2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Richmond, British Columbia – In 2006, almost half of all Jetta and Golf models sold in Canada were powered by diesel engines, and the most popular diesel powered car in Canada was the Jetta TDI. So it was quite a shock when Volkswagen announced in 2006 that it wouldn’t be offering any 2007 diesel models in Canada. VW’s trusty 1.9-litre TDI turbo diesel just didn’t meet strict new 2007 North American diesel emissions standards, a rather embarrassing situation for a company that’s been building diesel engine for decades. At the time, Volkswagen’s new clean diesel technology was still a year and a half away.

Well, it’s still eight months away, but at least we’ve been given a glimpse of the future. VW’s new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel will arrive in the summer of 2008 in the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan, and in the new 2009 Jetta TDI Wagon. In a special advance test drive, Autos was able to get behind the wheel of a 2009 Jetta TDI to see exactly what the future holds for patient Volkswagen diesel enthusiasts.

The news is good for both people and the environment: not only does the new 2.0-litre TDI engine meet cleaner diesel emissions standards, it’s also more powerful than the previous 1.9-litre TDI engine while offering about the same outstanding fuel economy and driving range: approximately 6.5 L/100 km (44 m.p.g. Imp.) in the City and 5.2 L/100 km (52 m.p.g.) Highway. With those fuel economy numbers, the 2009 Jetta TDI should once again be eligible for the federal government’s $2,000 Eco-Auto fuel economy rebate (if the program is still available).

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
VW Clean Diesel TDI components
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI engine (top); VW Clean Diesel TDI components. Click image to enlarge

The new 2.0-litre turbocharged 16 valve SOHC four-cylinder engine features new common rail direct fuel injection with high pressure injectors to more precisely meter fuel into the combustion chambers to improve performance, fuel economy and emissions. The 2.0-litre engine makes 140 horsepower and 235 lb-ft torque, a considerable improvement over the previous 1.9-litre TDI’s 100 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

While the previous Jetta TDI recorded a 0 to 100 km/h time of 11.5 seconds (with five-speed manual transmission), the new Jetta TDI is expected to sprint to 100 km/h in under 10 seconds – not far off the 150-hp Jetta 2.5 (gas engine) which has a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.5 seconds.

The new 2.0-litre diesel engine incorporates a number of new technologies designed to reduce harmful exhaust gases: a nitrous oxide storage catalyst reduces NOx emissions by up to 90 percent without the use of urea injection (urea is a chemical which neutralizes NOX emissions). Heavier vehicles require urea injection to achieve low NOx emissions, but apparently lighter vehicles, like the Jetta, don’t put a high enough load on the engine to require it. The engine’s electronic engine management system periodically treats the NOx stored in the catalyst to remove it. As well, the 2.0-litre TDI has a particulate filter which reduces particle (soot) emissions, allowing this new diesel to meet the same standards as gasoline models. According to Volkswagen, the 2.0-litre TDI engine meets the most stringent Tier II/Bin 5 standards when fueled with the new Ultra Low Sulphur diesel fuel which is now widely available in Canada and the United States.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

The 2009 Jetta TDI will offer a standard six-speed manual transmission (compared to the previous five-speed manual) and an optional six-speed DSG transmission (like the 2006 Jetta TDI). The quick-shifting DSG uses two clutches in order to pre-engage the next gear while in another gear – this shortens gear changing times. A manual shift mode allows the driver to make quick sequential shifts by pushing the gear lever forwards to shift up and back to shift down, or by using paddles behind the steering wheel.

I got to spend about ten minutes behind the wheel of a Jetta TDI sedan, and discovered two things immediately: the new engine is much quieter and significantly more powerful. The extra 58 lb-ft of torque at just 1,800 r.p.m. is like a kick in the pants when starting off, and adds more passing power at revs below 4,000 r.p.m. The diesel clatter, which wasn’t too bad in the last model, is now almost inaudible in the cabin at cruising speeds, making the driving experience more pleasurable. And as before, a tank of diesel fuel will allow you to potentially drive over a thousand kilometers on the highway, making visits to the fuel station very infrequent.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
The oldest known VW diesel in North America, a 1977 VW Rabbit Diesel was located in Techachapi, California.  It had 48 horsepower and got 52 m.p.g. on the highway.
Forthcoming VW TDI models
Top to bottom: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI; The oldest known VW diesel in North America, a 1977 VW Rabbit Diesel was located in Techachapi, California. It had 48 horsepower and got 52 m.p.g. on the highway; Forthcoming VW TDI models. Click image to enlarge

Like the 2006 Jetta TDI, the 2009 model will be well equipped: there won’t be a stripped down base model. Standard features will include 16-inch tires and alloy wheels, in-dash six-disc CD changer with MP3 capability, air conditioning, power windows with pinch protection, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, fold-flat front passenger seat, eight-way manual driver’s seat, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, front and side airbags, LATCH child seat attachments, 12-volt outlets in dash and trunk, four cupholders and front door pockets.

The new station wagon model, which has a very stylish rear end, will add plenty of extra cargo space and utility to what is already a very practical vehicle.

Pricing hasn’t been announced but is likely to be close to the 2006 Jetta TDI, in the $25,000 to $30,000 range.

Until recently, Volkswagen dominated the Canadian diesel passenger car market, so it will be good to see them back on the market again – just in time to compete with the rumoured resurgence in diesel powered cars in the latter half of this decade.

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