If you think diesels are slow, noisy, and smelly, or that they're only for trucks, trains, and ships, think again. Or better yet, wake up and join the 21st century.
Volkswagen's 2009 Jetta TDI, available now, is the first clean-diesel vehicle to be offered in all 50 states. To underscore that, VW introduced it to the automotive press in Santa Monica, Calif., with a drive route that included the Pacific Coast Highway, some of SoCal's finest canyon roads, and even a little freeway driving.
As Norbert Krause, director of VW's Environmental Engineering Office, put it so aptly in his part of the morning presentation, "this is not your grandfather's diesel." I got into one of the few stick shift examples in the morning, and twisted the key. No clatter, no smoke, very little noise. A little diesel sound from outside, but luxury car quiet from inside the cabin. An auspicious beginning.
Light clutch, good shift linkage, slip it in gear, and get on the road. Doesn't sound like a diesel. And acceleration is just fine, thank you, with strong torque from about 1,800rpm. Playing a bit with different gears, the engine's sweet spot seems to be around 3,000rpm, and it pulls, strongly, to about 4,500rpm, at which point power drops enough to discourage acquaintance with the rev limiter. According to the specifications, the car has 140 horsepower at 4,000rpm, with 236 foot-pounds of torque from 1,750rpm through 2,500rpm. … Read more