By on March 31, 2012

…when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — G. Santayana

Wide-light Rabbits. As a child, I firmly believed that there were two kinds of VW Rabbits. There were awesome Rabbits, with round headlights and narrow taillights, and they had all been assembled in the Fatherland by white-lab-coated Germans who, prior to taking jobs on the hospital-clean Rabbit production line, had all been Messerschmitt 262 pilots or actual rocket scientists. Then there were awful Rabbits, with dopey-looking amber turn signals and thyroid-condition, reflector-pregnant asses, which were created by drunken Pennsylvanians who used eight-pound sledgehammers to install body-side molding and who aligned the doors by hanging on the hinges until even the most sausage-like of fingers could pass comfortably through the gap between crooked window frame and mis-welded unibody.

Keep in mind that I couldn’t drive, and that nobody I knew even owned a Rabbit. I received all this wisdom osmotically, hyperbole passing from the diarrheic prose of the Tony Swans and David E. Davises of the day directly from the page to my mind. German Rabbits good. American Rabbits bad. And when VW finally gave up and closed Westmoreland, didn’t that validate what the scribes had scribbled?

Time passes, and we are told that the new, “Americanized” Mark VI Jetta is a disgrace, a stain, a repudiation of all for which the fabulous Emm Kay Five stood. My drive of the current Jetta didn’t quite square with the conventional wisdom. Still, I’ve been fascinated by the idea that Volkswagen deliberately chose to repeat its history, that it made a conscious effort to once again dive whole-heartedly into the American market with products that are locally assembled and directly targeted at us. So far, it’s been a success, but the Bowdlerized History Of Cars fed to us by the color rags cheerfully omits the fact that the original American Rabbits were popular, too. The death of American Volkswagen production had a lot more to do with dismal dealers and champagne-priced, poverty-specced product than it did with Pennsylvania production.

Time to cleanse my palate a bit. Hertz still rents Mark Five Volkswagens, so I requested one and drove it 931 miles over the course of approximately forty hours. A final chance to figure out the truth, before the conventional wisdom becomes fact, before what everyone knows becomes the only thing anybody knows, before history repeats itself.

The first hitch in our story, as I pick up my 33,200-mile black sedan from the Hertz office: like virtually all the Jettas sold in this country for many years now, this one was hecho en Mexico. As far as my imperfect memory can recall, the last Jetta to be sourced from sacred Germany was the second-generation car. Mexican production or not, however, this narrow and tall Volkswagen is screwed together correctly. Thirty-three kay of uncaring abuse, and there isn’t a rattle or squeak to be found. The touch surfaces are free of obvious wear or deterioration. The Elantra I rented a few months ago had obvious wear everywhere the hands of renters had touched, but this Jetta still feels fresh. Part of this is no doubt socio-economic in nature: Hertz simply rents to a different group of people, and maintains their vehicles with considerably more attention than Enterprise does. In fact, this Jetta is rolling on new tires. Still, hands are hands everywhere you go, and the #1 Gold Club member on his way to leverage some synergies sweats through them in a fashion no less corrosive than the single mother trying to make it to work after her Cavalier swallows its final piston.

I’ve been driving my Town Car a lot lately, and perhaps that’s why the oft-reviled five-cylinder fails to offend me at the first offramp. It’s remarkably similar to Ford’s venerable mod motor in the nature of its power delivery. It is relaxing to drive at part throttle, and it works as intended, as does the Tiptronic slushbox to which it’s attached. I’ve decided to try to drive in a fuel-conscious manner, mostly to find out if the five is as thirsty as the Internet swears it is. Therefore, there will be no kickdowns, no manual plussing or minussing, no pasting the pedal to the floor. The Enterprise Elantra was positively flaccid when driven in this fashion, but the Jetta is smooth and efficient. No wonder this powertrain has been popular with real buyers. When I finally give in to temptation and decide to run on the high side of a hundred, the Jetta fails to impress. Sorry about that. This car was available with the two-liter turbo, so if you want to play street racer, get that one. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you bought a better powertrain. You just got different.

My destination is the town of Paw Paw, Michigan, where I am to see a man about a dog, or something like that. Actually, I’m planning to buy a couple of guitars and a 1965 Gibson “Saturn” amplifier. It all fits in the trunk with room to spare. I never understood the moral authority of owning a hatchback. Nine times out of ten, the sedan makes more sense. It offers a locked compartment, free from sun load and prying eyes, someplace where the contents won’t come up and smack you in the face if you need to take evasive action. Volkswagen got this right, both with this Jetta and the current one.

Every rally-obsessed basement onanist on VWVortex can tell you, of course, that the Emm Kay Five has the superior parallelogram trunk hinges. These hinges perform a delicate ballet of opposed forces every time you close the trunk, folding away to a superbly efficient and nearly nonexistent stack of folded steel between trunk and unibody. By contrast, the Jetta Six has conventional goosenecks, which are well-known to deliberately seek and destroy your luggage before jumping through the decklid and going on an insane rampage in which their elephantine appendages will be stuffed inside your teenaged sister with the force of a million falcon punches, or something like that.

I smile as I load the Jetta’s trunk and look at the hinges. Their precision makes me think of my Phaetons, which had similar arrangements, forged by Campagnolo (no kidding) and powered by elaborate actuators. How superior I used to feel every time I opened the trunk of those Phaetons! “This sort of thing,” I would intone as the parallelograms performed Swan Lake, “is what separates the Phaeton from, shall we say, consumer-grade automobiles such as the Lexus LS.” It’s true. The Lexus LS has crappy, cheapo gooseneck hinges. The company that manufactures those hinges has the satisfaction of knowing that they are approximately fifteen times as busy as the Campagnolo trunk-lid line. That’s because in the real world, buyers don’t fucking care about trunk hinges, until they break. Guess which kind of hinge breaks more often in the winter: tricky parallelogram linkages, or spring-loaded sheet-steel tubing? That’s right. Close the trunk on that business. The consumer has spoken.

Nor does that consumer really care too much about European driving dynamics, primarily because nobody really knows what that means, not even Europeans, who produce vehicles as widely diverse as the Twingo and the 760Li. The Jetta tracks straight and true on the freeway, without slop in the steering. It’s like a BMW in that regard; it’s also like the Ford Focus and Daewoo Lacetti, which can both be had at your local non-European car dealerships. The Jetta Mark Six does about the same thing. The Korean competition doesn’t quite have this rock-solid-at-eighty-mph thing figured out yet, but weight has to have something to do with it. The Jetta is a porky little German-Mexican sausage burrito. On the broken Michigan pavement it clomps with authority. Even when the suspension absolutely bottoms out on some loathsome Detroit-area pothole at full speed, the resulting thunk is in the baritone register. This feels like a small big car, not a big small car, if you know what I mean. The Jetta’s felt this way since 1993 at least, and the customer expects it. The current one doesn’t disappoint in that regard, so you’re still okay to buy one of those, if you want.

Time to place this rental in context. Compared to the Focus and Lacetti (okay, okay, Cruze, I’m just trying to be all KDM on yo’ ass) the Jetta is miles behind on content, electronic integration, and available options. Oddly enough, however, the powertrain still feels like a better choice for American-style driving than the overwound four-cylinders in the competition. It’s not my favorite small car of all time — that position is occupied by the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 that I had restored for my entry in the 2005 One Lap Of America — but it is enjoyable and relaxing to drive. For a long drive I might still choose this over the modern competition.

The problem begins when we consider the ownership proposition. Small cars aren’t luxuries, they are necessities. My fuel economy, despite a light foot, worked out like this:

931 miles / 31.5 gallons = 29.5mpg

Not even thirty miles per gallon. It’s not the legendary thirst described on the web, but it’s not good enough. Plain and simple. Not when everybody else delivers an easy thirty-five. It’s the equivalent of paying five bucks a gallon when your neighbors are paying four. Then there’s the matter of durability. I trust a Corolla to be durable. My mother’s 2008 Focus just turned the odometer over 60,000 miles without a single genuine issue. I’ve seen plenty of Elantras cross the 100K mark, albeit with some daunting disintegration of the interiors. Would I trust the Mexican Jetta to reach 200,000 miles? The understressed powertrain would probably make it. Would the electronics? The window regulators? All signs point to “Hell No.”

The irony of the situation is that, to some degree, this is the Jetta which will determine Volkswagen’s fortunes in this country. Everybody knows the Mk IVs were pieces of soft-touch crap, and everybody hopes the new ones will last, but until plenty of people out there see high mileages on the Mk V, Volkswagen will continue to face a trust shortage in America. We all know the history. Only time will tell if it will repeat.

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44 Comments on “Bye, bye, Miss Emm Kay Five....”


  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    I do not like goose neck hinges.

    • 0 avatar
      otaku

      My 2008 Ford Focus (just like the one Baruth’s Mom drives) uses a couple of small strut cartridges to prop up its trunklid. I guess this must be the best solution available, since, as far as I can tell, they are not nearly as tempermental as those Jetta parallelogram trunk hinges during the winter, nor do they interfere with the ability to stow any particularly tall packages or, for that matter, commit any of those other terrible ‘goose-neck-hinge-related’ crimes against humanity that Baruth mentioned.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The problem with struts is that they’re service parts while gooseneck hinges are for life. Some car companies do a very good job of packaging gooseneck hinges so that they don’t get anywhere near your luggage and still don’t seem to take up trunk space. Not only do struts wear out, if production of the car has ended and you’re looking to replace them, you can end up with new-old-stock struts that have already lost their charge waiting on a shelf and are just shinier versions of the dead ones you removed. I’ve been there.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        My Mom’s ’04 Dodge Stratus has the struts for the rear deck lid. However, CJ’s statement may not be totally correct as you should be able to get struts at the local auto parts store for your car from a 3rd party supplier as it’s considered a service part now.

        A buddy of mine had to replace struts to the hatch of his ’91 Honda Accord wagon about a decade ago and I think he got them at Baxter’s or some other auto parts store.

        I was able to get the replacement bulbs for the fog lights for my 92 Ford Ranger truck in 2006 through Autozone but the guy had to look them up and get them from behind the counter and they were an odd size.

        However, Mazda uses an odd spec bulb for their license plate lights in the P5 and we found some that we thought would work at Autozone, one does just fine, but they don’t really fit the sockets (too loose) though and are the pressed glass base bulbs too.

      • 0 avatar
        otaku

        CJinSD:

        I’m no expert, but I think the weight/design of the trunk probably has something to do with it. The trunklid on my ’08 Focus is not very heavy and when it’s fully open, it doesn’t seem to put any stress on the struts at all. I wouldn’t expect any problems on this particular vehicle unless the struts somehow jam and make moving the trunklid in either direction more difficult. Otherwise, even if they fail, the trunklid on my car is pretty easy to just open and close with the struts acting as hinges that stay out of the way.

        I remember my old 1991 Escort GT used similar looking strut cartidges for the hatch. Over the course of 16 years-worth of New England winters I never experienced any problems. My brother’s old 1987 Mustang GT hatchback, on the other hand, had a much heavier trunklid and its struts wore out after just a couple years, so I guess as they say YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      Baruth no longer in love with parallelogram hinges?

      The horror.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        CJ’s statement does have merit, but articulating hinges can be made to allow for keeping the trunk in the full open position with worn struts; our only GM in the family does just that. However, Jack’s statement that the “market has spoken” is not really correct. Fancy hinges spread because of the idea that “if brand X has them, we need them too”, lest we be viewed as a lesser car. That logic is what put fold down rear seats into American cars. The bean counters rather not have fold down seats, but it would be a shortcoming in the dealership to not have them. But the fancy hinges are being “value engineered” out of cars and nobody is complaining. There are still hinges on the trunk. So they are rapidly becoming an extinct species. Most would no doubt prefer the better hinge. But if all the competitors don’t have them, and nobody complains…for most it just does not matter. But it is yet another sign of cheapening of modern cars.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Looks like BMW’s new F30 328i reviewed here this week has the dreaded gooseneck hinges, albeit covered with plastic cladding.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      For what it’s worth, my parents’ 2008 Acura TL and 2004 Mercedes E320 both have gooseneck hinges. Oh, the humanity!

      (Seriously, the hinges don’t bother me one bit. They are covered so that nothing gets crushed.)

      However, neither has folding rear seats. That DOES bother me.

    • 0 avatar
      livelifedrive

      Goose necks are ugly, cheap and doesn’t give that ‘thump’. But they make way for easy motor installation for automated tailgates, not to say they’re reliable, never fail stuffs.

      I understand the whole thing, but still prefers my 1997 Audi A4 B5 hinges like the ones in the phaeton.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    The way to bet on the weather is to bet that tomorrow’s weather will be like today’s. That these new VW’s will have, well, “problematic” quality isn’t a foregone conclusion, but that’s the way to bet.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    20 years ago when the 5 cyl. was introduced “they” said power of a 6 with the economy of a 4, and they were right, back then when it was a 2.1 liter. I always loved the sound of that motor and still do but these days you do not need the extra piston. That might be my non-American view, and, that 5 most likely still has a place here, but surly, not for long?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    So the “tractor grade” “agricultural engine” (magazine words not mine) has the low end torque delivery of a good ole Murrican push rod V6 or V8.

    I’ve got the 3800+4L60E combo, and yes, the thing is über relaxing to drive. It feels good to not have to rev the s@#$%&t out of it to get power. And it gets consistent 30 mpg in the freeway.

    I like the elaborate hinges. For practical reasons, the goose neck ones are a PITA when really load the trunk. Newer cars compromise boot space hiding them behind BS panels.

    The eme ka cuatro must not be that bad… it’s still in production and selling well.

    I liked the use of Euro-snob rubbish to bash Euro-snob rubbish.

    Of topic, was the MKIII based on the MKII?

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    “On the broken Michigan pavement it clomps with authority.”

    I recall the ‘young, inexperienced, me’ noticing this on the German-built Rabbits of the day. (I worked in a job at the time that required me to drive all kinds of new vehicles; every day I had a one to four test drives.) Drive an American car of the period and it was bump/impact/shudder.. shudder… shudder… How repulsive. The Big-3 wasn’t going to get my money with a vehicle that felt and sounded like junk, and for a long time, they didn’t.

    On the 5 cylinder fuel economy, compared to my lighter 1986 GLI, high-revving manual, that’s not too bad. About 1-2 less. If the car was reasonably low-cost to own, I’d accept that as its only sin compared to the competition of the day.

    Nice story, Jack.

  • avatar
    banker43

    We bought one of these new in 2007 and now have only 30,000 miles on it due to the fact that we live very close to my wife’s work. Still, considering the fact that it is 5 years old with absolutly no maintainance problems during that time(other than a tire pressure monitor), we are very impressed with the car. Driving impressions are the same as yours, Jack. Rock solid “big” little car. I have also driven the new Jetta with the same powertrain several times. I do find the new car’s interior noticably cheaper. The new Jetta is OK, but it lacks a special feel the previous generation has baked into it.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Jack – the trunk hinge paragraph has to be your best yet!

    The one consistent malady of my sister’s 1993 Corolla (creme de la Corollas apparently), and 1996 and 2003 Camrys: window regulators. All of them. More than once occasionally.

    Question – are Euro-made Japanese brands any more reliable than Euro brands?

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I used to be one of those geniuses who was critical of VW’s 5-cylinder, without e ver actually driving one. I’ve since spent 10 days broken up over two trips with rental versions of the latest Jetta equipped with the 5-cylinder and the automatic. And frankly, this has become my favorite rental. I even like it more than the 2012 Grabber Blue Mustang I had. The Jetta was simply a better drive.

    I like the car’s responses, the steering, and the torquey grunt of the 5. It made nice noises and the mileage was decent.

    Possible red flags? My first Jetta had an incessant dash squeak. My second had a bad passenger seat sensor that forced me to keep the passenger belt buckled at all times – or else listen to constant warning chimes. Both Jettas had low miles.

    Still, if I was in the market, I’d strongly consider the Jetta.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I have a 2006 Mk5 Jetta but with the correct powertrain – TDI and manual transmission. Normal fuel consumption is around 5.5 L/100 km (about 43 mpg US).

    It has passed the 200,000 mile test with flying colours. (It is actually just beyond 367,000 km right now, which is well beyond 200,000 miles.)

    Wheel bearings, one ABS wheel speed sensor, and the alternator drive pulley have been the only major non-scheduled-maintenance repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      “I have a 2006 Mk5 Jetta but with the correct powertrain – TDI and manual transmission.”

      Yes, this is the combo you want. The five cylinder engine was a decent compromise when gas was cheap but with gas at $4 and climbing this car should either have a diesel for economical cruising or the 2.0T for a more sporting character. I think the five cylinder is a poor choice these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        For most drivers the 5 cylinder + slushbox combo meets their needs just fine. They are not hypermiling or playing boy racer, they are just driving a 4 door sedan 12,000 miles a year from point A to point B.

        Props to VW for offering lots of powertrain options like diesels, turbos, DSG, and manual transmissions to those looking for something a little more specific to their needs/wants/desires.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So once again we run into the old enthusiast vs typical consumer… I know where my heart lies but I know where American walets will vote.

  • avatar
    loj

    JB – good article. At some point I’d like to read one completely free of obnoxious references to the shit you spend your money on, but this one was formatted such that skipping over said content was easy.

    I share your distrust of “conventional wisdom” about the MK5 and MK6 cars. A couple years ago I rented an MK5 Rabbit in Detroit and the torquey, farty 5 cylinder lump charmed, never disappointing on the onramps. (I feel obligated to disclose that I like the GM Atlas 5 as well, so do take that chromosomal anomaly into consideration.) The car was soft but solid, buttoned-down and reasonably eager. Tied with an early Mazda6 as my favorite rental.

    Critics be damned, dealers are moving the MK6 Jetta like crazy here in D/FW. It might have to do with the absurd lease deals they’re offering, or a favorable lease might reflect their confidence in future residual values. I guess we’ll see in a couple of years when there is a correction in used car values and a 3 Series-like glut of lease return Jettas hits the used market.

    And sure the base model is embarrassingly Spartan, but Honda has been doing much the same thing with DX-spec cars for decades and autojournos haven’t bitched about it once.

    A question about fuel economy – is 29.5 mpg really that bad for a car like this? This is a real-world number, not a result of the ECU gaming the EPA cycle. It sounds like a pretty decent number to me.

    To speak to your last point about durability: No sane person is going to want a 5 year old Jetta; MK5, 6, or otherwise. The brotherhood of Neon veterans can take solace in the fact that the good car/fun car divide lives on in this car. But a program Corolla (or better yet, 4 cylinder Camry) with a decent set of tires isn’t a terrible compromise for a transportation appliance…

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I just finished up two years in an 8th-gen Honda Civic (about the same size on paper), which isn’t much slower (albeit more high strung), and usually saw around 34mpg, even driving moderately aggressively (like I said, it’s high strung). I’ve also broken 40mpg on a couple occasions. Driving styles and conditions can account for a large amount of variation, but it’s a noticeable difference.

      Like Jack said, 35mpg isn’t hard to get out of a modern compact.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      At some point I’d like to read one completely free of obnoxious references to the shit you spend your money on

      Well, part of the problem of being the kind of auto journalist who rents cars to go somewhere for personal purposes instead of being the kind who has BMWs delivered to your door every Monday is that you end up explaining to the reader why you’re driving 931 miles for no particular reason :)

      • 0 avatar
        Feds

        “because I like you guys so much, I rented a Jetta, drove it 465.5 miles, put some vaguely guitar and amp-shaped items in the trunk, then drove it 465.5 miles.”

        What _I_ want to know the truth about is how much of a discount you received from a certain guitar shop in Paw Paw Michigan, and whether or not you met with any semi-racist anthropomorphic bears.*

        * I don’t really want to know the truth about this, I just love the silliness required to criticize free content that you actively have to find and click on to read.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Having Driven both my brother’s MKV TDI jetta and my fiance’s MKVI TDI jetta, I can say that they both drive similarly, with the exception of the DSG. Not sure if its my imagination, but it seemed like the MKV felt more like a normal automatic.

    Jack, you got better than we did with that 2.5 in our old 2008 rabbit. We averaged about 26, sometimes 28 if we were particularly efficient. then again, I feel that the extra dab of power you get with that engine made up for it. Of all the small cars I’ve driven that weren’t turbo charged, I’d say the 2.5 rabbit was by far the most fun.

  • avatar
    vbofw

  • avatar
    vbofw

    “the #1 Gold Club member on his way to leverage some synergies sweats through them in a fashion no less corrosive than the single mother trying to make it to work after her Cavalier swallows its final piston”

    I write for a living….. consider myself a reasonably witty fellow. This is a perfect example of the shit Baruth writes that occasionally infuriates me, because I’m simply not that creative. Great connection between VW of yesteryear assembling in the States, versus the rise of Chatanooga today. Haven’t seen this written about elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar

      Same story told by two different guitar players. One saw Jimi Hendrix play in a club NYC just before he left for the UK, where he became a big star. The other saw Jimi play in a club in London just after he arrived there. Both said that after seeing what Hendrix could do, neither could pick up their guitars for a week. One was Michael Bloomfield, the other Jeff Beck.

      BTW, “sh!t Baruth writes that occasionally infuriates me” is great misdirection. You’re correct, you are fairly witty. Nicely done, sir.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Good review there Jack,

    I see these cars fairly often around here, both the Jetta and the Rabbit variants.

    I think the take rate between the two here in Seattle is probably about even as I see a lot of the Rabbits driving about.

    Haven’t driven one but still a good read none the less.

    But I have to quibble with you on hatchbacks, most of them now have some kind of cargo cover to hide what’s underneath and with central locking and keyless entry, ensuring all doors/hatch are locked tight and as long as you have the cover in place (or pulled up to cover if a rolling shade), no one will see what’s lurking in the cargo hold.

    And most VW’s built since the 70′s required that you ensure you locked the liftgate/trunk with the key (manual locks) as they forced you to unlock/lock as a separate step and they stayed unlocked until you locked it with the key and to access, simply push in on the lock to open.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I remember very clearly when the first unofficial photograph of the MK V leaked to the ‘Vortex many moons ago. There were howls of derision over the styling and many people thought it was a joke: “Wait, Volkswagen is releasing a Corolla-whuuuuu?”

    The styling of the MKV never really won anyone over, but in many ways the MKV was there to salvage Volkswagen’s reputation. Unfortunately for Volkswagen, they screwed the pooch on the styling and drivelines (sans DSG, which proved popular) and while the electronics were light years ahead of the MK IV, it just wasn’t up to snuff with the competition.

    I think VW finally got the value proposition right with the MK VI Jetta and recognized that soft touch plastics only sell to a small subset of the market. Long term durability in this market segment is far more important to customer satisfaction than soft touch and “European Handling”, which is as fuzzy a term as “the cloud” is in the technology world.

    VW put together a solid platform in the MK V but never had a winning overall combination until the MK VI Golf/GTI refined it and really nailed it. I think VW’s work on the MKVI GTI is some of their best to date and if the anecdotal notes on service are of any value, they seem to be of substantially better overall reliability than any VW in the last 30 years.

    The MKV was indeed a stopgap and I am very interested to read any insider stories on its development: what were the priorities, goals and reasons behind its development? Why the bland exterior? How quickly did VW realize that the MKV was overly expensive to manfacture and order the MKVI to remedy those problems? What lessons did VW corporate take from the MKIV and V and incorporate into the VI?

  • avatar

    My mother just went through the purchasing routine and the main competitors were a 08 Rabbit and an 08 Civic EX-L. It was the fuel economy that got to her, rather than the content. She loved the hatch, liked the way it drove, and liked the controls, but couldn’t look past fuel economy that was worse than an 4-cyl Accord.

  • avatar
    jimble

    As far as I know, Jetta wagons were always made in Germany. And if my experience is any guide, being made in the fatherland did not bestow any magic qualities of solidity or reliability on them. But I still love my mkiv 1.8t, with all its problems.

  • avatar
    Marko

    The Mk5 was a TREMENDOUS improvement over the Mk4. No offense to Mk4 owners, but that car was a clunker with nice styling, a soft-touch interior, a few interesting powertrain options and cool TV commercials. Ford built a better, more reliable (though larger) Mk4 with the 2006-2012 Fusion/Milan.

    Was the Mk5 perfect? No, but at least it didn’t get the “black dot of death” in every issue of Consumer Guide. In 2005, the interior and refinement were miles ahead of pretty much everything in its segment. Remember what it was competing against.

    The 2.5L feels at home in the new Passat. It’s not exceptional in any way, but perfectly adequate as a base engine for American buyers.

    The Mk5 is still sold in facelifted wagon form.

  • avatar
    Vermontcarguy

    “The death of American Volkswagen production had a lot more to do with dismal dealers and champagne-priced, poverty-specced product than it did with Pennsylvania production.”
    +1. I’ve always thought that the Westmoreland VW workers got a bad rap on this one. Our ’85 Golf wasn’t screwed together too badly, with only a dead fuel pump in 60k hard Vermont miles. But the car reeked of cost-cutting, especially the plasticky interior and Mexico-built 1.8L four. And the driving dynamics were European only in the same sense that the Yugo was European – my German cousin, who also owned a Golf, drove ours and couldn’t believe it was the same model. The local VW dealer was a joke too – a disgruntled customer (not me) tried to burn it down a few years later. We finally realized what an automotive appliance the Golf was when we bought an ’87 Integra – a light-years better car in every way. Haven’t owned a VW since, and probably never will.

  • avatar
    otaku

    I don’t know whether Mr. Baruth reads through any of these comments, but since he mentioned it in his article, I would be curious to get his overall impressions of his Mom’s 2008 Focus (if he ever drives it around) versus his recent spin in the rented Jetta. I’ve never driven any VW’s, but I do own an ’08 Ford Focus SE Coupe and find it to be a very comfortable economy car with an almost mid-size feel. While the 29.5 mpg average he achieved while driving Jetta in an efficient manner is not terrible, I can usually do a little better in city/suburban driving and closer to about 40 mpg cruising between 65-70 mph on the highway. Mine only has a PZEV 132hp 2.0L inline four mated to a simple 4-speed automatic, but I suspect the power-to-weight ratio is similar to the reviewed Jetta, as I think my Focus probably weighs about 500 lbs less.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    I bought an EMM KAYE VEE Jetta in 2005, right when they came out. a 2005.5 model, 2.5L, 5-speed, base model with ESP.

    I sold that car to a friend with 80,000 miles in 2009. Problems: two recalls (nothing broken) and had was on it’s third set of rear pads. original front pads.

    I did basic ricer stuff to it – lowering springs, GTI rear sway bar, torque arm insert, short shifter, software, blah blah – and beat the SHIT out of that car. The absolute shit, entirely out. I did a burnout from 49,999.7-50,000.1 miles to finish out my warranty. I routinely hit the speed limiter before I had the flash tune done. By 80,000 miles, it was going through maybe a quart of oil every 75,000 miles.

    I recently checked in with the owner of that car. It’s closer to 170,000 miles now. It goes through about two quarts every 7,500 miles. It had the clutch master cylinder replaced, more brake parts, he ran it into something and replaced the core support. Mechanical problems? It has a CEL from the aftermarket intake without a bung for the air injection or EGR or something. Things broken?

    no. Window motors: still work. A/C: fine. Electric PS: fine. ABS/ESP: fine. Parallelogram hinges: fine.

    I’m entirely aware this is anecdotal evidence. But it’s still fairly good evidence.

  • avatar
    tedward

    tentacle pentration AND the sister context!? You win the metaphor race. Now I see why everyone is afraid to flame bait you off of TTAC.

    Loved the article, and I love it that someone is sticking up for the 2.5. Try one with a grown-up’s exhaust upgrade sometime, it is way better sounding even if it doesn’t really deliver extra power.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I loved the idea of the 2.5 in a Golf/Rabbit, drove two hours to the nearest dealership to lay eyes on one with a manual and without all the gastly electronic fiddly bits and suchlike. Loved what I’d been hearing about the engine’s low-end grunt and the chance to get to teach myself to drive a proper manual again with such an engine.

      Then I test drove it, just around the parking lot.. that killed it.

      “These seats HURT!”

      “These are the Sporty seats, same as what’s in the GTI.”

      “You can’t replace them with seats that don’t HURT?”

      “Uuuuh..”

      “Well what am I supposed to do about them?”

      “Well, those bolsters will wear-down Eventually, just get a cushion.”

      “Do you sell cushions?”

      “Uuuuh…”

      And thus began and ended my budding flirtatious romance with VW.


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