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Car Tech Video: 2013 VW Jetta SportWagen TDi
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Car Tech Video: 2013 VW Jetta SportWagen TDi

7:04 /

CNET's Brian Cooley loves the 2013 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI, which is a diesel and a wagon, two things that are not very popular in the United States. So why is he right and the rest of us wrong?

I feel bad for the Jetta TDi sometimes. Here it is the diesel-hating country. Kinda barely getting traction in its diesel form, why? 'Cause we're kinda stupid around here. This is one of the best executed diesel cars in the world. Let's drive the 2014 Jetta SportWagen TDi with the Sunroof, that's a model by the way, and check the tech. Now it seems to me almost everybody I run into doesn't own a Jetta, Scots sort of Jetta. They think it's kinda plain-Jane vanilla, a pitiful little suburban wagon. I love these cars. I find them to be reserved, austere, a beautiful steady hand on their design, and I love station wagons. This is a 6th generation Jetta, which means that they kinda cheaped out since the 5th generation. They took a complex rear suspension and made it a cheaper beam construction. The fancy one stays in Europe. They deleted leather interior, that's fine by me and supposedly cheaped out the materials around the dashboard in such as well. Now inside, they may have cheapened this interior but it still works for me. I think the materials are still quite good, the layout like the outside of the car is austere, it's good design, it doesn't appeal to everybody. A lot of folks looked at it and say, "Oh it looks plain." Others look at it and say, "No, it's tasteful." It's your call. Now an LCD head unit is standard on this car, navigation with internet is optional and ugly is included at no extra cost. This is my least favorite head unit of any of the cars that I like out there in the world. I find it ugly, it's kind of not very intuitive as well. They've done a little bit to kind of move things around and make them a little more logical, but they don't take good advantage of the real estate and I find it, though the response is good, they've just got a lame sort of a flat looking interface. This should just be a basic head unit without LCD, unless you have math. All the sources though are good to go, from OX, AM/FM/HD Radio Satellite with a complimentary 3 months. Now what's missing is USB, instead you have MMI, they're Multi-media Interface or MDI they call it on Volkswagens, that means you can put different pigtails on here which I think it include a USB Female, but the biggest problem is this, it lives on the short stiff cord, inside this tight little binnacle and for a modern iOS device, you gotta use the adaptor because last time I checked they have it done the small connector that Apple uses now, the lightning connector for this pigtail, which now means nothing fits on the console. Your iOS device will always have to live outside like that. Now luckily we have the main transmission, the base ray, which is a six-speed manual, top two gears, by the way are Overdrive, part of how they get more MPG out of this guy and with the diesel and all that torque that's fine. You can actually go at two Overdrives and do everything else in your other, taller remaining four gears. The other optional gear box on, this is very interesting, your Automatic is a direct shift gear box, a dual-clutch DSG, there is no traditional automatic in the line-up, that's kind of ambitious. Now I love the sunroof in this car. It's a trim level on the Jetta SportWagen, this is Jetta SportWagen TDi with Sunroof. This control here gives you both the glass and the screen. You rotate to preset positions here all the way opening you get this enormous hole in the roof. It's just is incredible, dramatic opening. But I love the screen here as well, because it rolls completely out of the way without a mid-bar, so you get this hole open expands. And with the top open like so and then you close the screen up, you have this very nice kind of screened in room if you will, that I don't think any other car I know of offers. Okay, TDi-- it means several things. It's a diesel with turbocharging and direct injection. Direct injection via a common rail technology which you can see right here. This was very revolutionary in the diesel engine world for passenger cars. What happens is this is a very precise engine as a result to all this technologies. And you get 140 horsepower, who cares-- 236 foot pounds of torque, that's the nice number. But it's been too relatively torque deficiency, so zero to 60 is a kind of okay, 10 seconds for this 3,300 pound car. The MPG resulting from that is 30 city, 42 highway-- pretty good stuff, unless you get the automatic. Now you drop down to 29 city, 39 highway-- still good but not gonna blow anybody away. The problem is, the automatics of this market need to blow people away. Having to connect to a manual to get full MPG out of this guy is a bit problematic. This engine of course was a rock star to VW, you'll find it in the golf, you'll find it in the beetle, you'll find it in the Audi A3, it's all over the place for them, so it's a well-proven motor-- don't have any ideas but it's somehow new age tech that might have a future. Let's go for a ride. Okay, underway the first thing I noticed is the torque is really good, low to mid range, like 1,200 to 3,500 rpm is your sweet spot. Notice, you don't need to go much beyond that and you really can't. Above 4,000 is no points, even though turbos do spread the power around a little better. It is a definite, different engine note. You will notice that yes, it's not like a gas engine and it does sort of award those high rpm run-ups that the gas engine typically does. I've got this sneaking suspicion that they've tuned out some of the low end torque in this current powertrain for economy, because it doesn't quite have that giddy oomph that I'm used to in the TDi powertrains I've driven in the last couple of years. I'm not quite sure what-- [unk] by finger on it, but there's something going on with a detuned some of the low end lobe for efficiency is my hunch. That's said, there's plenty to go around. Nice taut suspension, that's a VW thing they can't help themselves there, luckily. Good visibility out the back and you can see what I love about this roof, that's a beautiful piece of glass up there, especially in a car in a pretty modest price point, it's a luxury feel, very nice. Overall, I don't know why I don't own one of these. I love wagons, I love diesels, I just hate to buy a new as a new car prices. Okay, let's price our little oil burning friend-- 28,400 for a TDi SportWagen with the Sunroof, remember that's a model not an option. The Nav model above this is $800 more-- don't bother, the head unit's crap. The DSG automatic model is $1,100 more-- don't bother, it scrubs off MPG, that's kind of why you buy this guy. So, 28,400 here it is. Now I really like this car, but I'm partial in some odd ways it make me kind of a comby in America. I like diesels, I like station wagons, and I also like torque over horsepower, a lot of folks share that with me. An issue to watch is what the Chevy Cruze Diesel will do to this guy's market share. We reviewed that one recently, and it offers up to 7 MPG better on the highway plus an automatic, but no wagon.

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