2004 VW Jetta TDI Sport Edition
Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

by Richard Russell

Passenger car diesels are a tough sell in North America. Their noise, smell, lack of power and relative difficulty in locating refuelling locations are serious drawbacks on this continent where gas is cheap and horsepower is abundant. In the rest of the world, particularly where fuel prices are two and three times what we pay here, diesel engines are the most common mode of motivation since a diesel will typically go 30% further on a given quantity of fuel than a gasoline engine.

With rising fuel prices, more Canadians are beginning to consider the cost of operating a motor vehicle, but what about the lack of power? And where do you find diesel fuel?

Welcome to a whole new generation of diesels engines that, in one fell swoop, eliminate almost all those concerns. The Germans are leading the movement and VW the parade with a whole new range of diesels incorporating technology that changes the comparative landscape. The 2004 Jetta and Passat TDI units are state-of-the-art diesels that simply don’t sound or behave like diesels. VW is the world’s leading manufacturer of passenger vehicle diesels. Almost 40% of all vehicles it sells in Canada have a diesel beneath the hood. While recent VW diesels, including the TDI have been impressive – the new 2004 versions are even more so.

The reason is Pumpe Düse (German for pump injector, pronounced pumpa doosa) – a new technology developed by Bosch. PD involves direct injection of fuel into each cylinder under extremely high pressure (2,050 bar – 30,000 pounds per square inch!). Diesel engines have no electrical system, no spark plug. By compressing the air in each cylinder, the temperature is raised. When fuel is injected, it automatically ignites due to that high temperature. The sheer force of this explosion causes the noise a diesel makes.

2004 VW Jetta TDI Sport Edition

2004 VW Jetta TDI Sport Edition
Photos: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

PD utilizes pilot-injection, whereby a tiny amount of fuel is introduced to begin the combustion process prior to the main charge. This pre-injection is the principal cause of a huge drop in noise levels and made possible modern electronics, allowing terrific speed and accuracy of such events as the pilot-injection.

To showcase Pumpe Düse technology, VW is making available a trio of new 2004 products: a V10 Touareg, a Canadian-only limited edition Jetta TDI Sport, and a Passat GLS TDi in both sedan and wagon formats. All come with a new high tech diesel. In this article, I’ll focus on the Canadian-only Jetta TDI Sport Edition. It comes with air conditioning, cruise, remote central locking, special 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows, leather trim, sport tuned suspension, front and side air bags, heated mirrors, ABS and a $26,900 price tag. Only 2,000 will be imported to Canada. The powerplant displaces 1.9 litres and produces 100 horsepower (up 10 from last year) and more importantly, 177 lb. ft. of torque (up 22 from 2004) at 1,800 rpm.

We all know the Jetta as a classy, and to these eyes, especially attractive sedan with one of the nicest instrument panel treatments in the industry. But what about the diesel? As someone who spent years putting down diesels for the very reasons mentioned – noise, smell and lack of power – I’m here to tell you the new TDI Pumpe Düse has a convert. First of all – noise – it’s still evident to a sharp ear, especially from outside at the front of the car. But the sound is significantly reduced from earlier versions thanks to the new technology and added sound deadening.

Power. Not an issue. I’m a big fan of torque, preferring low-end pull over high-rpm horsepower. I’d rather have performance off the line, or from the first push of the pedal than having to shift down and wait for revs to rise. Think of it as the performance that gets you away from rest and through an intersection. Torque is the domain of the TDI Pumpe Düse. This turbocharged four cylinder flat-out hauls from as little as 1,000 rpm. No waiting, no shifting, just pure acceleration right now. Not only in the city – on the open highway you can leave it in fifth gear and pull out to pass or climb a hill with equal aplomb and results. Power is no longer an issue.

2004 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sport Edition

2004 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sport Edition
Photos: Volkswagen. Click image to enlarge

Smell – some, but not as much as most diesels thanks to the more efficient and complete combustion of Pumpe Düse. Smell is however a factor at the pump – when you find one. Avoid getting this oily stuff on your hands! But, with a whopping 1,000 – 1,200 km range between fill-ups, you don’t have to do so very often and can afford to look for diesel outlets.

In the Jetta, the TDI is significantly quicker in everyday driving than the normal 2.0 litre gasoline engine. It costs about $500 more, but you’ll recover that after the first one hundred fills. If you drive long distances or accumulate high mileage in the city, this is the rig for you at 6.2 litres/100 km in the city (46 mpg) and 4.6 (61 mpg) on the highway – about 50% better than the gas engine. There is a reason almost every taxi in the world outside North America is a diesel! And in addition to the increased mileage there are no electrical parts, reducing the need for tune-ups, and the strong engine necessary to withstand the pressures will outlast a typical gas unit. Oil changes are a critical component of diesel ownership, but that’s it for routine service.

My tester had the manual transmission and the linkage was acceptably direct and clutch action smooth and progressive. With gobs of low-end torque, pulling away from rest is a breeze – useful for those a bit concerned about driving a manual. I find the centre armrest in VW products gets in the way of my arms when steering and shifting but it can be folded out of the way. I still, after all these years, question the wisdom of having to manually shut off the sound system or remove the key to avoid running down the battery, as it will keep running if left on and the key in the ignition, such as is the case when parking in a garage. And I positively hate automatic power door locks that activate when the vehicle moves – for a variety of reasons. Some can be de-activated by the owner – those on the Jetta require the dealer to do it. But other than that, it is hard to find a complaint.

If extreme mileage and operating costs are high on your list of concerns, it would be hard to beat the new Jetta TDI PD.

Technical Data: 2004 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sport Edition

Base price $26,900
Options $1,665 (power sunroof $1,015; curtain airbags $220; electronic stabilization program (ESP) $430)
Freight $1,205
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $29,870
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.9 litre 4 cylinder diesel, turbocharged, �Pumpe Düse’, SOHC, 8 valves
Horsepower 100 @ 4000 rpm
Torque 177 lb-ft @ 1800 � 2400 rpm
Transmission 5 speed manual (4 speed automatic)
Tires 205/55R-16
Curb weight 1347 kg (2970 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,513 mm (98.9 in.)
Length 4,376 mm (172.3 in.)
Width 1,735 mm ( 68.3 in.)
Height 1,440 mm ( 56.7 in.)
Trunk space 400 litres (13.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 6.2 L/100 km (46 mpg)
  Hwy: 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg)
Fuel type Diesel
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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