Touareg V10 TDI
Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI. Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Paul Williams

For years, the intriguing diesel choices offered to European motorists have been unavailable to Canadians.

Finally, this is starting to change. Volkswagen, long an advocate of the benefits of diesel technology, and for a long time the only diesel importer to North America, is introducing three new models to its diesel line-up in Canada. The $31,450 Passat 2.0L TDI sedan ($1,470 more for the wagon), the $26,900 Jetta TDI Sport Edition and the $85,400 Touareg V10 TDI, all 2004 models, are in showrooms now.

They join existing diesel versions of VW’s New Beetle, Golf and Jetta, which for 2004 received the updated 1.9-litre powerplant that’s also found in the new Jetta sport model.

According to Karsten Hummel, Volkswagen’s vice-president for Diesel Engineering, the company’s diesels have up to 50% higher torque than a typical gasoline engine, about 30% better fuel economy and produce 20-25% less carbon dioxide emissions compared to gasoline. And diesel fuel costs less.

What’s notable about the new Volkswagen diesel engines (other than their availability) is their “pumpe duse” (or pump injector) technology. Developed by Volkswagen with Bosch, each cylinder has a separate injector that creates a very high fuel pressure for delivery to the cylinders. The pressures are so high, in fact (2050 BAR, as opposed to 2-3 BAR in a gasoline injection system), that the fuel is almost completely atomized as it is introduced to the cylinders for combustion. This results in increased engine efficiency, more power, quieter operation, optimized fuel economy, and less pollution compared with VW’s previous diesel powerplant.

These pumpe duse engines (sometimes described as TDI PD, or turbo diesel injected, pumpe duse) feature sophisticated engine management systems (the Bosch connection) to control the high internal pressures, and deliver fuel with precise pulses measured in milliseconds. The result is a line of engines in which emissions, especially carbon dioxide, are significantly reduced. Emissions results will be even more impressive when Canada and the U.S. legislate the removal of sulphur from diesel in September 2006. Sulphur is a major contributor to the failure of catalytic converters over time.

Volkswagen Passat TDI

Volkswagen Passat TDI
Volkswagen Passat TDI. Click image to enlarge

And concerning fuel economy, the new diesels boast some impressive figures. Volkswagen claims only two-tanks of fuel, or 124-litres, are required for a trip from Toronto to Winnipeg in its new Passat TDI. Rated at 5.7 L/100km highway and 8.7 L/100km in the city, the Passat is the only diesel-powered, intermediate-size family sedan and wagon available on the Canadian market that’s targeted at mainstream consumers (an earlier Passat TDI was withdrawn in 1996). With pricing very close to the average cost in Canada for vehicles of this size, the Passat TDI should be a welcome option for buyers in this segment.

The only other diesel car in Canada is the $74,400 Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI sedan. Two more arrive this fall – the Jeep Liberty CRD and the two-seat DaimlerChrysler-built Smart car.

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, TDI engine in the Passat is rated at 134-horsepower at 4,000 r.p.m. Granted, this doesn’t sound like much when V6 gasoline engines are making almost twice that in Honda Accords and Nissan Altimas, but this engine also generates 247 lbs.-ft. torque at just 1,900 r.p.m. Together, the horsepower and torque provide considerable pulling power from a standing start, and when passing. Top speed is 205 km/h, and high-speed cruising at 120 km/h is effortless at only 2,000 r.p.m.).

Jetta TDI Sport Edition

Jetta TDI Sport Edition
Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sport Edition. Click image to enlarge

Similarly, the 1.9-litre Jetta TDI Sport Edition, even though it only makes 100-h.p., produces 177 lb.-ft. torque, which is much more torque than you’ll find in typical four-cylinder, gasoline-powered compact cars. Fuel economy in this vehicle is rated at 6.2 L/100km in the city and 5.1 L/100km on the highway (the Volkswagen New Beetle TDI with the same engine is rated as Natural Resources Canada’s most fuel-efficient sub-compact car).

What’s particularly interesting about the Jetta TDI Sport Edition is, to state the obvious, that it’s a sport edition car with a diesel engine. Although diesel power may be regarded as a performance option in Europe, the same has not been the case here. Any Jetta TDI owner will tell you that this model has been very conservatively presented over the years, with little in the way of sporty options or performance character. Comfy velour upholstery, small wheels and conservative colours have been the norm, even though the Jetta TDI is a competent high-speed tourer.

With the Canada-only Sport Edition (limited to 2,000 examples), your Jetta TDI can wear 16″ alloy “Bugatti” wheels, Sport Edition badging, sport seats, sport suspension, a leather three-spoke steering wheel, leather shift knob and handbrake, and it arrives in Reflex Silver, Platinum Gray and Spice Red. Options are confined to a sunroof, electronic stability control and side-curtain airbags. Otherwise, the car is fully loaded. No Golf Sport Edition is available.

Touareg V10 TDI

Touareg V10 TDI
Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI. Click image to enlarge

Volkswagen calls its third new diesel option, the Touareg V10 TDI sport-utility, “the ultimate extension of the modern direct injection diesel”. It’s probably unlike any diesel Canadian drivers have ever experienced.

With a six-speed automatic transmission, the Touareg V10 TDI is powered with a 5.0 litre ten-cylinder diesel engine with twin turbochargers, rated at 370 horsepower at 3,750 r.p.m. and 553 lb.-ft. torque (yes, 553) at 2,000 r.p.m. Towing capacity is 3,500-kilograms (7,716 lbs) and 0-100 km/h in the 2,642-kilogram (5,825 lb) Touareg is reached in 7.5 seconds. These numbers are achieved with a Transport Canada fuel rating of 10.8 L/100km on the highway, and 13.8 L/100km in the city.

Furthermore, the 4MOTION Touareg is a genuine off-roader — its adjustable air suspension system and mighty torque enabling it to scale peaks, traverse boulders and ditches, and shrug off rough terrain with the very best of its competitors.

Inside, the Touareg is all leather, wood, high-tech and high quality. Grunt meets grand in an impressive marriage of opposites where the driver would feel at home in any environment, from backwoods trails to summer soirees.

On the road, each of the vehicles impressed with the smoothness of their engines. The clatter you might expect has all but disappeared, due to a technology called pilot ignition, where a tiny amount of fuel is injected into the cylinders microseconds before the main pulse arrives. This optimizes conditions in the cylinder for combustion, and reduces the noise normally associated with diesel engines.

Starting, idling and acceleration is comparable to gasoline engines of similar power, although the torque makes them feel more muscular, and the engine speed is lower than their gasoline counterparts.

Cruising on the highway is smooth and relaxed. At some speeds a gentle hum is emitted from the engine, but it’s not intrusive. Many people would not know these vehicles were diesel-powered unless you told them.

The price premium for a Volkswagen Passat diesel compared with the equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle is about $500. That should pose little discouragement for buyers, especially in Canada, where 40 per cent of Volkswagen sales are diesels, compared with 10 per cent in the U.S.

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