The Truth About Cars » Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:22:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/volkswagen/ Suzuki: “I Feel Refreshed” After Win Against Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-i-feel-refreshed-after-win-against-volkswagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-i-feel-refreshed-after-win-against-volkswagen/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:22:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156202 Osamu Suzuki (middle right), chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation, can finally celebrate his biggest win. After a failed alliance with Volkswagen put Suzuki — the chairman and company — on the back foot for almost four years, the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in London has decided in the Japanese company’s […]

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Volkswagen and Suzuki agreed to establish a comprehensive partnership

Osamu Suzuki (middle right), chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation, can finally celebrate his biggest win. After a failed alliance with Volkswagen put Suzuki — the chairman and company — on the back foot for almost four years, the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in London has decided in the Japanese company’s favor. Suzuki will purchase back their own stock from Volkswagen.

Suzuki received news of the ruling Saturday and filed the information with the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Sunday.

“It’s good that a resolution came. I feel refreshed. It’s like clearing a bone stuck in my throat,” said to reporters gathered at a news conference in Tokyo, reports Automotive News. “I’m very satisfied with the resolution. Through it, Suzuki was able to attain its biggest objective.”

In a statement released today, Suzuki Motor Corporation “requested Volkswagen AG to terminate their business and capital alliance through amicable negotiation. However, as VW failed to respond to Suzuki’s request, Suzuki served on 18 November 2011 a notice of termination of the Framework Agreement that was made with VW. Further, on 24 November 2011, based on the parties’ agreement, Suzuki filed a request for arbitration in London, which is the place of arbitration with the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.”

The tribunal found in favor for Suzuki in two areas: a termination of the “Framework Agreement” and Volkswagen’s divestment of shared in Suzuki.

From Suzuki:

The Tribunal found that the Framework Agreement was validly terminated by Suzuki’s notice of termination dated 18 November 2011 mentioned above, such termination being effective from 18 May 2012.

The Tribunal upheld Suzuki’s claim regarding VW’s disposal of its shares in Suzuki and ordered VW to divest forthwith those shares to Suzuki or a third party designated by Suzuki using a method which is reasonably determined by Suzuki.

Volkswagen’s 19.9-percent share in Suzuki will be purchased by the Japanese company through the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

However, Suzuki could still incur financial penalties later, as Volkswagen’s counterclaim of breach of contract was also partially upheld. That claim will be “addressed in a further stage of the arbitration,” stated Suzuki Motor Corporation. According to Volkswagen in a statement, Suzuki “failed to give Volkswagen last-call rights for the delivery of diesel engines. Volkswagen reserves the right to claim damages against Suzuki.”

The official end of the alliance will likely trigger more succession planning for the Japanese auto and motorcycle manufacturer. In June 2015, Osamu Suzuki appointed his eldest son, Toshihiro, to the role of president.

 

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Volkswagen Planning Hot Tiguan R Coupe Because Why Not http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-planning-hot-tiguan-r-coupe-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-planning-hot-tiguan-r-coupe-not/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:27:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141338 Volkswagen may build a three-door version of its compact crossover to compete against the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 and Audi RS Q3 because hot hatches are now hot crossovers, Autocar (via AutoGuide) is reporting. According to the report, the Tiguan R would be powered by the Golf R’s 300-horsepower turbocharged four. It could go on sale as […]

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03 Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen may build a three-door version of its compact crossover to compete against the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 and Audi RS Q3 because hot hatches are now hot crossovers, Autocar (via AutoGuide) is reporting.

According to the report, the Tiguan R would be powered by the Golf R’s 300-horsepower turbocharged four. It could go on sale as early as 2018 in the UK. It’s unclear if it would go on sale in the U.S. around the same time.

Autocar reported that insiders say the Tiguan R would come with VW’s six-speed dual-clutch gearbox and an electronic torque vectoring to manage all the boost so you don’t understeer and die.

The Tiguan R is expected to join the second generation of bigger Tiguans that will go on sale starting in 2017. In 2018, it’s expected that VW will sell the Tiguan in a “coupe” form, with the Tiguan R to follow.

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Volkswagen Selling e-Golf SE in August, Targets Nissan Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-selling-e-golf-se-august-targets-nissan-leaf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-selling-e-golf-se-august-targets-nissan-leaf/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1135890 A lower priced e-Golf will directly compete with the Nissan Leaf for sub-$30,000 electric car buyers, the automaker announced Wednesday. The e-Golf SE will start at $29,815, before federal and any available state incentives, which is nearly the same price as a Leaf S, Autoblog correctly pointed out. The e-Golf has a range of around 83 miles. […]

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2015 Volkswagen e-Golf 3

A lower priced e-Golf will directly compete with the Nissan Leaf for sub-$30,000 electric car buyers, the automaker announced Wednesday.

The e-Golf SE will start at $29,815, before federal and any available state incentives, which is nearly the same price as a Leaf S, Autoblog correctly pointed out. The e-Golf has a range of around 83 miles.

The Leaf has sold nearly 11,000 copies since the beginning of 2015.

The SE trim will have a smaller, 6.5-inch touchscreen, compared to the SEL’s 8-inch model. Additionally, the e-Golf SE will only have a 3.6 kW onboard charger as standard. A 7.2 kW DC fast charger will be available later in the year for the model.

The Leaf S has an available quick charge package that boosts capacity to 6.6 kW for $1,770.

The Golf SE should be arriving in dealerships later this month, Volkswagen said.

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Suzuki Wanted to Sell Re-badged Jetta Hybrid in the US http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-wanted-to-sell-re-badged-jetta-hybrid-in-the-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-wanted-to-sell-re-badged-jetta-hybrid-in-the-us/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 20:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1134585 In a detailed report on the failed alliance between Suzuki and Volkswagen, Automotive News reports that the Japanese automaker wanted to re-badge and sell Volkswagen Jetta Hybrids in the U.S. before the company eventually decided to close up its local sales arm. The report, which came out on Monday, is a play-by-play of what happened […]

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2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

In a detailed report on the failed alliance between Suzuki and Volkswagen, Automotive News reports that the Japanese automaker wanted to re-badge and sell Volkswagen Jetta Hybrids in the U.S. before the company eventually decided to close up its local sales arm.

The report, which came out on Monday, is a play-by-play of what happened from the time Suzuki CEO Osamu Suzuki and Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn first shook hands in 2009, to when Suzuki announced it was cutting its losses, up to today as the automakers struggle over VW’s 19.9-percent ownership of the Japanese automaker.

The original agreement, which would open the door for Suzuki to use advantaged Volkswagen powertrain technology while also giving VW a view into Suzuki’s Indian success, is said to have not been respected by Volkswagen.

From Automotive News:

“The alliance is meaningless,” Harayama told his interlocutor, according to internal Suzuki documents chronicling the demise of the alliance that were obtained by Automotive News.

“Our engineers have lost the desire to cooperate with VW.”

A tipping point, Harayama added, came during an earlier top management meeting. The Suzuki side presented VW CEO Martin Winterkorn a list of complaints. But the tactic backfired.

According to Suzuki’s version of events, instead of contemplating Suzuki’s suggestions for mending relations, the ticked-off German surprised the Japanese by pounding the table in irritation.

“With this, we understood that it is impossible to work with top management to resolve the front-line problems,” Harayama told an off-guard Wittig, who insisted he hadn’t come to the meeting to negotiate with Harayama. “We want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer about whether we will hold joint discussions,” Harayama demanded before excusing himself to catch his flight home.

The conclusion of the failed alliance won’t be known until a decision is made by the ICC International Court of Arbitration. However, there are some interesting tidbits to take away from the report, such as Suzuki’s want for Volkswagen cars to badge as their own.

At one point in the negotiations, Suzuki hoped VW would supply its Jetta Hybrid sedan and other vehicles through Suzuki’s North American sales network, the documents revealed. Tweaking its own cars to meet American specifications increased Suzuki’s development man-hours by half.

“It is becoming difficult for Suzuki, a company focused on compact cars, to bring together a North American product line sufficient to continue operating a N. American sales network,” Suzuki said in one document before the tie-up that outlined the items it wanted incorporated into a VW agreement. “The development cost burden is heavy.”

If you have a chance (and a subscription to Automotive News), the report is worth a read. However, you might want to read Matt Hardigree’s take on reading business stories immediately after.

 

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Goodbye, Volkswagen 2.Slow; Oh, Hello New 1.4T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/goodbye-volkswagen-2-slow-oh-hello-new-1-4t/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/goodbye-volkswagen-2-slow-oh-hello-new-1-4t/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 19:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1133617 Volkswagen just took the wrapper off its 1.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder that will replace the 2-liter naturally aspirated noise machine in most of its Jettas, the automaker announced today. The engine will produce 150 horsepower (vs. 115 hp in the outgoing model) and will produce 184 pound-feet of torque (vs. 125 in the old engine) […]

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ea211_14_tsi_engine_5122Volkswagen just took the wrapper off its 1.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder that will replace the 2-liter naturally aspirated noise machine in most of its Jettas, the automaker announced today.

The engine will produce 150 horsepower (vs. 115 hp in the outgoing model) and will produce 184 pound-feet of torque (vs. 125 in the old engine) and highway fuel economy is expected to reach 39 mpg, the automaker said.

The engine uses a small, single-scroll compressor for its turbocharger and an integrated intercooler. The engine can be mated to either a five-speed manual (!) or six-speed automatic.

The small displacement, force-fed engine is roughly related to the EA111 engine, but features a smaller bore and longer stroke. The compact design saves weight and space and Volkswagen engineers hinted that the engine could see further boosting in different applications for the engine in the future.

According to representatives from Volkswagen, the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine should be appearing in dealerships toward the end of August or early September.

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Volkswagen Bringing Safety To The People For 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-bringing-safety-to-the-people-for-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-bringing-safety-to-the-people-for-2016/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128569 Volkswagen has announced sweeping changes to their suite of tech-driven safety features for the 2016 model year, making a vast array of options available on almost every model within its range. The features, which are currently only available on the Touareg, will trickle down to a number of other models including the Beetle, CC, Jetta, […]

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Der neue Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen has announced sweeping changes to their suite of tech-driven safety features for the 2016 model year, making a vast array of options available on almost every model within its range.

The features, which are currently only available on the Touareg, will trickle down to a number of other models including the Beetle, CC, Jetta, Passat and Golf in all its flavors.

Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist); Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); the Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist); and an active Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist) system” are all mentioned in the release sent out today by Volkswagen of America.

The changes are also part of a planned upgrade to infotainment systems in Volkswagen vehicles for 2016. The new infotainment system, dubbed MIB II, will bring with it an improved touchscreen display and USB ports to Volkswagen’s most popular models.

You can check out the full changes to Volkswagen’s safety features on their media portal.

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Volkswagen Surpasses Toyota in Global Auto Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-surpasses-toyota-global-auto-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-surpasses-toyota-global-auto-sales/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126585 Despite slowdowns in China, Russia and Asia, Volkswagen surpassed Toyota in global auto sales by delivery in the first half of 2015, Automotive News Europe is reporting. Volkswagen sold 5.04 million cars in the first six months of 2015, compared to 5.02 million for Toyota, according to the report. Sales were down 1.5 percent and […]

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Volkswagen Wolfsburg

Despite slowdowns in China, Russia and Asia, Volkswagen surpassed Toyota in global auto sales by delivery in the first half of 2015, Automotive News Europe is reporting.

Volkswagen sold 5.04 million cars in the first six months of 2015, compared to 5.02 million for Toyota, according to the report. Sales were down 1.5 percent and 0.5 percent for Toyota and VW respectively.

GM was the third-largest automaker with 4.86 million vehicles.

Volkswagen capitalized on a growing European market to help offset softening Chinese sales. Passenger-vehicle sales fell for the first time in two years in China as that country’s economy responds to market volatility.

Sales slumped in South America, some Southeast Asia markets and sales in Russia have dramatically declined, the story points out.

Deliveries in North America increased by only 4.4 percent, the smallest margin since the economic recovery began in 2009.

The report is the latest in the saga of “Who Wants To Be The World’s Largest Automaker?” with VW on pace to take the crown three years before their executives forecasted. In May, it looked as if VW would take silver thanks to its ongoing leadership shuffle, but a resurgent European market may help. Meanwhile, Toyota may make up ground after a 10-percent gain in China in the first half, according to the report.

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI SE Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-vw-jetta-tsi-se-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-vw-jetta-tsi-se-review/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122369 In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in […]

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IMG_0703 (Large)

In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in the Volkswagen hierarchy. On one hand, it’s the uncoolest of the watercooled VWs, the American-market special loathed by the kind of Euro-fanatics who make up the vast majority of the company’s loyalists in the United States. They view the existence of the Jetta as an open expression of German contempt for Baconator-eating Americans, and the sharp divergence between Jetta and Golf that took place in the sixth generation hasn’t exactly poured oil on the waters.

On the other hand… it’s been the best-selling VW in this country more often than it hasn’t. It’s the official VW of sorority girls, single moms, adventurous empty-nesters, and rental fleets. It’s the Volkswagen we deserve, because we sign on the dotted line for it more often than we do the Golf and the GTI and the Tiguan combined. As such, it deserves a full slate of TTAC reviews. Our Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, had kind things to say about a loaded-up Jetta TDI, and our good friend and itinerant contributor Blake Z. Rong was less complimentary about the GLI. Which leaves just the infamous “2.slow” 115-horsepower base model and the newly-remixed 1.8 TSI mid-ranger.

I chose the latter for a cheerful little 514-mile jaunt the other night, from just south of Asheville, NC to just north of Columbus, OH. It rained for much of the drive. There was fog. I witnessed the aftermath of three massive accidents, including one semi-trailer that had skidded sideways across one of Interstate 40’s most treacherous segments then flopped over in the median. I had some nontrivial time pressure and I’d already been awake for fifteen hours when I got in the car to begin the trip. Lousy circumstances, to be certain. So how did the Jetta do?


IMG_0705 (Large)

Over the past forty years, VW has become infamous for its Brokeback Mountain-esque inability to quit its old platforms. The Beetle stuck around until 2003, the Mk1 Golf was produced until 2009, the second-generation Passat (Quantum to us) continued to dazzle Chinese buyers until, um, the year before last. No surprise, then, that VW’s decision to continue the Golf unto the seventh generation has yet to apply to the Jetta. Instead, there’s a mild facelift both inside and out for 2015. Perhaps the more important change happened in 2014, under the wide, flat hood: the 170 hp @ 6200 rpm/184 lb-ft@1500-4750 1.8 TSI that shines in the Golf TSI is now standard with the SE trim level. It’s $20,915 as I drove it with the six-speed auto, or $19,815 with a manual transmission.

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That’s two or three grand cheaper than a Camry or Accord, and you’ll still get heated cloth seats, Bluetooth capability, sixteen-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, and cruise control for the money. What you will not get is the room and interior furnishings of even the most basic mid-size Japanese-brand car. The Jetta is adequately spacious front and back, and VW’s managed to do a decent job with the steering wheel and the center stack, but there’s no premium feel here. Everything’s bolted together pretty solidly, however, and if a few of the details (like the seat adjuster) feel deliberately cheapened there’s nothing that requires apologies at this price level.

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As I headed north from Asheville, I figured that I needed to average just over 70 mph for the entire trip to avoid being late for work the next day. Unfortunately for me, that section of 40 runs through the mountains, and there was heavy rain mixed with sections of thick fog. Traffic was light, but it wasn’t breaking the double-nickel in most places. Immediately the 1.8 TSI earned my affection as it chugged up a succession of four-thousand-foot climbs, usually without requiring the transmission to select fourth. The steering in this car is supposedly electric power assist and it’s fairly light, but I found that incipient scrub against wet pavement was telegraphed pretty well, allowing me to run remarkably quickly through the long, damp curves. A few times I got a bit too enthusiastic and felt the front end slip, but this wasn’t too alarming. Simply reducing throttle caused the car to find its line again.

Down the long hills, I used the indifferent Tiptronic selector to maintain speed, but once I realized how well the brakes were holding up I stopped being so deliberate about shifting. Plus, the Jetta has reasonable grade logic built in and it will avoid upshifting all the way if you’re on a nine-percent hill or similar.

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In circumstances like these, the Jetta has some clear advantages over something like an Accord. It’s a bit smaller, a bit more manageable, it has 205-width tires that cut standing water pretty well, the turbo engine/six-speed combination feels more enthusiastic and flexible than the big-bore four/CVT setup you get with a Honda or Nissan. I don’t think I could have made the same kind of time in a Camry or even (shhhhhhh) something like a 535i. So as the road flattened out and I saw the signs for Knoxville, I was feeling good about the Hecho-In-Mexico compact VW.

On a straight and dry freeway, however, the Jetta’s absolutely miserable stereo threatened to erase a lot of that good will. The single-zone climate control that seemed incapable of making subtle adjustments didn’t help either. And though there’s very little aero noise in this car, there’s no shortage of tire rumble, mechanical noise, and booming resonance at various rev ranges. All of a sudden, the extra money for something like an Accord EX seems like a solid return on investment. But the Jetta is no penalty box; it’s simply not quite up to the standards set by larger, more expensive competition.

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Over the course of the next three hundred miles I came to respect this car despite the above-mentioned flaws. The ergonomics are correct. The controls respond with appropriate weighting and feedback. The cruise control offers adjustment in both one-and-five-mile-per-hour increments, and though it’s not quite as slick as the way Mercedes-Benz does it, at least the feature is present. The seats look like an experiment in using recycled garbage bags to wrap around low-density foam molds but they failed to aggravate the back injury I suffered at Laguna Seca a few weeks back. Compared to the much more expensive seats in the brand-new Porsche 911 I’d been driving earlier in the day, these cheapo buckets were positively delightful. This kind of stuff matters, you know. Like my old 1990 Fox, the Jetta has the basics right and that shines through despite the low-cost execution.

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I would be remiss if I did not mention another particular excellence of this automobile: fuel economy. In the mountains, with full throttle the order of the day far more often than would occur in normal driving, the Jetta TSI reported 34.5 mpg. On the long run from Lexington to Columbus, it reported 38.9. These numbers were approximately confirmed when I refueled over the course of the trip. Given that I was running a flat 85 mph most of the time, that’s positively parsimonious. No Accord or Camry is going to turn in numbers like that unless it has the word “Hybrid” somewhere on the rear fascia. I’d be surprised if the Golf TSI could match it; there’s something to be said for the aerodynamics of three inches more wheelbase and quite a bit of trunk to smooth out the airflow in back. Keep in mind, too, that I never self-consciously drove for fuel economy. Operated in the same fashion, my Accord V6 six-speed typically returns about 25 mpg. Hell, my Honda VFR800 can’t return much better than 40 mpg at a steady 85 mph. So this is a big deal and if gasoline returns to four bucks a gallon outside California — you’ll see people taking it into account.

Thanks in large part to the Jetta’s long range on a single tank, I got home a few minutes earlier than I’d planned, letting me catch a quick nap before work. I felt reasonably rested and pain-free despite the length and conditions of the trip. I couldn’t think of another twenty-grand vehicle that would have done any better in this assignment — but I also didn’t feel even a twitch of joy or delight regarding the 2015 Jetta SE TSI. I’d rather have had a new GTI, but there’s six grand of difference between a stick-shift TSI Jetta and the GTI. At that point, if you’re willing to spend real money, you might as well go the whole hog, import a new Phaeton in a container, and rivet on the VIN from some junkyard’s 2005 basketcase W12. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

If we ever get a Mk7 Jetta, if there is even such a thing in the works, it will no doubt be a better car than this is. For today, however, the price is fair and the performance is more than adequate. So what if it’s the “American VW”. This is America. And for my American road trip, this Mexican VW was just fine.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI Review – Hold Right There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122873 Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.” We all know exactly how this is going to go: The Golf is better than the Jetta. The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and […]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.”

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

  • The Golf is better than the Jetta.
  • The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and a dog.
  • The 1.8 TSI is more fun than the 2.0 TDI.
  • The 2.0 TDI is more efficient than the 1.8 TSI, but not enough to justify the increased MSRP when fuel prices are low.
  • You should get the manual if you can.
  • Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)
  • You should also buy this if you care about manuals and wagons and diesels, especially as a package. (Brown is for Luddites.)

It’s with these points in mind I plunged into a week-long test of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen — just a mere two weeks after driving the Jetta TDI.

And as much as I like it — really, really like it — the long-roof Golf is hard to justify for exactly two reasons.


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL [USA]/Sportwagon Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2-liter DOHC I-4, turbodiesel with intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/42 highway/35 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 39.9 mpg, approx. 70-percent city driving with a light foot

Options (U.S.): Lighting Package, Driver Assistance Package.
Options (Canada): Multimedia Package (includes bi-xenon headlights with AFS, 5.8-inch touchscreen audio with navigation, 8-speaker Fender premium audio, forward collision warning system, LED daytime running lights).

As Tested (U.S.): $33,995 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $38,120 (sheet)


But, before we get to that, let’s talk about the car in a vacuum.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (8 of 14)

Exterior
The Golf SportWagen (U.S., in Canada it’s called Golf Sportwagon … like the actual word … in English) replaces the Jetta wagon in Volkswagen’s American lineup. The wagonified compact earns its new name by being more closely related to the Golf than the Jetta this time around. Underneath its sheet metal is Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform shared with the current 3- and 5-door Mk7 Golf and Audi A3.

Thanks to a more modern platform, the Golf SportWagen is roughly 134 pounds lighter than the outgoing Jetta Wagon — and that’s with a longer, wider body. The long-roof Golf is 1.1 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than the Jetta it replaces, though Volkswagen does make a point to mention the new wagon’s roof is 1.1 inches lower than its predecessor, possibly reducing the car’s frontal area.

The execution of the Golf SportWagon is at odds to the Charger I drove the week before. The Dodge looks completely different from its predecessor despite using the same platform, while the Volkswagen somehow looks more similar to its predecessor even while riding on a whole new platform.

Up front, the SportWagen is all Golf. Put the two side by side and there isn’t much difference. The headlights in our tester were fitted with LED daytime running lights that show up much better in person than they do in pictures on a rainy day. Below the bumper skin is a tiny square, hidden away, that houses the radar gear needed for the adaptive cruise control and other semi-autonomous and safety features. I must say that Volkswagen does a hell of a lot better job at hiding their new-fangled techno gear than most others (FCA and Hyundai, I’m looking at you two).

Around back, the SportWagen receives its own sheet metal and taillights that are tenfold more appealing than the old Jetta wagon. The taillamps festooned to the rear of the Jetta were quite rounded off and lacked even a modicum of personality. The new SportWagen says, “Yes, I’m practical, but I’m oh-so sharp at the same time.”

From the side, the SportWagen does the long-roof body style justice by keeping the D-pillar fairly upright and the lines as simple and cohesive as possible. This is no Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and it shouldn’t pretend to be. The bright, deep shade of Silk Blue Metallic paint is enough to call attention to this long-wheelbase Golf. Other than the color, the Golf makes no sporting boasts, though the wheels are a tad much.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (11 of 14)

Interior
Inside is the same as any other Golf — good materials, well-planned design, simple dials, decent controls, all wrapped around a cheap infotainment display with crummy navigation and limited media input options — but more on that later.

When you run through a new car every week and have to wash each one, you notice some cars are much, much easier to keep tidy than others. The SportWagen only asked for a simple microfiber cloth to bring luster to the shiny plastic bits and dusting the remaining dash was a breeze.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (12 of 14)The instrument panel is clear and easy to read — thank you, Volkswagen, for getting rid of the stupid, retina-searing blue lighting accents that left ghosts in our vision — and the driving position was perfect for my 6-foot-1-inch frame. The seats are comfortable but nothing to write home about.

But, if there’s one gold star to be given to the SportWagen — and this applies to the Jetta and Golf as well — it’s for visibility. Volkswagen has figured out how to keep passengers safe without lifting belt lines to a driver’s pupils, and that’s doubly important when driving a low vehicle with a large interior volume and a rear window that’s seemingly eleventy billion feet away from your rear-view mirror. This enhanced visibility also contributes to a very open, airy feeling in the cabin.

Infotainment
Remember when I said there are two reasons that make justifying a Golf SportWagen difficult? This is one of them.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (14 of 14)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have a modern phone that doesn’t use the old-style iPod/iPhone connector and you don’t need a Volkswagen right freakin’ now, wait until next year. There is supposed to be a better infotainment system and actual, honest-to-goodness USB ports.

Let me be clear: If you buy a Jetta, Golf, or any Volkswagen with this red-headed stepchild combination of haphazard technology and later complain about how much it sucks in the comments, I will link to this review each and every time screaming, “I told you so!” before throwing you to the rest of the B&B. The combination of no USB ports and a sub-par infotainment system in a modern car, especially one in the $30,000 range, is inexcusable in 2015.

Another niggle is the process you’re forced to go through to pair a phone or media device via Bluetooth. You, the driver, must use the steering wheel controls and instrument panel display to pair phone and audio devices instead of the center touchscreen used by every other automaker. Before you say, “Mark, I only ever paired my phone to the car once … when I first bought it,” this design introduces a problem for those of us who have passengers who want to connect their own devices as the driver is then forced to perform pairing process. Expect to see this functionality move to MIB II’s center touchscreen for MY2016 — though, by then, you won’t need it because Volkswagen will finally provide USB ports along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drivetrain
Just like the diesel Jetta from weeks ago, diesel hesitation from a standing start is evident in the Golf SportWagen as well. Thanks to almost no initial torque from Volkswagen’s turbocharged compression-ignition four cylinder, the Golf is slow off the line until the snail starts to spin. It’s unnerving in the beginning, but you can compensate for it after a couple of days.

The six-speed DSG automatic is the same as the Jetta TDI, too. Crisp shifts are the norm and there’s no driveability issues outside of those detailed above.

The fuel economy surprised me. Even with all the additional weight of the wagon metal, the Golf still nearly crested 40 mpg with minimal effort.

However — and this is a big however — I’d still have the turbocharged, gas-fed 1.8 TSI instead. Unless you are clocking massive mileage or have an unrestrained desire to burn fryer fat on Oregon, the 1.8 TSI is more fun, delivers improved driveability and costs less initially. Also, I’d have the manual, just because.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (7 of 14)

Drive
You know what? As much as journalists admonish the Jetta and heap praise upon the Golf, Volkswagen has taken strides in making the refreshed Jetta a much more compelling proposition. So much so that — and I expect to get a bit of flack for this — the Golf isn’t really that much better than the Jetta, or at least not enough to justify the higher price.

If you were led to each car, the Golf SportWagen TDI and Jetta TDI, blindfolded, and asked to rate which one is better, 95 percent of the buying public would simply shrug and say, “They’re both good to me.”

The Golf SportWagen TDI suffers from the same off-the-line latency as its diesel sedan counterpart. They both have competent suspensions, but both feel a bit heavy, probably due to the big diesel lump at the front. Both testers had brakes you needed to lean on before they’d really grab those discs.

And this is a great segue into the second reason to not get a SportWagen.

Unless you really, really want a wagon, get a Jetta. Now, you probably noticed I didn’t say Golf, and there’s a reason for that, too.

The Golf SportWagen is, like DR Period says, “money”. One cannot simply ignore the massive bargain for which a Jetta can be had. If you are looking to get a car today, go out and lease a cheap Jetta for next to nothing, wait out the term, and go back to the Volkswagen dealer to see what improvements have been made in three years. This is a good solution for the aforementioned infotainment/USB problem above, as well. It gives you the car you need now — even though it might not necessarily be the one you want — and you bridge the gap to newer, better product at a cost that amounts to lint-covered pocket change.

So, there you have it: the best Golf SportWagen TDI is a diesel Jetta. You’re welcome.

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Volkswagen Wants to Combine Valet Parking and EV Charging [Video] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-wants-combine-valet-parking-ev-charging-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-wants-combine-valet-parking-ev-charging-video/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 19:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1115249 In its quest to take over the world, Volkswagen wants to automate parking and charging your electric vehicle at the mall and other public places where searching for a spot to put your car is an absolute pain. Dubbed V-Charge, which is short for Valet Charge, it’s a collection of technologies — including your smartphone — […]

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Volkswagen V-Charge Valet and Charging

In its quest to take over the world, Volkswagen wants to automate parking and charging your electric vehicle at the mall and other public places where searching for a spot to put your car is an absolute pain.

Dubbed V-Charge, which is short for Valet Charge, it’s a collection of technologies — including your smartphone — that allows you to pull up to the door of your favorite shop, tell your car to go park itself and then have it retrieved automatically with a (nearly) full charge (depending on how many pairs of shoes the missus tries on).

The project has six German and international partners, says Volkswagen, and could be implemented at current car parks with minimal work.

In short, the vehicle is dropped off in a valet area where the driver would then tell the car to drive into the car park and find a spot. The V-Charge infrastructure would then direct the vehicle to a spot with inductive charging if it needs an electrical top-up. Once fully charged, V-Charge would direct the car to another spot within the building to free up the inductive charging space for another car needing electricity.

The concept does make one assumption: that we still value car ownership and we want the same one back.

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Hunt for New VW Chairman May Go into 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/hunt-new-vw-boss-may-go-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/hunt-new-vw-boss-may-go-2016/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 16:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1114585 The search to replace former Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech may stretch into next year, Reuters is reporting. Piech left Volkswagen in April after a showdown with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, who is still a candidate for the top position. Piech led VW for more than two decades and is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. Interim chairman Berthold Huber is expected to […]

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Ferdinand-Piech

The search to replace former Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech may stretch into next year, Reuters is reporting.

Piech left Volkswagen in April after a showdown with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, who is still a candidate for the top position. Piech led VW for more than two decades and is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche.

Interim chairman Berthold Huber is expected to remain in the position at least until the end of 2015.

Reuters detailed the list of candidates who may ultimately replace Piech after the search is over.

Alongside Winterkorn, Ferdinand Oliver Porsche — great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, and nephew of supervisory board member Wolfgang Porsche — is also considered to be a candidate for Volkswagen’s top spot.

Wolfgang Porsche reportedly removed himself from consideration for the job, as did works council president Bernd Osterloh. Osterloh recently called for a slimmer management structure at the massive German automaker.

Huber is not considered to be in the running to permanently replace Piech. 

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1103201 Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia. The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s […]

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-003

Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia.

The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s Golf and A3 platform. It was then redesigned for 2012, sharing its bones with the MK5 Golf and Jetta.

Redesigning retro is always tricky. This explains why the original Bug barely changed over the years and why the other retro-flashbacks like the PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR turned into one-hit wonders. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade Herbie in for a new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. Either way you slice it, retro comes at a cost.

Exterior
The original “New Beetle” rocked cutesy-bubbly good looks, headlamps that screamed for aftermarket eye-lashes, tail lamps that begged to be flower-powered and a bud vase built into the dash. VW’s second take on the retro-bug is deliberately more masculine, or so I’m told. The classic fender bulges and retro-inspired wheels are still here, but this bug is longer, wider, and lower than ever before. Making this profile semi-circular like the last gen model would have been tricky since it’s nearly half a foot longer, so they didn’t even try. Instead the engineers penned a kink where the windshield meets the roof for a more traditional roofline up front. The changes make Herbie look like a bug that’s been stepped on slightly or stretched in the middle — take your pick.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-006

The 2015 model is still instantly recognizable as a Bug, but I think I actually miss the “cutsey” new bug’s overall style. The new front bumper seems especially out-of-place as it exaggerates the front overhang and the crisp creases don’t jibe with the oval lamps and bubbly fenders. The design struck me as a paradox: It is as conservative as we expect from Volkswagen, but slightly discordant with the rest of their product line. For a manufacturer known for elegant, restrained and monolithic styling, the Beetle strikes me as almost cartoonish. Almost. VW offers a fix, however: the Beetle drop-top. By removing the lid, the Beetle loses the “squashed” look and somehow gains rear headroom as well.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-007

Interior
The interior borrows parts from the corporate bin and wraps them in retro styling. We get plenty of painted plastic trim and two glove boxes as a nod to the past. If you’ve recently taken VW’s new Golf out for a spin, you should know that this Beetle is related to the 2015 Jetta, not the 2015 Golf and Audi A3. This means you find plenty of hard plastics inside, and the cabin doesn’t have the “discount Audi” feel you find in VW’s hot hatch. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. The Golf has an unusually nice interior for its base price tag and the Beetle is merely class average. Of course, the Beetle is also an odd product to classify as its only real retro competition comes from the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper.

Even on our loaded 1.8T tester ($27,805), VW decided not to borrow the Jetta’s power seats or automatic climate control. Although I found the front seats comfortable for my body shape, the range of motion is limited compared to other compacts. The Bug’s rear seats have become a tad more spacious in this generation, but should still be considered “emergency” seats due to limited leg room. Headroom is tight in the rear, but suitable for folks under 6-feet tall. Compared to the internal competition, you’ll find about 4-inches more rear legroom in the 3-door Golf and nearly 8 inches more in the Jetta sedan. If that surprises you, then you may also be surprised to hear that the Fiat 500 actually gives you more rear legroom than the VW, although cargo room is unquestionably more limited.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t get leather in your Beetle and we’ve come full circle to your choice of cloth or V-Tex leatherette — VW-speak for pleather. Of course, the Beetle is all about retro styling and that’s most apparent in the Classic trim, which is well equipped, bargain priced, and comes upholstered in checkered cloth and brown pleather.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment

Infotainment
No, our tester didn’t come with a CB radio, but there is something retro about VW’s long-serving infotainment systems. Base models get an AM/FM radio, single CD player, Bluetooth and VW’s MDI interface for iDevice/USB integration. In an odd twist, the new Beetle Classic trim and the top-end trim get VW’s touchscreen navigation head unit while the middle two models do not.

The 5-inch touchscreen is shared with the Jetta and, at this point, is far from a spring chicken. Compared to the latest offerings from the competition, VW’s nav system is slow, less polished, less intuitive and the screen is small. Although the 2015 Golf uses a newer system, the one you really need to wait for is the 2016 “MIB II” system with its larger screen and thoroughly modern software package — but it is expected to feature on other VW models before the Beetle. On the bright side, the optional 9-speaker Fender audio system is totally groovy.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001

Drivetrain
I never really minded the odd-ball 2.5L five-cylinder VW used to put under the Beetle’s hood, but there is no denying the new 1.8L turbo is a huge improvement. Also found under the hood of the Golf, Jetta and Passat, the 1.8L engine cranks out a respectable 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. Making the 1.8T even more attractive, all 184 lb-ft happen at just 1,500 RPM. Classic models come only with an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transaxle while other trims start with a five-speed manual. Opting for the slushbox will give you the best gasoline fuel economy at an EPA rated 25 MPG city and 33 highway.

Also shared with the Jetta is the Beetle’s refreshed 2.0L turbo diesel, good for 160 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque. Although it’s a little slower than the 1.8L gasoline turbo, acceleration is aided by a standard six-speed manual and an optional six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG) transmission.

If neither of those drivetrains float your boat, you can still get the Beetle R-Line with the last generation GTI’s 2.0L turbo engine with 210 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of twist. All those ponies are routed to the front wheels via the same six-speed DSG as the TDI model or a slightly tweaked six-speed manual.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Backup Camera

Drive
Out on the road, the differences between the Jetta, Golf and Beetle are readily apparent. The Beetle is noisier, more softly sprung and slightly slower than the all-new Golf hatchback. Comparisons to the more closely related Jetta are again a little more appropriate than with the Golf. When driven hard, the Beetle exhibits predictable dynamics with plenty of body roll and protest from the tires. At just under 3,000 pounds, the Beetle isn’t a heavy car for the 21st century, but neither is it overly light. A similarly equipped Jetta is a hair lighter despite being longer and the new VW Golf weighs about 100 lbs less. To put that in perspective, the Fiat 500, which could be seen as the only real competitor in this price bracket, is nearly 500 pounds lighter. (The Fiat is, of course, much smaller.) Handling improves on the top-end 1.8T model thanks to wider 235/45R18 tires all the way around, but you’ll need to step up to the R-Line before suspension changes address the soft springs our tester wore.

Acceleration in the 1.8T model is excellent for any car in the $20-26K range with 60 happening in 7.5 seconds, notably faster than the old 2.5L five-cylinder model. Although I wish VW had paired this engine to their six-speed manual, the base five speed is well matched to the engine. Shifter feel is excellent, shifter travel is moderate and the clutch pedal had a linear engagement we’ve come to expect from the Germans. The turbo engine’s low-end torque makes hill climbing a breeze and if you get the manual there’s less gear shifting than a comparable naturally-aspirated engine. Steering feel is average for the compact segment with moderate steering effort.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Instrument Cluster

The 2.0L R-Line model I sampled briefly from a local dealer seemed underpowered compared to the modern crop of direct-injection 2.0L turbos on the market, but it is notably faster than the Fiat 500 Abarth. Additionally, the six-speed DSG is a dynamic partner on your favorite winding road. The downside to the R-Line is that it isn’t the same engine you get in the current GTI. The new GTI 2.0L turbo has considerably more torque, a bit more horsepower and it all comes to the boil a little sooner than the old engine. That means the R-Line is not the Beetle-GTI hybrid you may be hoping for. It’s also a little rough around the edges thanks to less sound deadening material in the Beetle.

After a week with the Beetle, which happened to be shortly after my spin in a 2015 GTI and 2015 e-Golf, there’s just no way to sugar coat it: The Jetta and Golf are better options unless you value style over practicality, efficiency and performance. The Beetle is unquestionably more car for your dollar then you’ll find at the Fiat dealer, with more luggage room and a snazzier stereo. The problem is the new Golf is sitting right next to the Beetle on the lot. The Golf is more efficient, roomier, has a bigger trunk, handles better, it’s slightly faster and has a much more premium interior. For about the same price.

Now there is a twist here, and that is the VW Beetle Convertible. At $25,595, the Beetle convertible is better looking than the hard top beetle and it’s one of the best drop-top deals in the USA. VW also offers a 2.0L R-Line convertible and a diesel convertible with a six-speed manual. If you’re contemplating a Beetle and want style, there’s nothing wrong with the hardtop — go right ahead. If you’re on the fence, take my advice and either get the Golf or drop a few more bills and get the Beetle convertible.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review. 

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.2 MPG

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Backup Camera 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Cargo Area 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-002 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-003 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-004 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-005 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-006 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-007 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-008 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Instrument Cluster 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-002 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-003 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-004 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-005 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-006 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-007 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-008

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Volkswagen Builds Race Golf for Touring Car Customer Teams http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-builds-race-golf-touring-car-customer-teams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-builds-race-golf-touring-car-customer-teams/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 18:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112929 Chances are you probably won’t see this Golf in the Volkswagen showroom anytime soon. Volkswagen Motorsport rolled out its race-tuned Golf on Thursday, built to compete in the Touringcar Racer International Series. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which has been tuned to 330 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, is mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission […]

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Volkswagen TCR-Golf

Chances are you probably won’t see this Golf in the Volkswagen showroom anytime soon. Volkswagen Motorsport rolled out its race-tuned Golf on Thursday, built to compete in the Touringcar Racer International Series.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which has been tuned to 330 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, is mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive.

The huge rear wing, front air dam and side skirts obviously add 15 percent more go-fast.

The Golf sits on a track widened by 40cm (16 inches) and 18-inch tires.

The car was developed for the TCR series, which is already underway. Volkswagen said Liqui Moly Team Engstler will race the Golf at the Red Bull Ring in Austria before heading off to Singapore and the car would likely be available for other teams in 2016.

Volkswagen TCR-Golf

Volkswagen has been successful with its WRC Polo so far this year, and is second place in Global Rallycross behind Ford.

No word on how much the customer car will cost interested teams.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SEL Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-tdi-sel-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-tdi-sel-review/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1101225 Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask? Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf […]

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IMG_0279

Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask?

Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf sales in the U.S. are up 230% through June over the same period last year, and are tracking towards a record-setting 84,000 sales for 2015.

There are two 2015 Golfs in my driveway this week: my own two-door GTI 6-speed and today’s tester, the above four-door TDI SEL with the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is not a comparison test but the variation between the two cars’ equipment levels makes for some interesting perspectives.

The wide range of 2015 Golf models and drivetrain options available is one reason for all the hype and sales growth. From the base Golf to the sporty GTI, the all-electric e-Golf to the 292 hp all-wheel drive Golf R, and even this TDI Clean Diesel, Volkswagen has all hatchback prospects covered.

The Golf TDI’s turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder diesel motor produces 150 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque at only 1,750 rpm. Our tester came with Volkswagen’s slick dual-clutch six-speed DSG transmission. A handful of diesel TDIs are produced with a 6-speed manual transmission, but are actually slightly slower in acceleration than DSG-equipped cars. (A friend at a West Coast Volkswagen/Audi store thinks that VW only builds stick-shift diesels to satisfy the TDI “evangelist” — owners who are on their third diesel and sit around his showroom while their cars are in for service, telling everyone how their 200,000-mile TDI is still on its original clutch. He says they are the same folks who ask about “that European diesel that gets 70 mpg that Volkswagen won’t sell in the US.”)

The car comes in three versions, all available as a four-door model only. The base S model starts at $22,345 and comes well equipped with heated outside mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, side curtain airbags, a hill holder (!), split folding rear seats, rear wiper and washer, and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Step up to the $25,895 SE model and you add 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a power glass sunroof, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, front fog lights, a rearview camera and a 400-watt Fender audio system.

Our tester is the top of the line SEL model wearing an MSRP of $28,329. It adds 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a navigation system, automatic climate control, keyless entry, push-button start and a 12-way power driver’s seat. Our tester had pleasant grey and black “pleather” seats. (In the strange world of Volkswagen option packages, leather seating is only available on the sporty GTI and R models.)

IMG_0303

Our car also came with the $995 Lighting Package, which features bi-xenon headlights and an adaptive front-lighting system I found far superior to the standard lighting on my GTI. The $695 Driver Assistance Package, which includes front and rear parking distance control and a forward collision warning alarm, was a bit sensitive. I also think the package needs to add blind spot warnings in the mirrors to make it a worthwhile value.

The total MSRP of our TDI was a heart-stopping $32,005. According to auto broker TrueCar, the average discount available nationwide on this model is around $1,050. Volkswagen is currently offering 1.9% APR financing for up to 60 months on all TDIs, as well as a $249/month lease special for 36 months on the base model TDI.

A full 76% of the TDIs available for sale within 200 miles of me are the base S model. My Volkswagen dealer friend says the SEL variant sells well but availability is scarce so, like I learned with my GTI, getting the exact options and color you want will be near-impossible unless you are willing to order one and wait 6 months.

The TDI’s 18-inch wheels and Night Blue Metallic paint actually makes the hatchback look downright luxurious. (I wanted to use the phrase “screams luxurious” but then I would have to determine what my two-door GTI “screams” and all I could think of was “USC exchange student.”)

I have previously lamented how I should have purchased the 4-door variant of the GTI and the TDI drives the point home: while interior volume is identical on two- and four-door Golfs, ingress and egress to the roomy back seat can be a pain. Fold down the rear seats and you have the cargo room of a small CUV.

I have also learned why I’m apparently the only Golf owner who likes the 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center: my GTI does not have navigation. This TDI has this option and, between the too-small screen and its too-low location (not to mention its silly graphics), the system is awful. Word is that an 8-inch touchscreen is coming next year on all VWs. As I said about my GTI, the dash and controls are near Audi-worthy.

IMG_0289

The TDI’s keyless start/stop button is located on the console next to the shift lever — exactly where it belongs — rather than on the dash. You can push the button and grab the shift lever in one simple move. Why do most other carmakers put it on the dashboard?

At idle, the torquey diesel is barely louder than a direct injection Mercedes. Hit the accelerator from a standing start and you discover what may be the TDI’s biggest glitch: a hesitation followed by a too-sudden drivetrain engagement, enough to squeal the tires at three-fourth’s throttle. Our esteemed Managing Editor noticed the same thing in his test of a TDI Jetta. After a week in the saddle, I barely noticed it.

The TDI has been clocked at around 8 seconds for the 0 to 60 sprint. For most traffic situations, the car responds instantly to your right foot. It could use a little more highway passing power, but that is the price you pay for great fuel economy. The DSG shifter lived up to its hype: shifts are crisp and quick whether in automatic or manual mode.

While not quite a GTI, the TDI is also a lot of fun in the curves. It remains stable and firmly planted, though does share the slightly-sloppy steering of other Golf models. I did miss the World’s Largest Dead Pedal from my GTI in the turns.

The TDI eats up the miles on the open road with little tire or wind noise. My only complaint was a bit of monkey butt after a few hours from the seats being a bit too hard, but I will take that as the seats are super-supportive.

The TDI is EPA rated at 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway. This car’s fuel consumption indicator showed 41.0 mpg after a spirited mixed-use 350 mile run. I was skeptical of this number and sure enough, upon fill-up I hand-calculated the drive at 38.6 mpg. It turns out that other media outlets have also spotted this over-optimism of the fuel economy calculator. Let us hope that at least the Golf’s speedometer is accurate. (Perhaps we should add the feature from 1970s buff book tests that measured “Actual” vs. “Indicated” speedometer numbers. I seem to recall “Indicated” speed was usually 3 to 10% higher than “Actual” speed before Japanese brands came along and started hitting the mph number on the head.)

IMG_0316

Two- and four-door Golfs have the same exterior dimensions and interior volume.

What kept running through my mind as I was testing the TDI was that this automobile is two steps away — leather seats and better navigation — from being an Audi A3. Apparently Audi agrees as they are bringing back the A3 Sportback this year and among its engine options will be the TDI motor.

My friend at the VW/Audi dealership notes that the A3 hatch may hurt the TDI as Audi’s superior residual values means that lease payments on a higher-priced Audi may actually be lower than those on a VW TDI, as is currently the case on the A3 TDI Sedan. Although few diesel customers lease their cars, this payment disparity is one of the challenges created by Audi and Volkswagen sharing platforms.

The Golf TDI is a sophisticated high-mileage hatch that does a lot of things well. It is the most fun you can have at 40 mpg.

Picks:

  • Another variation of the all-around goodness of the Golf
  • Smooth and quiet TDI diesel motor
  • An Audi in disguise

Nit Pics:

  • Out-of-date navigation system and display
  • Loaded SEL model is pricey at $32,000
  • Off-the-line acceleration hesitation

Wife Sez: So tell me again why we did not get a moonroof in our GTI?

Volkswagen provided vehicle for one week along with insurance and one tank of gas.

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Review – The Loneliest Number http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-review-the-loneliest-number/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-review-the-loneliest-number/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 11:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1094945 Diesel torque? Fuel efficiency? Compact three-box sheetmetal? You only have two non-premium choices in the U.S.: the Chevrolet Cruze and this, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. That’s a serious dearth of variety. Even after expanding body style and size limitations to mid-size sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes, that still only includes two brands offering up all of […]

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (4 of 8)

Diesel torque? Fuel efficiency? Compact three-box sheetmetal? You only have two non-premium choices in the U.S.: the Chevrolet Cruze and this, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

That’s a serious dearth of variety.

Even after expanding body style and size limitations to mid-size sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes, that still only includes two brands offering up all of the available diesel cars in the non-premium bracket. More importantly, Volkswagen has embedded itself into the collective diesel consciousness and Chevrolet isn’t even a blip on the radar. You need to actively think of today’s diesel options before you remember the Cruze even exists.

VW’s ingrained diesel association and the Jetta’s more affordable compression-ignition cost of entry compared to the Cruze shows in the sales numbers. The Jetta TDI outsells the Cruze 2.0TD by more than 5 to 1. In fact, GM sells so few Cruze diesels, a California DMV employee is more likely to register a new e-Golf – yes, the all-electric VW Golf that wasn’t even on sale last year – or the California compliance Fiat 500e than a Cruze diesel.

So, when it comes to arrive-and-drive-away compact diesel sedans, there’s only one real option. But, does that alone make the Jetta worth buying?


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SEL [USA]/Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2.0L DOHC I4, turbodiesel w/ intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3500-4000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1750-3000 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/46 highway/36 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 42 mpg, approx. 60% highway

Options: Technology Package (Canada, similar to Driver Assistance and Lighting Package in the U.S.)

As Tested (U.S.): $30,020 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $33,890 (sheet)


2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (2 of 8)

After four years of taking its beatings over the decontented sixth-generation Jetta, Volkswagen has said they’ve had enough and won’t be phoning it in anymore. For 2015, the Jetta receives a laundry list of improvements as part of a mid-cycle refresh – though you wouldn’t know it to look the compact sedan square in the face. While it might be cliche, it’s what’s inside the Jetta that counts.

For starters, the Jetta receives a new version of the ubiquitous 2.0L TDI I4, now pumping out 150 hp and 236 lbs-ft of torque, up 10 hp over last year. Even with the power uptick, the new engine will stretch a tank of diesel farther than before, now rated at 36 mpg combined versus 34 mpg pre-refresh. This particular tester, the exact same Jetta our resident sales expert Tim Cain tested back in March, returned a stellar 42 mpg in my hands. Tim did even better at 44.4 mpg, though this is likely down to Mr. Cain’s home being located in a suburban neighborhood versus my more urban digs.

While fuel economy and torque are key with diesels, I’d have given up a bit of either – or both – for improved drivability. The Jetta refused to wake up when given a moderate application of throttle from a standing start. Yes, it’s a diesel. I get it. However, even during multiple attempts to compensate for the Jetta’s lack of gumption by giving it more pedal only resulted in some fairly embarrassing launches that caused my passenger to question my chosen profession. Over the span of a week, I did eventually find a happy medium, but it was finicky at best and didn’t inspire much in the way of confidence as I tried to navigate intersections with heavy cross traffic.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (5 of 8)

On the bright side, shifts from the 6-speed DSG automatic were as crisp as one could hope and completely devoid of the abrupt engagements felt in the ZF-sourced automatics found equipped in some Chrysler and Land Rover products. Also, since CVT isn’t part of the Volkswagen lexicon in North America, we don’t have to listen to the hollow, shiftless version of the diesel inline-four’s drone.

Ride quality rates fair with road imperfections exacerbated by 17-inch wheels and thin sidewalled rubber. However, thanks to suspension upgrades over the past few years, the Jetta is at least a better handler than before. While you’re not about to start another Jetta TDI Cup with the latest batch of sixth-generation sedans, it could actually be called fun to drive, even if it felt a bit heavy in the bends.

What wasn’t fun were the brakes. While it might have been just this particular tester, the first inch or so of pedal travel was soft and lacked any kind of engagement. This wasn’t the first diesel VW I’ve experienced laden with squishy brake pedal syndrome, but I can’t really find or explain a cause. It was easily rectified by just giving it more pedal and I never once felt in any danger of not stopping.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (6 of 8)

Just like the Jetta’s driving dynamics, the interior is a mixed bag. While all the materials in this top spec model were of a much higher calibre than those of just a couple years back, there were still some glaring deficiencies.

For starters, the infotainment system was a bust. If you really like a sharp looking 7- or 8-inch display sitting proudly within the dash, look elsewhere. The Jetta got nuthin’ for you. Same with USB ports. Not a single one to be found in the VW. And before you say, “But VW said they’ll be putting them in next year!”, you’ve just proved my point – wait until next year because 2015 doesn’t cut it.

On the bright side, this sunroof-equipped Jetta did surprise me in one very important way: I had head room. At 6-foot-1, I am not a giant, but I am far from being short and can greatly appreciate headroom in cars equipped with sunroofs. Yes, I do put my seat all the way to the floor when I can, but some other cars still encroach my aerial space in the same seating configuration. Also, having my butt on the floor wasn’t the only position in which I felt comfortable. I found no less than three different seating/steering wheel positions where I felt completely at ease. If there’s one thing this car had, it was adjustability for drivers of all shapes and sizes.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (1 of 8)

Speaking of shapes, the Jetta still rocks a classic three-box sedan look that’s slowly becoming extinct in the compact segment. As most of VW’s competitors are chasing sloping roofs and higher beltlines, Volkswagen is content with its conservative approach. That’s not a bad decision. Critics have been quick to point out the Jetta is a bit dull looking, but I think this is all by design, literally and figuratively. I challenge you to point to any of the previous Jetta designs and say they haven’t aged gracefully. Individual Jettas in the real world, well, that’s a different story.

Does the Cruze offer up anything to justify the need to hunt one down versus just showing up at any VW dealer and signing on the dotted like for a TDI? Nope. You still have more options with the Jetta, even a manual transmission if you so choose.

That doesn’t mean you should buy the TDI. The 1.8 TSI is now the superior choice for the fuel agnostic. However, if you are dead set on an oil burner, this is the only viable compact sedan option, for better or for worse.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (1 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (2 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (3 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (4 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (5 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (6 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (7 of 8) 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (8 of 8)

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2015 Volkswagen GTI Long-Term Tester Update http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/long-term-tester-update-2015-volkswagen-gti/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/long-term-tester-update-2015-volkswagen-gti/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 13:49:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084753 The media is all abuzz about former Olympic decathlon gold-medalist Bruce Jenner transforming himself into a woman. The 2015 Volkswagen GTI could be considered the sporty car equivalent of a decathlete, excelling in a wide variety of automotive virtues. I see a marketing opportunity here for VW: the decathlon champion meets the decathlon champion of cars. After all, Jenner is a GTI himself: […]

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2015 Pics 082

The media is all abuzz about former Olympic decathlon gold-medalist Bruce Jenner transforming himself into a woman. The 2015 Volkswagen GTI could be considered the sporty car equivalent of a decathlete, excelling in a wide variety of automotive virtues.

I see a marketing opportunity here for VW: the decathlon champion meets the decathlon champion of cars. After all, Jenner is a GTI himself: a Gender Transformed Imbecile…Heyooo, I’ll be here all week! Tip your writers by clicking on the jump!

The 2015 Golf GTI represents the 7th generation of the venerable Volkswagen hot hatchback. The car is larger and lighter than the previous incarnation but the bigger news is the jump in power for the 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder engine. Now with 210 hp (220 hp with the Performance Package) and 258 pound-feet of torque, up 10 hp and 51 pound-feet over the previous model, the GTI sports the ultimate Millennial Motor.

My GTI is the base S model 2-door with the 6-speed manual transmission, priced at $25,605 with freight. I was torn about springing an additional $600 for the 4-door version for its easier access to the back seat and to lose the massive doors. I also wanted the Performance Package with its increased horsepower, bigger brakes and torque-sensing limited-slip differential. The problem is I couldn’t find one: I previously wrote about how difficult it is to find specific models and option packages on VW dealers’ lots and our friends at Jalopnik piled on, agreeing that getting the exact GTI that you desire is nearly impossible. I wasn’t willing to order a car and wait 6 months, travel hundreds of miles or sacrifice color to find a match.

The GTI’s best-in-class interior with its cloth tartan plaid seats and Audi-worthy dash is a delight. The intuitive controls fall right to hand. My wife and I covered 770 miles in a single day with nary a backache thanks to the supportive seats. Nice interior touches abound: two sunglass cubbies, two power outlets, an adjustable-height center armrest, red illuminated door sills and massive door pockets for storage. The 5.8″ touch screen for entertainment and navigation functions is a bit small but an 8″ version is said to be in the works for 2016 models. The base model has no sunroof so it is quite dark inside the cabin, though I like the extra headroom.

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Fold down the rear seats and you have 53 cubic feet of cargo area, close to that of many small CUVs. Two adults will fit comfortably in the back seat though ingress and egress is tricky in the 2-door model. I love how you flip the giant VW emblem on the hatch to open it.

My favorite attribute of the GTI is its balance between power and economy. Alex clocked the hatch at 5.75 seconds for the 0 to 60 mph sprint. The nearly turbo-lag free motor does a nice job of propelling the GTI through its tall gearing – you bounce off the rev limiter in 3rd gear at an eye-popping 106 mph. The 6-speed GTI is rated at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. We saw 36.1 mpg on a 2,500 mile jaunt to Wyoming on its fresh motor and 24 to 27 mpg around town for an overall average of 31.9 mpg in the car’s first 3,950 miles.

Coming out of a S2000, I expected to have to adjust to some lack of feel in the steering but the GTI’s variable-ratio electronic steering is more change than I expected. I will note it is nicely weighted and does improve when in “Sport” driving mode. Hitting some curves at 8/10th, the GTI remained neutral and nicely planted, easily the best handling front-wheel car I have ever driven. I plan to hit a track day before my next report to test the car’s limits and see if I can lift a wheel or two.

I keep forgetting this is a front-wheel drive car, as torque steer is near non-existent (shift the VW’s slick tranny from 2nd to 3rd at the redline and the car pulls to the right ever so slightly.)

2015 Pics 079

Living in Tucson means I have the pleasure of navigating the fifth worst roads in the United States. Our potholes would be called sinkholes in your town. The GTI’s firm suspension did not take too kindly to our craters but I rate its overall ride as average for a sports car.

The GTI comes standard with VW’s Soundakoter, which pipes artificial engine sounds into the interior. The system is not mentioned in any marketing materials as carmakers do not want you to know about it so as to enhance the test drive experience and sell more cars. I will admit I loved the GTI’s smooth sound during my demo drive and still do. I am such a mullet.

Much has been written about Volkswagen’s suspect reliability and my GTI is already having issues. The shift from 5th to 6th gear is sometimes not as smooth as it should be and I am also suspicious of the 2/3 synchro. The proprietary iPod connecting cord was dead from day one though Bluetooth connectivity works fine. The driver’s seat belt is also a bit balky.

Despite these problems I am happy with my fun and versatile GTI. I am not quite ready to deem it the best $25,000 to $30,000 sporty car available today until we see its bugaboos go away.

At which point I will officially name my car Caitlyn.

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VW Offering $39 Monthly Jetta Leases to Hook Customers in Later http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/vw-offering-stupid-cheap-jetta-leases-to-hook-customers-in-later/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/vw-offering-stupid-cheap-jetta-leases-to-hook-customers-in-later/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 22:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1081369 The Nissan Versa sedan might be the cheapest car in the U.S., but it isn’t holding candle to the cheap lease rates available for the Volkswagen Jetta. Regardless of the almost $4,500 price differential between the two cars in base model trim, Jetta lessees are spending less than half each month compared to the Versa, as low as […]

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Jetta TDI 2015

The Nissan Versa sedan might be the cheapest car in the U.S., but it isn’t holding candle to the cheap lease rates available for the Volkswagen Jetta. Regardless of the almost $4,500 price differential between the two cars in base model trim, Jetta lessees are spending less than half each month compared to the Versa, as low as $39/month at one San Jose, CA dealership.

It’s all part of an effort to bring customers in now at a loss to have their attention three years in the future when the German marque has more compelling products to offer.

According to Automotive News, the lease deals are “a sign of how Volkswagen AG is grasping to turn around its fortunes in the U.S.”

The leases run for three years and require $2,500 down, making for a short-term commitment to a base model car that’s decidedly less of a penalty box than America’s cheapest Nissan.

Even with the deals, Volkswagen may have its work cut out for it. The brand is looking to more than double sales in the U.S. before 2018 with a lineup lacking a number of segments currently experiencing the most growth, a midsize crossover in particular.

Volkswagen’s current discounts average approximately $3,000 per car sold through April, including cash and leasing incentives.

 

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Wörthersee GTI Treffen: Where Volkswagens Rule http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/worthersee-gti-treffen-volkswagens-rule/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/worthersee-gti-treffen-volkswagens-rule/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 16:36:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073658   If you’re into Volkswagens – especially of the modified variety – Wörthersee is to you what Sturgis is for Harley riders or Carlisle to Mopar fans. Thousands and thousands of VW fans take over several small, quiet towns around a beautiful mountain lake and turn them into a festival of belly-scraping Volkswagens, Audis, Seats […]

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Old one and new

Old and new.

If you’re into Volkswagens – especially of the modified variety – Wörthersee is to you what Sturgis is for Harley riders or Carlisle to Mopar fans. Thousands and thousands of VW fans take over several small, quiet towns around a beautiful mountain lake and turn them into a festival of belly-scraping Volkswagens, Audis, Seats and Škodas.

And there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer.

It’s probably the same story with all big enthusiast gatherings. In the beginning, there was a bunch of dudes who shared a taste for a certain kind of car and wanted to get together occasionally. Years came and went. The small, underground gathering turned bigger and eventually massive. Somewhere along the way, business came into the picture, and the party turned into massive show.

Or, in some cases, a county fair on steroids, which is the case with Wörthersee.

Unlike, say, a biker meet or some hot rodder gathering, the GTI Treffen was never really a “counter culture” event. When about a hundred owners of Golf GTIs came to Reifnitz for the first time in 1982, the GTI was just a quicker version of a sensible family hatchback, and the oldest one was not even 8 years old by that time. Not exactly the German equivalent of a souped-up ’32 Ford.

That's how an original Golf II Rallye looks like

An original Golf II Rallye looks like this.

The event was even conceived with the idea of boosting local tourism from the very beginning. In the next three decades, the gathering grew and grew, gained corporate sponsorship from VW itself, and became world famous.

So, how does GTI Treffen look and feel now, after more than three decades since its birth?

I spent three days at the venue itself and in a nearby lakeside town to find out. Here’s the outcome.

The most important thing about Wörthersee is it’s not just one event. It’s two. The “official” one that Škoda wanted me to see – the one with massive stands for all the VW Group brands, plus several tuners and aftermarket brands – looks a bit like a typical motor show that’s been moved from a big hall to a tiny city. The concepts are unveiled, hot girls (sort of – as a Czech, I have high standards for that) are posing around shiny, gleaming cars, as are rally drivers, designers and sometimes even corporate bosses. I’ve even heard the reason for GTI Treffen’s relationship with Volkswagen Group is due to Ferdinand Piëch living nearby – and now that he’s resigned his chairmanship, the amount of money spent on the event will diminish.

The new Scirocco GTS

The new Scirocco GTS

The official, corporate money fueled event is not of major interest, though. The real reason to come here is not to look at some concept cars and factory tuner specials. I came to see what the real volks bring to Treffen.

From what I read, it’s best to come at least a few days – or even a week – before the main, four-day event. I couldn’t do that, but I tried spent as much time as possible walking around, taking pictures and inhaling the atmosphere. I wanted to find out what it was all about.

Getting a grasp of the car culture involved isn’t as easy for me as it may seem. While I’m European, and modifying Volkswagens is one of the prevalent automotive cultures of our continent, I was never into it and I didn’t grow up around people with cars like these. I know American car enthusiasts and their events. I hang around some people with JDM machines. I know people with vintage cars, Italian cars, old Benzes and Beemers. I’ve been active in the “old” Ford community in the past. I even know some guys with air-cooled VWs – but a slammed Golf? Covering an event full of those is about the same for me as if you sent a hipster from Seattle to write about a Nickelback concert.

Bunch of Russian guys, drinking beer

A bunch of Russian guys drinking beer – not vodka, unfortunately.

The basics are, of course, similar to any other automotive gathering. People who share a taste in cars come somewhere and then either park their cars, sit around and drink beer, or drive their cars around while others watch them, drinking beer, before they park their cars in the evening and go for a beer. One could even suggest that with most such events, the cars are nothing but a vehicle, while the beer is the purpose.

With Wörthersee being in Austria, which is in between Bavaria and Czech Republic, it’s quite clear that the beer will be of utmost importance. And it is. As is blaring pop music and scantily clad women. It’s important to note Wörthersee is on the very south edge of Austria near the Slovenian border and the climate here is closer to northern Italy than it is to Central Europe. The temperature hovered around 28 degrees C for most of the event.

Old school?

Old school?

Since I’m no Jack Baruth and I wouldn’t even know what to do with them, I left the girls alone and concentrated on the cars.

The access to the town’s center is restricted during the event, so only “cool” cars can come and cruise there. The others gather around Reifnitz or in other small towns on the lake. Looking at the long stream of “selected” cars in the town, I can’t help but think they look awfully similar to each other. That’s something that can be expected at such a gathering, and the comparison with American or JDM enthusiast events, which came up in my head, is probably a bit unfair. After all, Volkswagens aren’t the most diverse cars in the world and it’s hardly any surprise they look similar.

But there’s still one difference when compared to, say, a VW Beetle gathering. If you randomly choose five VW Beetles from such gathering, they’ll probably be totally different, even if they’re the same car. Odds are, one will be a totally stock, vintage example. The second may be some Cal-look beast, the third can be a tangerine-colored custom monster in the style of ’70s street rods, the third may be a “rat” and the last one in yet another, totally different style.

Yes, those are '50s style Moon caps on a Golf

Yes, those are ’50s style Moon caps on a Golf

Look at cars at GTI Treffen and you don’t see as much variety. Basically, the only thing you’ll see there is a lowered Golf on huge wheels. There will be a few stock Golfs, and a few VW cars that are not Golfs, but they’re usually Golf-based or similar enough to a Golf that it doesn’t matter. In a few rare cases, you get huge Golf-like cars with Audi badges, and in even rarer ones, you’ll see some air-cooled stuff and a handful of supercars. Other than that, it’s Golf, Golf, Golf, Seat, Golf, Golf, Passat, Škoda, Golf, Golf… you get the idea. Even the non-Golf cars are Golfs in one way or another.

What is really interesting, though, is that even though everyone uses basically the same canvas, they use it to paint very different pictures. I guess if you started with anything other than a stanced FWD Volkswagen on large wheels, you would be shot in Wörthersee, or at least not allowed to have any beer, which is similar. At the same time, everyone wants to stand out and be different, so people get creative.

Alex Roy would approve?

Would Alex Roy approve?

The result is a strange but very vibrant car culture, taking many styles of modified cars around the world and melting them into one.

You can’t change the basics. You’ll always have a low hatchback, wagon or maybe sedan – coupe or convertible, in very rare cases – with a front-mounted engine driving the front wheels. Similar lines. Low suspension. Big wheels. And, since the culture is based on Golf GTI and inspired by racing and rally cars, you need to make you car at least look fast.

At the same time, actually going fast has pretty much gone out of fashion for these guys. Many of the cars here may look fast, but only in the same way a Hot Wheels does: oversized wheels, air suspensions, no-profile tires and so on. To make the most of the areas where there’s some space for creativity, owners spend lots of time, money and effort on paint, stickers and various add-ons to make their cars unique. On the surface, these cars are much closer to lowriders than typical American hot rods or JDM tuner cars.

Need to stand out? Try a blackboard hood and a giraffe

Need to stand out? Try a blackboard hood and a giraffe

And one of the ways to be unique is to give your car a theme. Sometimes, it ends up with something like “LeMons race car meets artisan lowrider”. You see Golfs in camo paint and with military insignias as stickers. You see Golf or Passats with U.S. patrol car black-and-white paint. You see old stuff on the roof racks of MkI Golfs and you see cars made to look like rat rods. In fact, it’s surprisingly popular to use hot rod and rat rod style details, like chrome Moon caps, or insignia and stickers, like Maltese crosses.

In the end, it’s like you took all the world’s car cultures and applied them solely to Golfs. It’s a bit strange for the outsider, but it’s definitely interesting to watch.

The stuffed moose is probably drunk on Jäger A pristine, nearly stock Audi Quattro Old Golf Rally with just a few tasteful mods Two ways to do a Golf II When even a supercar isn't low enough Rat rod. Made of Golf II. Want a nice Golf? Call! Totally pristine, original condition Golf I Yes, those are '50s style Moon caps on a Golf Old one and new Need to stand out? Try a blackboard hood and a giraffe Chicks like Golfs, too A statue of a Golf II, made about two decades ago. Family fun in a Golf I Cabriolet The new GTI on the main street That's how an original Golf II Rallye looks like Bora in camo Bunch of Russian guys, drinking beer Stickers Old school?? "quattro" stickers. How 80s. Gulf Racing VW Caddy. Those colors! Alex Roy would approve? A classic on a fancy wheels Wheels are everything That's not broken, that's stance! Matte Seat Changing the wheels Some famous rally driver Rally car and its Wagon cousin Girls at Seat Girls with Seats Rieger tunes many VAG cars Aircooled ones come, too. Everything looks good in Martini colors Some modern metal This rat rod was everywhere A really nice Polo Some really rich hippies An old school Beetle with Porsche wheels Even Up! can be stanced You can also buy stuff It's hot, so people seek water A LONG line of cars Scirocco lying on its belly Yet another US Police car What's this?? BS would approve Octavia sells wheels Lots of taillights US trucks are popular here as showcars Flat black Beetle The new Scirocco GTS A Golf based supercar Really fast Golf once more Das Auto

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2015 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-volkswagen-gti-2-door-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-volkswagen-gti-2-door-review-video/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1061210 Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last […]

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2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

Exterior

Although the MK7 GTI looks nearly identical to the outgoing MK6 GTI, park them next to each other and you’ll start to see the differences. This GTI is longer, lower and wider with a significant stretch to the passenger compartment. VW pushed the front wheels 2-inches farther forward and gave the Golf a longer hood for better proportion. The headlamps get an angrier look and the tail lamps ditch the cute round theme for a more aggressive motif.

Sounds like a moderate refresh, right? Wrong. What VW did with the Golf is akin to swapping clothes with a stranger. It may look the same at first glance, but this stranger is different underneath and the clothes fit a little better as well. That’s all possible because this GTI rides on Volkswagen’s new MQB platform which also underpins the 2015 Audi A3. The promise of MQB is to deliver faster product development cycles, lower costs, improve parts sharing and achieve better fuel economy. Indeed, the GTI is lighter than before; however, the weight difference isn’t as dramatic as I was lead to believe at just under 100 pounds. Of course the GTI did get bigger and lighter at the same time, but the top-end 3,086 pound curb weight is about the same as a 2005 GTI.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-004

Interior

VW was once known as the “discount Audi” in America. But as part of their mission to increase sales on our shores, VW divorced the Passat and Jetta from their Euro twins and started cutting back on their other models. Thankfully, a few models escaped this fate and are still pair-bonded to the model sold in the EU. The Golf is one of them and, as a result, feels a notch above the American Passat in interior quality. From the fabric-covered A-pillars to the soft-touch door panels and dashboard bits, the feel upon entering the Golf in any form is in some ways “more Audi” than the A3. Without a doubt, the Golf has the best interior in this category, which oddly enough applies as much to the $17,995 base Golf as to the $25,095 GTI or $36,595 Golf R. MINI’s recent redesign has seriously improved its interior, but the VW is arguably on par with the JCW model in terms of parts quality despite being $10,000 less in some configurations.

Perhaps the “price” for the interior refinement is a distinct lack of power seating in most models. If you want more adjustability up front, you have to step up to the Autobahn model, which means you also receive leather instead of the attractive GTI tartan fabric. A little known fact about the GTI (and the Golf in general): the three-door and five-door versions are the same length and deliver identical interior dimensions. This means that our seemingly small three-door GTI was able to swallow two 6-foot tall passengers and a skinny third in a pinch. More surprising was the ability to squeeze a rearward facing child seat behind a 6-foot tall passenger up front. That’s different than the MINI which has a cramped back seat and even more cramped cargo hold.

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Infotainment

The redesign of the GTI includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment system. Sadly, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW software lags behind the competition and if you want navigation it is only available in the most expensive trim. All units feature expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before (including the elusive navigation software). But, the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library, and still uses a proprietary VW connector for media devices.

As much heat as MyFord Touch has received over the years, the system in the Focus ST is light-years ahead of this. Since MINI gets BMW’s iDrive on a MINI scale, it takes the top slot in this segment. However, you will have to pay some serious coin as MINI’s options list is long, confusing, and expensive. Volkswagen tells us to expect significant changes “soon” to address the deficiencies, including the VW/Audi proprietary cable.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Engine-001

Drivetrain

As you’d expect from a hot hatch, a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine sits under the GTI’s hood. For 2015, the 2.0L engine has been reworked to deliver 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s a slight power bump but a fairly healthy torque increase over the last gen GTI. Thanks to the turbocharger and direct-injection, we get the expected “power plateau” rather than a curve with all 210 ponies pulling from 4,500-6,200 RPM and all the torque available from a low 1,500 RPM to 4,400. If you opt for the $1,495 performance package, peak power rises slightly to 220 hp from 4,700-6,200 while torque remains unchanged at 258 lb-ft but hangs out for 200 more RPM at the top end.

All GTIs start with a standard 6-speed manual transmission including the top end Autobahn trim. Shoppers can add a 6-speed DSG to any trim. In a nod to enthusiasts, the DSG and performance package are neither forcibly bundled nor mutually exclusive. Standard on all models is VW’s XDS system which has caused some confusion among potential shoppers so allow me to explain. XDS is not a true limited slip differential. Instead, it is an advanced software package added to the car’s ABS and Stability Control systems. The software reads yaw, steering angle, wheel slip, etc and uses the vehicle’s brakes to act as both a limited slip differential and a torque vectoring differential depending on the situation. The system will gently brake the inside wheel in a corner to help “vector” torque to the outside wheel and give a more balanced feel to the car. The system also responds to potential torque steer making all GTI models more civilized.

The performance package adds an electronically controlled limited slip differential; although the design is very different than the eLSDs you see in RWD applications, the function is similar. The VAQ system (Vorderachsquersperre in German) uses a multi-plate clutch pack to deliver limited slip, full locking and torque vectoring across the front axle. VAQ does not replace XDS, instead you get both systems working for you at the same time.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Manual Shifter-001

Drive

The GTI we got our hands on for a week was a four-door model without the performance package. I’m glad I was able to test a GTI in this configuration because it allows me to say: get the performance package. Not for the additional ponies, or even the trick eLSD, but for the upgraded brakes and the ability to get the $800 dynamic damper package (DDC). The previous generation GTI was so eager to please, it was easy to overwhelm the standard brakes. Although the new model appears to have improved this on base trims, the upgraded stoppers are worth every penny. The standard suspension can feel a little too firm over broken pavement and at times this causes the rear to get unsettled on a poorly paved corner. The DDC package allows the suspension to deliver a more compliant highway ride and a firmer autocross ride. It also helps settle the GTI’s rear end on rough pavement.

Our best 0-60 run rang in at a 5.75 seconds which is an improvement of nearly a half second over the last generation GTI, 2/10ths faster than the last Focus ST we tested and 4/10ths faster than a dealer provided MINI Cooper JCW. If you opt for the DSG, your 0-60 runs will be a hair slower but much more consistent. Interestingly enough, this is only a hair slower than the EcoBoost Mustang.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Gauges-002

The mission of the hot hatch could not be more different from the pony car. The Mustang is a large coupé with rear wheel drive, sexy lines and V6 and V8 engines that are shared with the F-150 pickup. The hot hatch formula starts with a practical compact hatchback, then you add stiff springs and bolt a turbo charger to a small displacement engine. For 2015, Ford added independent suspension and a 2.3L turbo to the Stang making comparisons more rational.

Obviously, driving dynamics are what separate the GTI from the Mustang, but it’s more about feel than speed around a track. As our friends over at MotorTrend recently discovered, the better balanced rear wheel drive Mustang was actually slower around a figure-eight than the GTI. Although that proclamation surprised some, it didn’t surprise me at all, given the VW weighs nearly 500lbs less. You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about steering feel. That’s because there isn’t any. A wise man once told me to never confuse steering weight with steering feel. The GTI’s tiller is well weighted but the FWD layout and the electric power steering suck all the life out of it.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear1

Part of the reason the GTI did so well is the standard XDS system which nearly eliminates torque steer. In concept it is quite similar to what Ford uses to control the Focus ST’s front end but in the real world the VW system is more effective. Trouble is, half the fun of having a hot hatch is “riding a bull” – where your foot is on the floor and your hands and mind are fully engaged trying to keep the car going in a straight line. (The old Mazdaspeed3 acted like its steering rack was possessed by demons from hell.) MINIs Cooper JCW slots between the GTI and the Focus ST in civility. Add the VAQ eLSD to the GTI and things go to the next level with very little drama when accelerating around sharp corners. While I found the feeling a little artificial at times, I can’t deny it is faster.

Pricing for 2015 starts at $25,095 for the 3-door GTI and tops out at $35,950 for the 5-door Autobahn edition with all the options. Although VW limits navigation to the top-trim, you can add the DSG to any trim for $1,100, Performance Package for $1,495, steering HID headlamps for $995 and for $695 they will tack on front/rear parking sensors and a radar based collision warning system. If you want the $800 DDC (dynamic dampers), you have to start with the SE trim with the Performance Package ($29,280 3-door, $29,880 5-door). In a nice change from the industry norm, the transmission selection doesn’t alter the availability of the other options and the top-end Autobahn doesn’t force you to get the DSG.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-002

Ford’s Ecoboost Mustang starts $300 higher than the GTI while the Focus ST starts nearly $2,000 lower. The MINI is in a universe all to its own with the JCW starting over $8,000 higher. The ‘Stang gets standard HID lamps in the turbo trim making both Ford models less expensive than the VW when comparably equipped. Unlike VW, Ford also allows you to add navigation to their less expensive trims and the ST gets some seriously comfortable Recaro seats in most trims.

At the end of the week, the GTI’s charms were clear: this is a hot hatch with few compromises. The MINI is cute but slower and much more expensive. The GTI has a more comfortable back seat than the Mustang and, although it’s less fun, it is faster in some situations. The WRX isn’t a hatch anymore and if you want an automatic your only option is a soul-sucking CVT. The Focus gives a more raw and direct experience, but the added weight means it’s no faster than the GTI in just about any situation. The final nail in the coffin for the competition is the GTI SE with the limited slip differential, dynamic suspension and the DSG. For $32,000, a GTI equipped in that way won’t be as much fun as others, but with all that and 28 MPG combined, it may be the best daily driver on sale. Sacrilege you say? Perhaps, but that configuration is the truest to the hot hatch concept: make a daily driver as much fun as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.5 Seconds

0-60:5.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.31 @ 98 MPH

Average Economy: 29.8 MPG over 675 miles

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Sayonara S2K, Guten Tag GTI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sayonara-s2k-gutan-tag-gti/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sayonara-s2k-gutan-tag-gti/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056754 Yesterday, I traded the most hysterically fun car I have ever owned, a 2008 Honda S2000, for a new 2015 Volkswagen GTI 6-speed manual. Allow me to explain. I bought my S2000 two years ago while living in San Diego. It was the perfect car at the perfect place and time. I don’t think I ever […]

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FullSizeRender

Yesterday, I traded the most hysterically fun car I have ever owned, a 2008 Honda S2000, for a new 2015 Volkswagen GTI 6-speed manual.

Allow me to explain.

I bought my S2000 two years ago while living in San Diego. It was the perfect car at the perfect place and time. I don’t think I ever drove it with the top up, whether cruising the coast highway or screaming up and down Mt. Palomar. I loved it. Then last fall I took early retirement, thus losing my company car, and moved to Tucson, Arizona.

Once the S2000 became my daily driver, it began to kick my ass. I am getting too old, and am way too tall, to be folding myself in and out of the car numerous times a day. Tucson has perhaps the worst roads in the west and it literally hurt to hit the potholes in the rough riding Honda. My wife and I also wanted something roomy and economical to use on road trips instead of our large SUV. The only car that came to mind that was also fun to drive was the GTI, recent winner of numerous buff book awards. Other “hot hatches” like the Fiesta ST do nothing for me – so GTI it was.

Choosing the GTI was easy; buying it was a challenge due to the infuriating, nonsensical combinations of options and models on the car. (My dealer would later confirm it is as frustrating to them as it is to the consumer). I wanted the $24,785 base model due in part to its cool Clark Plaid cloth seats. I also wanted the $1,495 Performance Package that bumps horsepower up by 10 to 220 and includes upgraded brakes and differential. The MSRP on that combo would be $26,280 but there were none to be found. Most GTIs available had additional options or were the SE model with leather, a sunroof and better sound system and were priced from $29,000 to over $31,000. If you want Navigation, your only choice is to buy the Autobahn model with a base MSRP of $30,045 and is only available as a 4-door. I ended up searching for the admittedly well-equipped base 2-door S model in white, the Official Car Color of the State of Arizona.

FullSizeRender (1)

You can order a VW to your exact specs and color but you will wait 6 months for delivery.

I posted the S2000 briefly on Craigslist and discovered when you’re selling a specialty car on this site, most folks that respond are dreamers, schemers, scammers and credit criminals. I could have spent a few hundred dollars and listed the Honda on cars.com or autotrader.com and profited a little more than trade-in value from an out-of-state buyer, but that would be after dealing with inspectors, shippers, etc. I was not in the mood.

In Tucson you have the choice of a friendly, local, family-owned Volkswagen store or one owned by a notorious megadealer group from up north. I chose the former but I did respond to an email from the latter that they send to all Craigslist sellers and told them I was in the game for a GTI. They characteristically did not respond.

The preferred retailer had the car I wanted on their lot. A test drive confirmed all the hype: the GTI is zippy, has a cockpit worthy of an Audi, and is a riot to drive. When the store offered a nice discount on the GTI and a trade-in value combined with tax savings that was within $1,900 of what I paid for the Honda in 2013, the deal was done. The transaction was quick and easy, maybe the best car buying experience I’ve ever enjoyed. To their credit, Volkswagen dealers did score above average in the 2014 J. D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index.

This GTI will now be a TTAC long-term test car. We will do some comparos with other vehicles in its category. We will try to obtain a GTI with the Performance Package to find out what I am missing. Most of all, we will find out what the VW is like to live with over the course of a year. The first report will be after a 2,500 mile round-trip run to Yellowstone National Park in a few weeks.

After one day of ownership (and thus I am still under the influence of the New Car Ether) my first impression can be summed up thusly: the Volkswagen GTI is a ton of fun and a terrific value for $25,000. Let’s see how it performs down the road…

Photos by Oscar Alvarado of Chapman Volkswagen.

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Volkswagen Won’t Cut Prices to Chase Market Share in U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/volkswagen-wont-cut-prices-chase-market-share-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/volkswagen-wont-cut-prices-chase-market-share-us/#comments Sat, 02 May 2015 15:37:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1059338 Even with a depressed euro and sales falling 2.7 percent in April, Volkswagen is staying the course. According to Automotive News, Volkswagen has no plans to change its current pricing strategy to chase market share. The brand has seen steady declines in the U.S. even as the market overall has been growing. “We believe it’s […]

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volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

Even with a depressed euro and sales falling 2.7 percent in April, Volkswagen is staying the course.

According to Automotive News, Volkswagen has no plans to change its current pricing strategy to chase market share. The brand has seen steady declines in the U.S. even as the market overall has been growing.

“We believe it’s the right strategy over the long term,” Christian Klingler told AN.

He stated Volkswagen has a long-term approach to protecting profits and won’t try to chase volume at its expense. Similar problems are being experienced in other markets like Brazil. Also, even with the euro down versus the American dollar, most U.S. sales volume comes from North American-built vehicles, negating any possible positive currency impact.

Much of Volkswagen’s sales slump can be attributed to their current model mix. The brand does not offer a competitive crossover between the long-in-the-tooth Tiguan and much more expensive Touareg, a segment currently experiencing significant growth.

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Canada Loans €400M to Volkswagen for Chance at Supplier Table http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:35:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055073 As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business. Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized […]

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Tower

As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized Canadian companies to win new business with the global automotive giant as they grow their operations in North America.” The loan is being extended to Volkswagen with “market-rate interest and administrative fees.”

“There’s no doubt Canada needs Volkswagen more than Volkswagen needs Canada,” said Phil Taylor, spokesperson for EDC, to the Windsor Star.

The financial agreement gives smaller Canadian companies exposure to Volkswagen as they tool up their North American operations for future product. Suppliers can register their products or services on a website run by EDC.

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BREAKING: Piëch Resigns Chairmanship, Winterkorn Continues as CEO at VW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 17:26:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054273 While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect. According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was […]

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"It wasn't Domino's. Someone delivered Wiedekings head." Piech and Winterkorn.  Picture courtesy handelsblatt.de

While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect.

According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was left “isolated” in a five-to-one vote. Sources told the newswire service Piëch’s decision to not support Winterkorn put his own position in jeopardy. Piëch’s wife, Ursula, also resigned her positions within the company.

Piëch will be replaced by Deputy Chairman Berthold Huber in the interim. A vote on when a new Chairman will be chosen has not been announced.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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Volkswagen Jetta GLI: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-jetta-gli-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-jetta-gli-reviewed/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045378 This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. Cross your tees and line your elles, this is not that darling of the #millennial boot-scoot generation: the My First Big Boy Car Volkswagen GTI. It’s not a GTI with a trunk, either, despite everything you might think. The GLI certainly […]

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VW Jetta GLI front

This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. Cross your tees and line your elles, this is not that darling of the #millennial boot-scoot generation: the My First Big Boy Car Volkswagen GTI.

It’s not a GTI with a trunk, either, despite everything you might think.

Nice Touch Alert: the red line framing the grille extends into the headlights. Clever!

Nice Touch Alert: the red line framing the grille extends into the headlights. Clever!

The GLI certainly makes a good first impression. Split-spoke wheels with just the right-sized tires, too much sidewall, a hint of red from the front grille—there’s a nice touch, Volkswagen, how the red line continues into the headlight housings. Subtle, sophisticated: a very Grown Up Car. Junior pulls into the office park on his first day of his post-college job and he knows his bosses, safely ensconced in their corner offices, are watching. Just to see what kind of young upstart they hired. Let’s get lunch—PF Chang’s? Great. We can take my car!

DSC03813

Nice wheels. Nice new grille. Open the door and imagine four plaid seats, just like the GTI—how cool would that look? Instead, the GLI only receives V-Tex Leatherette, patterned in carbon-look and framed in red piping, for a look resembling Darth Vader’s softball uniform. I appreciate the honesty inherent in a cloth interior, but we have believed for decades that even faux leather looks expensive. Even when this doesn’t.

DSC03818

Darth Vader’s softball team would be called “The Empire Strikes Out.”

And yet, the illusion is over by that first turn out of the parking lot. Because that exhaust note is the GLI’s most characterful asset, carrying an unmistakable presence: it growls and rips and sounds edgy, exuberant. Coupled with the turbo pssht! when shifting through the DSG transmission, and it’s the GLI again with the first impressions, especially the impression that there’s a serious performance car lurking underneath all that sophistication.

Even when there isn’t.

VW Jetta GLI rear

Angeles Crest Highway looks pretty good in the mornings.

The GLI shares its 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged engine with its hatchbacked brother, producing 210 horsepower, with the full brunt of its 207 lb-ft of torque ready to go at a mere 1,700 RPM. Below that, it positively bogs when coming off a stop. Then it’s wait, wait, wait, hold on, whoosh!

It sounds best in second gear. Of course, Angeles Crest Highway, where these photos were taken, is a third gear kind of road…and once you lift off the throttle, anywhere below 4,000 RPM, the GLI is as quiet as ever. The dual-clutch DSG snaps off shifts with near-imperceptible quickness, fast as ever. Volkswagen claims “upgraded brakes” on the GLI, but at least the calipers are painted red. They work powerfully.

VW Jetta GLI wheels

Red calipers add BRAKE horsepower. Get it?

And here’s the shocker of the century: the whole chassis tends toward understeer. The XDS Cross Differential is an electronic system, available across the Golf lineup, and applies the brakes to inside wheels—VW-speak for torque vectoring, and without it the GLI might feel even sloppier. But as it stands now, it lacks precision. The ride is relatively well composed, with little body roll, but there’s a lot of road noise. The steering is weighty, not as sharp, not particularly involving— not much to feel, no resistance to bear, heavy as hell at a crawl, but numb and inconsistent when on the move. Compare this to the GTI, whose steering is consistent at any speed—probably why it feels so gratifying as a result.

At least you can get it with a manual. The esteemed Mr. Kreindler and I both recommended that you do.

DSC03820

Our Jetta GLI SEL rang in a hair over $30,000, reigning at the top of the Jetta food chain. And yet, it still comes with the built-to-cost sensibility the motoring world griped when it came out: harsh door panels, hard-knock plastics, a bouncy trunklid, a tiny screen the size of a pack of Orbit.

But for the same price, there’s a four-door GTI. And that’s the full package: the MQB platform is new, the interior is new, the touchscreen is new, the suspension is newer, certainly. I think this is what sums it up about the GLI: go to Volkswagen’s website and look at their models. Go past the lease deals on a stripper Jetta or Passat (with manuals!). Look past the Beetle, the Eos (they still make those?), the Golf. Take a look: the GTI is its own standalone model, now, proof of serious intent from Volkswagen. On some college campuses, the GTI is so popular that your average incoming freshman can walk from one side of campus to another, entirely on the roofs of GTIs, without ever touching ground.

If you’re a sporting gentleman, get that. If you’re practical, get that. If you “drive tastefully,” get that with the plaid seats. Because America’s cheapest sports sedan—the GLI SE starts at $26,920 with a manual—is more cheap than sport.

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