Category: Volkswagen

Volkswagen Reviews

Volkswagen has Adolf Hitler to thank for its start. In 1933 Hitler asked Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) to discuss the idea of an affordable car that could carry five people. Prototypes appeared shortly and the KdF-Wagen was released in 1938. The KdF-Wagen would later become known as the Beetle and go on to sell in the millions.
By on September 6, 2013

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The current GTI has thoroughly earned its reputation as a brilliant, satisfying driver’s car. Under the skin, however, it’s a decade old and in the time since the MkV GTI blew the bloody door off the segment and today the competition has been anything but asleep. The Mazdaspeed3, Focus ST, and Subaru WRX offer vastly more power, while the Fiat 500 Abarth, Fiesta ST, and Mini Cooper S attack from the segment below with a driving experience that is just as involving for less money — or, in the case of the MINI, the same money and more street cred with the lay-dies.

It’s not too soon for Volkswagen to revise the car, and the Mk7 GTI is more than a simple revision. It’s a thorough re-engineering of the Golf from the ground up. This time, weight is down, power is up, and refinement is the watchword. With a formula like that, it’s virtually assured that the civilian-grade Golfs will find themselves back on top of the market, particularly in Europe where people like to pretend that the Honda Civic doesn’t exist. This will be great news to the more than five people who plan to purchase a brand-new Golf late this year or early next. The rest of us just want to hear about the GTI.
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By on September 5, 2013

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Two years ago “Dubbers” around the country from AnimeCon to FanimeCon were shocked by my decision to make the Jetta GLI the winner of the VW Intramural League. My failure to recognize the obvious Euro-superiority of hatchbacks at all times caused the phrase “threw up in my mouth a little” to be used to the point that certain backbone Internet routers achieved sentience just by being forced to repeatedly consider the concept of holding in one’s vomit to express disgust.

If you, like Ender’s “toon”, have mastered the process of elimination, you have just realized that this time we had to let the hatchback win. Was it because it wasn’t a straight GLI-on-GTI scrap, or was it because the Mark VII platform represents a major step forward? To find out, you’ll have to click that “Read More” link below, which will immediately cause TTAC’s advertisers to deposit yet another Brazilian-Rosewood-and-Beeswing-Sipo-festooned Paul Reed Smith guitar into my private vault. So go ahead and do it!
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By on September 4, 2013

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Two years ago, this bottom-of-the-podium position in the Intramurals was occupied by the Golf R. I slated the car for being both too slow to run with the Japanese rally-reps and too porky to match the FWD turbo Volkswagens on a back road.

The Scirocco R addresses both of these concerns: it’s FWD, light, and as we’ll discuss below, brutally quick. Compared to the Golf R… well, it barely compares. It’s Stilton to the Golf’s Velveeta. And yet it’s in third place, just like its Haldex-twisting cousin. What gives?

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By on September 3, 2013

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Westmoreland Rabbit! Say it with me: WESTMORELAND RABBIT! The minute Volkswagen announced that they would be building a new-from-scratch sedan in a new-from-scratch American factory, the cries of WESTMORELAND RABBIT were heard across the land, from MIVE to the “Emm Kay Eye Vee” forums. Westmoreland, of course, was the infamous transplant Volkswagen factory that gave us wide-taillight, square-headlight Rabbits with stupid-looking side markers and velour interiors and horrifying quality control and wallowing non-Euro suspensions and the Rabbit GTI, which is usually left out of the “complaining about Westmoreland” narrative. The fact that the “NMS” Passat would be considerably bigger and blander than the Euro B6 or the CC didn’t help matters.

Car and Driver gave the new Passat a first-place finish in its comparison-test debut and then, following certain rules of the industry, dropped it to last place in a follow-up comparison eight months later. Neither result stilled the cries of the Westmoreland Rabbit crowd. The Internet hates this car. The American public, however, loves it and VW’s sales are through the roof this year, largely on Passat momentum. For 2013-badged-2014, the Passat drops the not-quite-evergreen 2.5L five-cylinder in favor of a turbo four-cylinder with a rather odd cylinder head design.

After thirty-five fast miles in the TSI SEL, I was convinced that it wasn’t “Americanized” much at all. Instead, it’s a return to VW’s water-cooled roots…

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By on September 2, 2013

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Let’s start with the good news: It’s still possible to purchase a German-made Volkswagen sedan with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. Your humble author did just that back in February of 1998, taking delivery of a 1998 Passat 1.8t and thoroughly enjoying the sleek sedan while it was in my possession. The current Passat is aimed at a different market, and quite successfully so; it’s the “CC” four-door koo-pay that is meant to carry the torch for all the old B5 Passat fans.

Which makes sense, because this is fundamentally an old Passat. An eight-year-old Passat. And that, as you might expect, is a bit of a problem.

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By on July 29, 2013

Suzuki SX4. Photo courtesy AutoExpress

Suzuki and VW don’t seem ready to officially call it quits just yet. The two companies are still talking, with both sides continuing to see positives in what was to be a partnership on small cars and Suzuki’s domination of emerging markets.

Senior management from both sides, including Osamu Suzuki, are currently in talks to revive the partnership as it could help Suzuki spread their R&D costs over multiple products and give them access to VW technology. Volkswagen wants a greater foothold in India and China, where Suzuki has been wildly successful, a stark contrast to their presence in North America. If talks fail, the courts have some decisions to make.

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By on July 1, 2013

CrossBlue Concept  - 06 - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Dzemal Sjenar has a dream job:  He dreams up cars for a living. For 25 years, the engineer from Bosnia has been developing concept cars at Volkswagen. The concept cars are put on display at car shows, are discussed with journalists, or, in a more formal setting, in “clinics,” where hopefully representative groups of people are asked what they like and don’t like in that concept.  If the dream cars evoke the desired feelings, the dreams become reality. Read More >

By on May 31, 2013

“Have you driven the new Jetta Hybrid?” popped up in my Faceache message box. It came from Captain Leslie, an E-3 Sentry driver, consummate professional, a current Jetta TDI pilot (with a manual), and friend from a tour in the Middle East and Oklahoma City. Unable to resist her profile smile, I went in search of the elusive electrically motivated VW in a sea of 2.5L sorority mobiles. As she has saved my ass in the past, I shall attempt to repay the favor. Leslie, skip the Hybrid, get another TDI… but make sure its a Golf…wagon…in brown…with a manual.

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By on April 15, 2013

Redesigning retro is a herculean task. You need to change the vehicle enough to be worth the effort, meanwhile maintaining an iconic retro theme. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade in their old flashback for the new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. The task is so daunting that few even attempt it. (Just look at the one-hit-wonders: PT Cruiser, HHR, SSR and Thunderbird.) VW on the other hand is different. After all they continued to build and sell the same Beetle with minor tweaks for 65 years straight. If anyone can tweak retro and convince people they need it, it’s VW. Sure enough, 2012 was the best Beetle sales year since 1973. As a chaser to VW’s revived retro-mojo, the Beetle is now offered sans-top and VW tossed us the keys to a brown-on-brown model for a week so we could get our 70s on. Can you dig it?

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By on January 18, 2013

If I say “hybrid,” most people think: slow, efficient, awful-to-drive, Prius, tree-hugger, Democrat and California. Pretty much in that order. The people’s car company however is on a mission to change your word association. In 2011 VW crafted the ridiculously fast supercharged Touareg Hybrid. For 2013, the Germans have some new words for you to associate with “hybrid”: direct-injection, turbocharged, 7-speed, DSG and Jetta. Is this enough to sway Prius shoppers looking for a more engaging ride? More importantly: should you get the Jetta Hybrid or the Jetta TDI? VW tossed us the keys to a dark blue fuel-sipper to find out.

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By on December 7, 2012

Take the iconic Volkswagen GTI. Add a larger turbo to the 2.0-liter engine to bump the official horsepower rating from 200 to 256. Add all-wheel-drive to mitigate torque steer. The resulting Golf R ought to be hot hatch nirvana. Jack Baruth found something else. But he drove a Euro-spec car. Perhaps VW performed some beneficial tweaks with the Americanized version?

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By on October 16, 2012

Some driving enthusiasts (for reasons that escape me) take their significant other’s tastes into account when buying a car for themselves. Invariably, the s.o. won’t abide a hatchback, but finds crossovers the epitome of automotive style and utility. So our whipped enthusiast wonders which compact crossover they will least regret. Oh, and it can’t cost BMW money. Volksagen, Mazda, and Ford offer the most entertaining hot hatches. What do they offer in something a little taller? Today we examine Europe’s (relatively) affordable offering, the Volkswagen Tiguan.

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By on August 16, 2012

There was a time when “Passat” was German for “budget-Audi.” Even though the A4 and Passat parted ways in 2005, the Passat’s interior and price tag were more premium than mid-market shoppers were looking for. To hit VW’s North American yearly sales goal of 800,o000, the European Passat (B6) was replaced with a model designed specifically for American tastes. This means a lower price tag, less “premium” interior, and larger dimensions. If your heart pines for a “real” Passat, look no further than the 2013 Volkswagen CC. If it looks familiar, it should. The CC is none other than the artist car formerly known as Prince Passat CC with a nose job. VW advertises the CC as “the most affordable four-door coupé” in the US. All you need to know is: Euro lovers, this is your Passat.

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By on July 30, 2012

Sometimes it all comes together, doesn’t it — right before it all falls apart. Lightning in a bottle. Never as good before, never to be equaled afterwards. Duane Allman crashes his motorcycle, the sunburst Les Paul yields to the “Les Paul SG”, the perfected Honda VFR800 Interceptor is replaced by something that looks like the Nostromo’s escape pod, the woman you desperately love goes desperately crazy and desperately calls your wife, that kind of stuff.

The family sedan, too, had its high-water mark, its ’59 ‘Burst, its At Fillmore East. The G.O.A.T. The Greatest Of All Time. Once in history, all the tides converged. The resulting car was fast, spacious, full-featured, affordable, safe, economical, gorgeous, desirable. Hmm. We’re missing one quality, aren’t we? We’ll get to that later.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the G.O.A.T.: the 1998 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8t five-speed manual. Yes, I had one.

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By on July 30, 2012

Remember 1985? If you were paying attention to cars, then the then-new Civic Si and Mk2 Jetta GLI were on your radar. Which did you prefer? For the 2012 model year both cars are again new. One of them has changed surprisingly little. The other, though it retains some choice bits, has perhaps lost the plot.

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