Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 VW Jetta SELThe Jetta gets bigger and cheaper, but techier?
-Since 1979, the Jetta has always been the Golf with more. A little more space, a little more silver, a little more money, but for 2011, it takes something of a left turn. Let's drive this new Jetta, see if that was actually the right turn and check the tech. This is the car VW cannot screw up. The Jetta is their number one seller in the US by far--44% of all their business here. This 2011 is the sixth generation of the car and for the first time, it's not mostly a butt graft on a Golf. The sheet metal is the headline and especially from the front, it's now a stylish car and not just cute. The Jetta cabin is gonna still look familiar if you've been driving a fifth generation car. The material seem to have been downgraded a bit. Everything up here is hard, plastic, albeit, but they brought the price down 1300 bucks so let's give it a little bit of slack. The head unit is significantly improved. Thank God 'cause this was a disaster before. You have six fixed buttons on the side here for your basic functions, and you've got a touch screen, not a very big one but a very responsive one. Even though this isn't hard drive-based, it zips right along. Better than some pricier cars. Let's start with the navigation system. Simple button right there to get to nav. The graphics are really quite clean and nicely rendered nav. That's a big improvement from before. All the street names are very readable, I find. You do have different views as you can see. I can go 2D north up, 2D, or 3D as I've got enabled here, and entering the destination is not hard, which brings us to this new rolley-scrolley thing that VW's doing in this interface. I'm not sure I'm sold on it but you roll around to these different choices here. It's stylized for no particularly good reason, but I can live with it. By the way, on this car, they will tell you, you shouldn't be entering things as you drive but they let you do it. Carbonized hybrid. On the media front, we have a single optical disc slot here. Then it brings us to radio, that of course will be AM/FM. No HD radio. SIRIUS is your satellite choice. Under media, this is where we get into our disc that's playing as well but we can also switch around to go to the manual aux jack right here, the analog aux which I've got a standard pigtail cable on. And taking a page from the Audi brethren, here's an SD card slot, kind of hiding on the side. Don't see that in too many cars. There's a reason. MDI is kinda like AMI on the Audi front. It's a media interface. Mine's hooked up right now to our iPod Touch which you could others of these pigtails and go right in that little jack right there so that's the proprietary end. You've gotta go get one of these from the dealer that has what you want on the other end. I'm not big on that. Just give me aux and USB and make that USB real smart. And then there's Bluetooth streaming audio because I do have my phone paired up. On this higher end head unit, we do get the Bluetooth streaming. If you had a standard rig at this SEL level, you'll just have Bluetooth handsfree. Transmissions. We have the 5-speed manual. That is your base gearbox. We'll try that on the road in just a few minutes. There will also be an automatic transmission available with a little sporty gait but more importantly, some of these Jettas will get a DSG, a 6-speed dual clutch automated manual. That's going to be, as I understand it, in the diesel or in the GLI which is kind of the sporty car, but those aren't coming until later in the model year or one year further. Among the ways VW brought this car's price down to do battle with Civic and Corolla was to include going back to hydraulic power steering, from electric, to a live torsion bar rear suspension from fully independent, to drum brakes in the back instead of disks, to a simple stability control system that can't be adjusted or turned off, to that plastic dash we saw earlier, and the engine in our SEL is pretty much a straight carryover. Now, if you know this engine from the fifth generation Jetta, you'll know it in this car. Pretty much unchanged, the 2.5-L inline 5. Count them. Five runners, kind of an oddball in the auto business, even to this day. Does the job pretty well. 170 horsepower, 177 foot-pounds of torque. Mileage numbers aren't bad. It's 23/33 with a manual, 24/31 with an automatic so kind of a mixed bag of where those go depending on your gearbox. In general, this engine's well proven but does it handle with that German nimbleness in this new revised Jetta? One way to find out. I used to love driving Jettas. I don't love driving this one at all. The gearbox is okay. In fact, it's fine. It's a good shifting gearbox, a little long. The clutch, though, and the shift lever transmit a whole bunch of weird crunchy vibration when you engage either. That's not pleasant. Handling remains good, although, again, it feels like they've changed something. They've softened it up a little. The car's only 3 inches longer than the outgoing model. That doesn't make that big a difference. I can't imagine its overhang is causing it to wallow a bit. It's just a little bit less Golf feeling. I don't know if it's just engine mounting or the actual smoothness of the engine but you don't really love revving this car. It makes kind of a grinding noise and it sends some grindy vibrations through the gearshift-- what the hell is that noise? There's another grindy noise I didn't even hear before. It's in that corner. It's just kind of unrefined. Okay, let's price this 2011 Jetta SEL, about $20,000 to $21,000 plus $750 destination. Just to go apples and oranges here, that's about $1300 less than the previous year Jetta SEL so that's quite a haircut on the MSRP but, of course, I showed you some of the reasons and the ways they did that. Now, options. Little fuzzy on the pricing still so I'm gonna leave that, we'll get back to you on that. This car is not even doing showrooms until October of 2010. There will be a gas engine now, diesel late 2010, GLI which has the hotter motor, the DSG, the independent rear end in 2011, and a hybrid in 2012.