine speed almost reaches redline before the next highest gear is activated. Manual downshifts cannot be performed if there's a possibility of over-revving the engine. As much as we like to shift gears manually, this is a peach of a transmission and will satisfy even the sport-minded with its response and precision.

The new 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine is a wonderful complement to the Jetta's move up in weight class. The literature cites a 0 to 60-mph time of 9.1 seconds, which on paper is not stellar, but the brisk and linear power curve is nonetheless pleasantly robust.

In a week of testing on freeways, over mountain passes and around town, the 2.5-liter never felt underpowered, nor did it seem like it was running out of breath at high rpm. The raspy engine note gets a bit strident when the accelerator is fully applied, but it's still more a growl of power than a whine of discontent. The car will cruise all day long at 90 mph, and given an autobahn to explore will reach almost 130 mph at its top end. But, delivering raw speed isn't what this five-cylinder does best. This is a very flexible engine, and delivers power when needed, no matter the gear of the moment.

Even more rewarding was the car's handling, which allowed this driver to explore his own limits on curving mountain roads. It carves through a corner with the precision of a sports car, body lean almost non-existent. Entering a corner too quickly is easily corrected with the excellent four-wheel disc brakes. Anti-lock brakes help the driver maintain steering control while braking, while Brake Assist ensures maximum brake force during panic stops. Its high-tech traction aids provide a greater envelope of safety yet do little to diminish the driving experience.

The GLI offers sportier performance than the 2.5, though there are some tradeoffs. On an extended drive through the American southwest, the turbocharged GLI proved itself to be a solid high-speed tourer, adapting to the changing roads with effortless determination. The GLI's 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and VW's ultra-terrific dual-clutch DSG auto-manual transmission, is a sweet combination. It really makes the GLI two cars in one: smooth cruiser and performance bruiser.

Leave the center console-mounted shift lever in Drive and let the brains of the unit choose the gears based on your right foot's input. When cruising lazily, the DSG six-speed automatic exploits the economies of its fifth and sixth gears. A dash across town perks it up; it stays in lower gears longer for better acceleration. It downshifts directly from fifth or sixth gear to third if passing power is needed right now, skipping the gears in between. The driver can shift manually by sliding the gear lever into the DSG slot, which initiates touch-shifts through the gear lever itself or via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. It's a brilliant system, crisp and smooth, and the interfaces with the driver are direct and intuitive. The shift lever is pushed or pulled for higher and lower gears, respectively. The shift paddles revolve with the steering wheel for better access on twisy roads. Simply pull on the left one for downshifts and the right one for upshifts, marveling at the smoothness of the gear changes and the throttle blips that help downshifts match engine revs.

The GLI engine's power curve is broad, as witnessed by its maximum 207 pound-feet of torque from 1800 to 4700 rpm. Aided by sophisticated FSI direct injection, the engine will gleefully rev to 6000 rpm in its celebration of the 200 horsepower, enabling the GLI to speed from 0 to 60 mph in a factory-claimed 6.7 seconds. The electronically limited top speed of 130 mph was easily reached on the deserted desert roads of Nowhere, New Mexico, and the roar of the wind clawing its way past the car was the sole intrusion of the speed into the cockpit.

When the roads started to bend, the sport-tuned suspension reduced driver effort to searching for music on the satellite radio. Credit also the wonderful electronic steering box for the ease of steering the front-driver around sharp corners. The GLI's springs are stiffer (a sizable 24 percent in front and 29 percent in the rear) and the anti-roll bars slightly thicker than on other Jetta models. The brakes are also larger, by 24mm in front and 26mm at the rear.

The suspension's overall feel, however, is a blend of good and bad, particularly in cars fitted with the optional 18-inch running gear, as was our test car. On choppy pavement, or over the expansion joints of concrete freeways, the GLI hip-hops along like a hyperactive bunny, reducing the enjoyable ride quality found on smooth roads into a tooth-chattering irritation. The performance enthusiast in us applauds Volkswagen for getting rid of its marshmallow-soft suspensions of recent years and giving the GLI truly sporty underpinnings, but unless cornering g forces are important to you, the 17-inch wheels and all-season tires are the better choice for daily driving.

Our dash across New Mexico in the GLI stretched from open desert to pine-clad mountains at elevations that saps the strength of most engines. There was some altitude effect on the GLI's 2.0-liter, but the turbocharger made up for the thin atmosphere and hauled the car up grades and over passes with seeming disdain. And once the car descended onto the coastal plains of California, the engine's responsiveness reiterated our impression that it will fulfill its mission to place VW squarely back into the performance arena. Factor in the high level of standard equipment at an entry price well below $25,000, and the GLI seems an even more savory treat.

Summary & Specifications
The all-new Volkswagen Jetta is a delectable dish of European-bred automotive technology, superior materials and tangibly good build quality. This new Jetta is both a comfortable long-range cruiser and a snappy runabout. Choosing to address the American driver's thirst for torque was one of the more pleasing ways that Volkswagen fashioned the standard 2.5-liter models for the stop-and-go derby of urban driving, but it's still how well the Jetta conquers the open road that makes the Volkswagen driving experience distinctive and enjoyable. For those who want to make quicker progress down the road, the turbocharged GLI is a slick performer right out of the box. As a platform for the furious youth who want to go fast, it might be the best since the original GTI. correspondent Greg Brown filed this report from Southern California and Santa Fe, New Mexico. [source :]


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