When the Volkswagen Taos SUV makes its debut on Oct. 13, it'll have a new, 1.5-liter engine under its hood. And since this turbo I4 is essentially a reworked version of the 1.4-liter EA211 inline-four currently used in the Jetta, it makes sense that VW's compact sedan will soon get this engine, too.
Volkswagen of America COO Johan de Nysschen spoke at length about the new 1.5-liter I4 during a media event at the company's research and development center in Oxnard, California, last week. When asked if the Jetta, which currently uses the 1.4-liter engine, would get the new power plant, de Nysschen said, "We have some life cycle management in its future." It certainly wouldn't make sense to continue building two versions of the same engine, after all.
In the Jetta, the 1.4-liter turbo engine currently makes 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. For the larger 1.5, Volkswagen employs variable turbocharging technology and APS coating in the combustion chambers to reduce overall friction. The result is an increase of 11 hp, to 158 hp, but an identical amount of torque. The big benefit, though, is real-world fuel economy.
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Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, chief engineering officer for Volkswagen in North America, said the company's big focus is "not only the fuel consumption proven by the EPA cycle," but "real-world customer fuel consumption." By employing a variable turbocharger that can deliver more low-end torque, Demmelbauer-Ebner says the engine provides "a larger area of minimum consumption." In other words, the engine's maximum fuel economy is easier to see more often. "The real customer demands more engine speed during real driving and, of course, more power," Demmelbauer-Ebner said.
Official fuel economy ratings for the 2021 Taos aren't yet available, but during a brief, 29-mile test around VW's Oxnard campus, I saw 34.2 miles per gallon in a mix of city and highway driving. Considering other small SUVs are rated anywhere from 27 to 31 mpg combined, this would give the Taos a huge advantage.
The Jetta is already quite efficient as far as compact sedans go, rated for 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. Of course, no one would complain about higher EPA ratings.
The current-generation Jetta launched in 2018 and will be due for a midcycle refresh in the next year or two. We expect it to gain the 1.5-liter engine as part of that freshening.