The Truth About Cars » DSG The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » DSG Piston Slap: The Straw that Broke the Audi’s Back? Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:31:04 +0000

Wiley writes:


I own a 2006 Audi A3 2.0T with the DSG dual clutch gearbox. I really like the car, and my plan had been to keep it for a long time. As the original owner I’ve racked up nearly 125,000 miles. I’ve scrupulously kept up with the maintenance, and service on the car, though those 125,000 miles haven’t been exactly trouble-free.

While the car has generally been running well, there are storm clouds looming: The transmission is starting to misbehave a bit, and has slipped a couple of times in the past thousand miles. I’ve read that this could be symptomatic of issues with the mechatronic unit on the early Audi DSG transmissions, and that I should expect to pay anywhere from $3K-$5K to address this.

Given that the car is probably only worth $5K or so, should I ditch the car now before I have to do the transmission work? I’d rather not buy another car at the moment, as I don’t see any really interesting replacement for the A3 today (including the new A3).


Sajeev answers:

Unlike last week’s Hybrid Lexus battery pack issue, there’s a good case to dump an 8-year-old DSG Audi for newer metal.  And while this ride is one of the most well-rounded, thoughtfully designed vehicles on the market…it’ll need copious amounts of cash infused into the ownership experience. Relative to other sub-10 grand machines, that is!

Considering your fourth sentence, you already know this is coming. So here’s the rest of your justification, son.

Your ride is fodder for someone able to dedicate hours/days to fix Audis on the cheap, either for personal use or for resale.  Think of a Steve Lang type with more interest in self torture. He/she can repair or replace DSG units for less than $3-5 large. Odds are they have a VAG-COM, too.

My advice?  Get something (anything) else from Japan or the USA, as their parts/labor/quality is far more cost effective for a long term owner such as yourself. Or perhaps South Korea, as Mr. Schreyer has done quite the fantastic job adding teutonic flair to practical and fun(ish) Korean iron.

Quite frankly, I see you test driving a new KIA Soul and kinda totally loving it.  And it’s gonna love you back for the next 10+ years.

Or start leasing Audis for short term pleasure. That’ll work too.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Piston Slap: DSG = Das Sticky Gearbox? Mon, 10 Feb 2014 13:09:05 +0000

Arun writes:


I have a 2011 VW CC (2.0 turbo) with DSG that is currently at 35000+ miles without any issues. I love the car and take care of it as much as a first time VAG owner and a first time car owner can take care of it. Problem is that over the last 200 miles or so, I have been noticing that the shift lever moves rough/ hesitates to move as quickly as I am used to it moving.

I am not talking about the actual shifts themselves but the shifter itself being rough to move within the case when upshifting or downshifting in DSG model.

I drive around 35 miles a day but only around 6-7 miles in DSG/ semi-automatic mode per day. So around 200 miles/ month in semi-automatic mode. All services have been done on time and there are no issues otherwise with the car. Posting on vw vortex revealed nothing.

  1. The factory warranty expires in 400 odd miles so I would like to have it seen by the dealer if it is something concrete. Unfortunately with the shifts themselves being smooth as butter, I fear they will just show me the door.
  2. I have the 40000 mile transmission oil change coming up. If this issue is something that can/ will be resolved by the same, I don’t mind pushing the service ahead and doing it at like 37500 miles or so. Again since it feels like the shifter is physically moving roughly (like it needs lube), I am not sure if that service will do anything to resolve this problem.

Suggestions? A speedy resolution is requested because my factory warranty will expire in 400 miles or about 2 weeks from now.

Sajeev answers:

Hey Arun, ask the Service department to lubricate or replace the shift assembly. These things are mostly made of plastic (usually) and asking them to check the plastic for jamming or debris isn’t a big deal.  Go get it done before the warranty goes out.

Arun replies:

Hey Sajeev,

Much appreciated! I have a scheduled a session with the Service Dept for this Saturday. I will update you once its done.


Arun replies:

I got the job done and it was indeed some lube that was needed. The dealership was at a loss as to how that could have happened, speculating that it could have been something that may not have been applied to spec at the factory itself. Somehow I doubt that’s the case considering how fastidious the Germans are about initial quality.

Oh well..I have driven the car just 10 miles since but so far so good.

Thanks once again for the help!

P.S. someday I will drive a Panther just to see what the hype is all about! :-)

Sajeev concludes:

Oh yes, nobody is as fastidious about initial quality like the Germans!  Then again, German initial quality is certainly superior to their overall lifetime value here in the US. But I digress…

There are probably countless reasons why this happened, as perfection is something we strive for but can never own. And most dealerships are used to customer concerns like this, hence why they were happy to check. And you were happy to ask since it’s still under warranty!

Better drive a Crown Vic Sport or Mercury Marauder soon, when your next post-warranty repair bill comes, you’ll be more inclined to embrace DPL (Das Panther Love) over DSG.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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ZF’s 9-Speed 9HP Transmission Puts Dog Clutches On The Leash Sun, 09 Feb 2014 03:34:39 +0000 ZF 9HP Transmission, Picture Courtesy of Land RoverIn a week we will post our first full review of the all-new and all-controversial 2014 Jeep Cherokee. The new Jeep isn’t just raising eyebrows for the love-it or hate-it styling. Or the resurrection of the Cherokee badge. Or the constant delays in production. Or the transverse mounted engine. Or the lack of solid axles. None of that laundry list seems to cause as much discussion around the automotive water cooler than ZF’s 9HP 9-speed transmission. Click past the jump for a deep dive into the tranny with more speeds than my bicycle. If you don’t want to explore transmissions in detail, don’t click. You have been warned.

When Derek drove the Cherokee at a launch event he complained about the transmission. When I drove a pre-production model for a very brief hour and a half I was more perplexed than anything. I chalked it up to pre-production programming issues and the fact that the transmission has 50% more speeds than a 6-speed, so I expected 50% more shifting. A month later I was able to sample a different Cherokee with newer software and some of my shifting complaints had been solved but something still felt “wrong.” Now three months later a full production Cherokee landed in my hands and while the shift logic (when and why the transmission would shift up or down) was finally where I thought it should be, the shifts themselves felt different from what I am used to. The reason is all down to clutches, but let’s start at the beginning.

In general terms an engine is most efficient in a somewhat narrow band of RPMs. That exact band varies from engine to engine based on what the designers intended at the time. The longer you can keep the engine in this range of RPMs, the more efficient the car will be. Secondary to this is a desire for improved off-the-line performance, this necessitates ever-lower first gear ratios. The distance between the lowest and the tallest gear in a transmission is called the ratio spread. (You get it by dividing the lowest ratio by the tallest and that gives you a number that represents the delta between first and last.) GM’s venerable 4-speed 4L80 has a spread of 3.3 while their new 6-speed 6L80 has a spread of 6. The deeper first gear and taller 6th allow the 6L80 to deliver better performance and better fuel economy. The reason ZF’s 8-speed 8HP doesn’t have the same delta in performance over the average 6-speed as the 6-speed had over the 4-speed, is easy to explain. The 8HP’s ratio spread is 7, just 1 higher than a 6 speed while the 6-speeds had a 3 point advantage over the 4-speeds. Aisin’s new 8-speed transaxle in Volvo and Lexus models goes a small step further with a 7.59 spread. These can all be seen as progressive improvements. The 9HP is different. With a 4.7:1 first gear and a 0.48:1 ninth gear the overall spread is a whopping 9.8.


On closer inspection you’ll notice something interesting about the 9HP’s ratios. Fifth is the 1:1 ratio where the output shaft of the transmission is spinning at the same rate as the engine meaning there four overdrive ratios. In contrast both ZF and Aisin’s 8-speed transmissions have just two overdrive ratios with 6th gear being the direct-drive (1:1) ratio. As a result the 9HP’s lower gears are farther apart, especially first and second gear. When you look deeper at the numbers you’ll also notice that the 9HP is geared much taller at the top end with 7th gear being approximately equal to 8th in the Aisin or ZF 8-speed units. Many reviewers of the Cherokee noted they never experienced 9th gear during their test drive and I now know why. At 0.48:1 with the 3.2L V6 (3.251 final drive) you have to be going faster than 80 MPH to engage 9th because at 80 your engine loafs around at 1,460 RPM. (The 2.4L four-cylinder in the Cherokee Trailhawk would be going about 1,810 RPM at 80.) According to ZF this results in an impressive 12-16% improvement in fuel economy versus the same final drive ratio and their own 6-speed automatic and 11-15% when compared to their 8-speed.

OK, so the 9HP has plenty of gears, but why does it shift the way that it does? It’s all down to the clutches. While a traditional automatic uses friction clutches in the form of either band clutches or multi-plate friction clutches, the 9HP blends friction clutches and dog clutches in the same transmission case. Dog clutches are “interference” clutches more commonly found in manual transmissions and transfer cases. Friction clutches work by pressing two plates together. The friction between them allows the transfer of energy and it allows one plate to spin faster than the other or “slip.” Think of slipping the clutch in a manual car, it is the same action. Automatic transmissions use this clutch type to their advantage because changing gear doesn’t always require engine power to drop, the transmission simply disconnects one clutch as it engages another, they slip and engage and you’re in another gear. Dog clutches however are different. If you look at the illustration below you can see a dog clutch on the right. Power is transmitted by the tooth of one side pressing on the tooth of the other. This type of clutch cannot slip so it is either engaged or disengaged. This is the type of clutch used inside manual transmissions. When you move the shifter to a different gear, you are physically disengaging and engaging dog clutches. This style of clutch is used because it suffers little parasitic loss and it is simple and compact. The use of a dog clutch in an “automatic” transmission isn’t new, dual clutch robotized manuals use this style of clutch internally as well, but it is the key to understanding why the 9HP shifts the way it does.


Because dog clutches can’t slip, their engagement must be controlled and precise. Going back to the manual transmission example, this is why modern manual transmissions have “synchros” or synchromesh. A Synchro is a mechanism that aligns the dog teeth prior to engagement. Without them you get that distinct gear grinding noise. Synchros work well in a manual transmission because when you are changing gear you are disconnecting the engine with the clutch (a friction clutch), then engaging a dog clutch for your gear selection. Because one end of the transmission is “free” the synchro synchronizes the two sides and then allows the toothed gear to engage. There is a “pause” in power when a shift occurs. If you look at an acceleration chart of a car with a good manual driver and an automatic you will see pauses in acceleration in the manual while most autos just have “reductions” in acceleration. That’s down to the pause required to engage a dog clutch vs a friction clutch that slips and engages without much reduction in power.

Let’s digress for a moment and talk about the DSG. The reason dual clutch gearboxes exist is because of the dog clutch. As I said engaging a dog clutch takes time and precision. This is part of the reason single-clutch robotic manuals like the one in the Smart ForTwo and the RAM ProMaster (and other Euro sedans) have such exaggerated shifts. Double clutch gearboxes get around this by having two gears engaged at all times. DSG style gearboxes are really two manual transmissions in the same case. 1st gear is engaged via the first transmission and 2nd is engaged but not active on the second. Changing gears simply involves swapping (via a friction clutch) from transmission A to transmission B. Once that is accomplished, the transmission A disengages and engages the dog clutches to select the next gear. Going from 2nd to 3rd involves swapping back from transmission B to the already shifted transmission A.

Let’s put it all together now. To save space and increase efficiency, the 9HP uses two multi-plate clutch elements, two friction brakes and two electronically synchronized dog clutches. (The 8HP uses two brakes and three multi-plate clutches.) The way the gearsets are arranged inside the case, shifts from 1-2, 2-3, and 3-4 involve only the traditional friction brake and clutch elements. As you would expect, aside from 1st being fairly low and somewhat distant from 2nd, these shifts feel perfectly “normal.” Under hard acceleration there is a momentary reduction in engine torque (courtesy of the computer to reduce clutch wear) and the shift occurs quickly and smoothly. The shift from 4-5 however is different. The transmission has to disengage dog clutch “A” in addition to engaging a friction clutch. This shift takes slightly longer than the 3-4 shift and the car’s computer makes a drastic reduction in torque to prevent wear of the dog teeth. Shifts 5-6 and 6-7 again happen with the only the friction elements at which point we need to disconnect the final dog clutch for gears 8 and 9 so we get the same kind of torque reduction in those shifts. The result is a transmission that has two distinct “feels” to its shifts, one that has only a slight torque reduction (1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 6-7, 8-9) and one that has a more “manual transmission” feel where torque is cut severely (4-5 and 7-8).

2014 Jeep Cherokee Instrument Cluster

Because of the positioning of the two dog clutches in the shift pattern, the torque reduction isn’t objectionable in upshifts. Hard acceleration from a stop didn’t involve 5th gear even in the 1/4 mile. However, once you let off the gas the transmission will shift upwards rapidly for fuel economy settling in 6th or 7th in the 60-65 MPH range and 8th in the 70-75 MPH range.

Downshifts are where the 9HP truly feels different. Because of the design, if you’re in 8th gear and want to pass, the transmission will often need to drop 4 or 5 gears to get to a suitable ratio. (Remember that 4th gear is the first ratio going back down the scale that is lower than 1:1.) To do this the transmission has to accomplish the harder task of engaging two dog clutches. To do this the transmission doesn’t use cone synchros like a manual (too bulky) it uses software. Engaging dog clutches requires a longer and yet more severe reduction in torque than the disengagement because the transmission has to align the clutch and then engage it. In most automatics when you floor the car you get an instant feeling of acceleration that improves as the transmission downshifts. Although there would be moments of power reduction (depending on the programming) during this time, the engine is always providing some force forward. The 9HP’s software on the other hand responds by cutting power initially, then diving as far down the gear-ladder as it can, engaging the dog clutches and then reinstating your throttle command. The result is a somewhat odd delay between the pedal on the floor and the car taking off like a bat out of hell. According to Volvo’s powertrain guys, this shift behavior is one of the main reasons they chose the Aisin 8-speed (shared with the Lexus RX F-Sport) over the ZF 9-speed used by Land Rover and Chrysler.

All of a sudden the “odd” shift feel made perfect sense. In the march toward ever-improving fuel economy the automotive public will continually be introduced to cars that feel different from the “good old days.” Electric power steering numbs the wheel-feel but steer-by-wire promises to artificiality resurrect it. Dual clutch robotized manuals have a particular feel that was accepted by performance enthusiasts but has been a source of complaint for Focus and Fiesta shoppers. For me, understanding why the transmission is doing what it is doing is key to my like or dislike of a car’s road manners. Once I understood what the Cherokee’s automatic was up to, I was able to focus on the rest of the car. What about you? Are you willing to “sacrifice” shift quality at the altar of fuel economy? Be sure to let me know.

Have an automotive technology question? Want to see a deep-dive on another powertrain component?

Let us know by using the contact form at the top of the page!

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Piston Slap: Scope Creep! Mon, 22 Jul 2013 11:00:55 +0000

TTAC Commentator jco writes:


I have a quick but also possibly interesting question: in new VWs with DSG, the LCD info on the dash will tell you exactly what gear number you are in. Obviously with this particular transmission it’s necessary to do this. but why can’t other cars with conventional transmissions, either automatic or manual, have this small but useful feature? have other cars featured this?

Given the sudden multiplication of available gears in upcoming transmissions which have been a hot topic on TTAC recently, maybe it should be mandatory in a future sedan with an 8 speed transmission.

Also, FYI, my phone autocorrected your name to Sanjeev.

Sajeev answers:

ZOMG SON: could the people behind the smart phone be out to get me?  They want TTAC to fire me so they can hire Sanjeev instead???  Oh, the humanity!

My petulant insecurities aside, let’s go old school TTAC on this answer.  Our friend Mr. Bob Elton wrote a fantastic piece about deleting unnecessary crap from a vehicle. What he wrote almost eight years ago is still true today. Probably even more so, considering technology’s scope creep into the dashboards of vehicles increasingly cheaper than a BMW 7-series.

I don’t see a need for your request…even if one of my childhood design musings was this exact feature added to my 1983 Continental Valentino: a Roman Numeral display for the gear changes of the four-speed automatic. I thought it would look pretty sweet next to the digital speedometer on that black plexiglass Star Wars dash, especially since you could make the speedo jump by 6MPH increments thanks to its malaise-grade American V8 torque curve.

But perhaps I’ve grown up a little.  Or I’ve gleaned enough from my MBA coursework to believe that no R&D money should be spent making this indicator.  That said, it wouldn’t be that damn hard: the information is already collected by the computer, which is already wired to screen(s) on the dashboard.  It’ll take a little more GUI programming to display this information, and little else.

How much would that cost?  And is it worth it compared to…anything else? Think about what else you’d want on your next ride instead of this.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Sudden Deceleration: Volkswagen Offers Free Inspection, No Recall Fri, 07 Jun 2013 13:30:19 +0000 Golf Repair - Pocture courtesy

After enduring what The Motor Report calls “a spiraling and damaging media campaign – run, in the main, by Fairfax media,” Volkswagen spoke up. According to Reuters, “Australian Managing Director John White told Australia’s Fairfax newspaper on Friday that VW “have issues” after car owners complained of transmission and engine failures causing loss of power, but did not order a general recall.”

In an open letter, Volkswagen invites customers to contact the company, or to come to a Volkswagen dealer to for a free inspection. Says the letter:

“We understand the recent coverage has caused some concern for our customers. We feel the best way to demonstrate our commitment is with several immediate measures.

For peace of mind, we’re offering free inspections of your Volkswagen vehicle at any Volkswagen dealer throughout Australia.”

Volkswagen also established a free hotline. Following a Coroner’s inquest into the death of a 32 year-old woman at the wheel of a Golf, a media campaign demanded a recall for a defective DSG and clogged diesel filters. The fact that the lady’s Golf was a gasoline powered manual became the first victim of the campaign.

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Sudden Deceleration: Australian Media Blames Volkswagen Golf (Manual, Gasoline) Driver’s Death On DSG, Clogged Diesel Injectors Mon, 03 Jun 2013 11:35:27 +0000

Sorry, subtitles not available


The death of an Australian woman who was rear-ended two years ago is making new headlines.  In 2011, 32-year-old Melissa Ryan was killed when a truck with two trailers hit her Volkswagen Golf from behind. A coroner is looking into the matter. The report is expected to be completed in July. In the meantime, Australian media does not let simple technical facts get in the way of a bad story.

The matter received new publicity after Fairfax Media, an Australian group that owns large Australian and New Zealand newspapers, along with the popular Australian car site, published a story about the inquest.  The story in and sibling media starts with reports that “at least 15 Volkswagen owners have revealed they experienced the same terrifying loss of acceleration that appears to have led to the 2011 death of 32-year-old Melissa Ryan.” This while the cause of the death has yet to be determined.

Seven paragraphs into the story, it makes the laborious statement that “Fairfax is not suggesting Ms Ryan’s death is linked to a fault in her car,” only to suggest in the rest of the story, that it was the car that killed Ms. Ryan, and that it was Volkswagen’s bedeviled DSG gearbox that killed her:

“Volkswagen has this year issued recalls for almost 400,000 of its cars in China and 91,000 in Japan for problems with the high-tech automatic direct shift gearbox (DSG). The DSG problems have been connected to sudden power loss.”

Also, says the paper, there is “an injector problem with some diesel models” of Volkswagen, which can lead to “sudden deceleration.”

The trouble is, Ms. Ryan’s Golf had a stick shift, a fact that was noted, but nonetheless ignored in the story. The car also ran on gasoline, a fact that remained unmentioned.

It was left to Karl Gehling, spokesman of Volkswagen Australia, to state:

“The vehicle at the centre of the inquest is equipped with a petrol engine and a manual transmission. Neither of the customers interviewed for the story has a vehicle fitted with a DSG transmission either.”

In a follow-up story on Saturday, reports that “the federal government has launched an investigation into possible faults in popular models of Volkswagens which have led to motorists experiencing a frightening and sudden loss of acceleration while driving their cars.” It also says that “Volkswagen did not return Fairfax Media’s calls.”

It took TTAC all but five minutes to receive a return call from Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg HQ  to Tokyo. Peter Heinz Thul, at Volkswagen responsible for groupwide Product Communication, said:

“There is no reason why this accident, which occurred now more than two years ago, is gaining attention again in connection with the recalls in China and Japan in relation to the dual-clutch gearbox (DSG). The accident definitively had nothing to do with the DSG, as the Golf GTI involved was fitted with a manual gearbox. prides itself of being “Australia’s Largest Car Review Website,” but is willing to ignore the fact  that clogged diesel injectors can’t slow down a car that runs on pump gas, just like DSG troubles would be hard pressed to affect a manual.

The sudden attention may even come as a disfavor to the deceased and her beneficiary heirs. According to a source close to the inquest,  there may be a witness who talked to Ms. Ryan via a cellphone while she died.

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (Video) Fri, 18 Jan 2013 14:00:08 +0000

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.

Click here to view the embedded video.


No longer just a “Golf sedan,” the sixth-generation Jetta shares no sheetmetal with its hatchback cousin. VW has long been known for restrained styling and the Jetta doesn’t depart from their formula of simple lines and slab sides. Still, it has a more elegant look to my eye than the Civic or the Prius. For hybrid duty VW gave the Jetta requisite aerodynamic tweaks, some hybrid badges and aerodynamic wheels. Contrary to the rumor mill, the American Jetta is the same basic car as the European Jetta (unlike the Passat) with tweaks inside and out for the different markets.


The biggest difference between the Euro and American Jetta is the interior. While both vehicles share a common design, the American version swaps squishy dash bits for hard plastic to keep the price competitive. That’s fine in a $17,000 compact car, but for a $24,995-$31,180 hybrid, harsh plastics would have been decidedly low rent. Thankfully VW had Euro Jetta parts hanging around and the MSRP of the Hybrid justified their installation (the GLI gets the up-market parts as well). The swap makes the Hybrid cabin a nicer place to spend your time than the diesel model, although the hard plastic center console and door panels remain. Fear not, it’s still a classier cabin than the Civic Hybrid or the Prius and VW had the sense to keep the gauges where they belong instead of some odd binnacle in the center of the dash. Instead of the two-dial cluster found in the standard models, the Hybrid model uses a unique four-dial unit with a “power gauge” instead of a tachometer. The power gauge displays the percentage of total system power being used from 0-100% as well as regenerative braking status.

VW offers the compact hybrid in four different trim levels, base, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Regardless of trim, the seats are covered in VW’s “V-Tex” leatherette material. Seat cushions have not been upgraded vs the non-hybrid models so the padding is fairly firm with minimal bolstering and manual lumbar support for the driver only. If you’re one of those VW fans that misses the premium-feeling interiors they used to offer in America, stepping up to the Hybrid or GLI brings the Euro-mojo back. The TDI? Not so much. Then again the Hybrid is $2,000 more than a comparable TDI, so you’d expect better digs.

Out back, the rear seats are as low to the floor as the Civic or Corolla but are a more comfortable with improved padding. Rear passengers with longer legs will appreciate the Jetta’s 38-inches of rear legroom (2 more than Civic Hybrid, Prius or Corolla). Despite having similar headroom numbers as the Corolla and Civic, my hair brushed the ceiling  in the back leaving me to question VW’s measuring devices. If you have a short torso and long legs, the Jetta is the place to be, otherwise check out something taller like a C-MAX.

VW positioned the batteries in the trunk to preserve the Jetta’s trunk pass-through. If that sounds like a no-brainer design wise, go check out the Toyota Camry Hybrid which retains the folding rear seats, but when folded they reveal a small and strangely positioned pass-through. The larger portal is possible because VW’s 60-cell, 1.1-kWh battery pack uses dense lithium-ion chemistry as opposed to nickel metal-hydride packs common on Toyota’s hybrids. VW also chose to keep the compact spare instead of either converting to a battery compartment or ditching it for a can of fix-a-flat to save weight. Keeping the spare tire and adding the battery means the cargo capacity drops nearly 30% to 11.3 cubic feet vs the regular Jetta.


Base hybrid models start with an AM/FM/CD player with Bluetooth audio streaming and the requisite aux input. SE and SEL models upgrade the base head unit to VW’s touchscreen display audio unit with XM-Radio and VW’s USB/iDevice interface (MDI). VW’s proprietary MDI cables plug into a port in the glove box. VW includes an MDI to iDevice cable while an MDI to USB cable is available at your dealer. In case you’re wondering, you can use an apple adapter to connect your iPhone 5 and it worked properly.

The SEL Premium model gets VW’s 5-inch touchscreen navigation unit (RNS-315) seen in a number of other VW vehicles from the Golf to the Passat. VW stores the database on 4GB of built-in flash memory which speeds up address entry and rerouting. Unfortunately VW’s infotainment offerings are getting a long in the tooth compared to the latest offerings from Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Dodge and Chevrolet in terms of graphics quality and functionality. While Honda has yet to send HondaLink down to the Civic, everyone else is doubling down on voice recognition to search for tunes on your USB/iDevice. On the flip side, the SEL Premium gets the 9-speaker Fender audio system which is possibly the best speaker system available in a compact car.


Apparently I’m not the first person to say: “gee, a small direct-injection turbo engine would be the perfect engine to jam under a hybrid’s hood.” Rather than altering the Jetta’s base 2.0L engine to run on an Atkinson cycle and adding a motor (like everyone else), VW reached into their Euro engine bin and selected their 1.4L TSI engine. The boosted, direct-injection mill is good for 150HP at 5,000RPM and 184lb-ft from 1,400 to 3,500 RPM all on its own. The engine is then mated (via a clutch pack) to a 20kW (27HP) and 114lb-ft water-cooled motor. Because gasoline engines and electric motors have different power delivery characteristics, you don’t just add the numbers to get the system total. The combined output rings in at 170HP while the torque remains 184ft-lbs but broadens to a range of  1,000 to 4,500 RPM. While that sounds tasty enough, torque below 1,000RPM improves considerably thanks to the motor cranking out 114lb-ft from essentially zero RPM.

Instead of mating the powerplant to a traditional automatic transmission like VW did with the Touareg Hybrid, the engineers pulled the new 7-speed “DSG” dual-clutch transaxle out of the bin. If you’re interested in exactly how the power flows, this might help: Engine > clutch > motor > clutch > transaxle > wheels. An important fact that isn’t immediately obvious but should be kept in mind is the 1.4L engine’s appetite for premium gasoline. While all vehicles sold in the US must run safely on regular, you will notice a drop in power when doing so.

About that fuel economy

Hybrids are all about fuel efficiency, right? Well, not if you’re GM or Porsche (or a Touareg), but I digress. This hybrid is about efficiency with a Germanic twist. Rated for 42MPG city, 48MPG highway and 45MPG combined, the Jetta falls short of the Prius’ 51/48/50 MPG or the C-MAX’s 47/47/47 rating but it is higher than the Civic Hybrid at 44/44/44 or the  Jetta TDI’s 30/42/34 score. VW claims they could have matched the Prius numbers but they chose not to, instead favoring handling and performance over economy at all costs. And I could have beat Obama in the last national election but I chose not to run so I could devote my time to TTAC.

During a 743-mile week of mixed driving I averaged 37.6MPG. On the same driving cycle I averaged 41.5MPG in the C-MAX, 49.6MPG in the Prius, 42.8 in the Civic Hybrid and 36MPG in the Jetta TDI. When driven gently, our tester scored 46.6MPG on a 40 mile highway trip and 43.2MPG running around town. While these numbers fall short of the Jetta’s EPA numbers it is important to keep in mind that a 10% difference between EPA numbers and real world numbers are more pronounced when the numbers get bigger. Is this a problem? Not in my book. In reality the difference between operating a Prius and the Jetta is fairly small.

Our tester was an SEL Premium which came standard with 205/50R17 tires, an upgrade from the base model’s 205/50R15s. If you do the math, the 17-inch tires provide approximately a 10% larger contact patch on the road which improves handling but logically must take a toll on fuel economy. We were unable to get our hands  on a base Jetta Hybrid to verify this and VW didn’t respond to my questions with straight answers. Tire choices are an important part of the high-efficiency package, something to keep in mind when you buy new tires for any car.


VW’s 7-speed DSG proved an interesting companion out on the road. The feeling behind the wheel is very different from other hybrid vehicles which, up till now, have predominantly used CVT-type transmissions. Like other vehicles with dual-clutch units, shifts are more noticeable than a regular automatic with a definite moment where “nothing is happening” as the DSG shifts from one gear to another. The effect seems less pronounced in the hybrid than in other VW models and the smoothness penalty is worth the improved efficiency to me. On the down side, as regenerative breaking uses the traction motor (which is located on the input side of the transaxle) braking and downshifting at the same time causes some strange brake feel as the regenerative braking “turns off” during the shift, then comes “back on” after the shift is complete. In general, the transitions between regenerative and friction braking just aren’t as polished as they are in the Ford, Toyota, Lexus or Infiniti hybrids but they are a bit better than the Civic.


The Jetta Hybrid is the most dynamic hybrid under $40,000 I have ever tested, barely besting the Civic. Although the C-MAX is a competent handler, its 3,650lb curb weight makes it feel less responsive than the 3,300lb Jetta. If you want something even more nimble, that Civic hybrid is a bantamweight 2,868lbs. Helping the Jetta around the corners is a coil spring suspension, similar to the one used in the GLI, which replaces the cheaper torsion beam setup used in the lesser Jettas. Thanks to the suspension change (and the extra curb weight from the batteries), the Hybrid model also delivers a more composed ride on broken pavement. Curb weight isn’t everything when it comes to driving however. While the Civic handles curves like a pro, even a full-sized van will eat its lunch in the straights and that’s where the Jetta pulls its lederhosen up and sprints. Our tester scooted to 60 in 7.12 seconds, just a hair behind the more powerful 188HP C-MAX and a full 2 seconds faster than the Civic Hybrid, Prius or the oil-burning Jetta TDI.

After a week and 743 miles with the fuel-sipping German I came to an important conclusion: this hybrid system should be jammed under the hood of every VW product in America. Aside from replacing the tachometer with a “power gauge,” this system presents few drawbacks while improving both performance and economy. It all comes at a price, the Jetta Hybrid is about $4,500 more than a comparably equipped gasoline Jetta. The hybrid model will save you $800 a year on your gas bill (15,000 miles a year) compared to the 2.0L gasoline-only model, but the pay back at $3.30/gallon gasoline will take 6 years. The TDI comparison is where we started and where we’ll finish. The $2,000 difference in MSRP for the hybrid gets you the upgraded interior, improved gauge cluster, a version of the European coil spring suspension and greatly improved city mileage. According to the EPA it would only take 3.5 years for the hybrid to start saving you money over the diesel. This begs the obvious question: VW, where is my diesel hybrid? Until VW decides to craft such a beast, the Jetta Hybrid should take the top spot on your list.


 Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gasoline for this review.

Statistics as tested:

0-30: 2.7 seconds

0-60: 7.12 seconds

1/4 mile: 15.6 seconds at 88 MPH

Average economy: 37.6 MPG over 743 miles

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, power gauge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Hybrid Badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, 17-inch wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interiorm Rear Seats Folded, Cargo pass-through, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Engine, 1.4L Turbo Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Engine, 1.4L Turbo Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Engine, 1.4L Turbo Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Drivers Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Interior, Drivers Seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 93
New or Used: “Affirmative Action” on a Lease Payout? Thu, 29 Dec 2011 22:41:09 +0000


Luiz writes:

Dear Steve/Sajeev:

I am a 35 year old elementary school principal, married with 2 kids (5 and 9), and a certified car nut who thinks and reads about them way too much, and who is a walking contradiction when it comes to cars.

Here are some examples: I appreciate older cars from my youth that are well-cared for, but I am not mechanically inclined at all, and don’t want to tinker with cars.  I don’t like appliances like CamCords, but appreciate reliable machines.  I dislike car payments, and fully understand the value inherent in keeping a car a long time, but can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a car note, as I’ve sold and bought too many cars to list here, all before their time.  I don’t aspire to own a premium luxury ride like a BMW or M-B, but I sold my last car, a loaded-with-everything-and-a-stick, pristine, 2002 Protege5, with only 52K miles, when I became a principal in March of 2009 and wanted a new car with a bit more prestige.  I know practically all the specs on any car in my price range (can’t go more than 30K max, as the wife has an ’11 Outback we’re happy with and plan to keep till the wheels come off-at least that’s the plan), but I buy cars too quickly.  I could go on and on.

So, in March of 2009, I wanted something sporty, with a tad bit more prestige, that could hold a family of four, and wasn’t too common.  I narrowed down my choices to the TSX, or the GLI/GTI.  Test drove the TSX, liked it.  Test drove the GTI twice, but leased a GLI with DSG as the deal was much better than the essentially-same GTI.  My lease is up in 8 months, and the car has been fantastic, with ZERO issues, and a letter from VW stating that my car’s DSG is covered for 100K miles or 10 years due to similar models having issues.  I also enjoy the car and its performance, which is enough for me, as I live in crowded northern NJ, and take trips into NYC and the outer boroughs from time to time; there’s not much space here to go flat out.  This was my first lease, and the buyout will be 15,000 including tax, for a 3-year-old GLI that will only have about 24,000 miles come March of 2012.  So, should I?

1.  Buy the GLI, which flies in the face of what everyone says (don’t keep a German car, let alone a VW, outside of the warranty period)?

2.  Walk away and buy something cheaper, so I can concentrate on paying down the Outback (I have a SAAB specialist about 3 miles from my house who offers clean SAABs with 2-year warranties, for roughly 3-8K dollars, that I drive by and wonder about)?

3.  Walk away and lease something cheaper (my current payment is $350 a month), knowing that I may have to give up some accessories, power, etc, in order to go down in price?

Please help,
Principal / Affirmative Action Officer

(oh, BTW, I’m 6’3,” and it’s quite a bitch to find a car that fits, that isn’t a Chevy Express)

Steve answers:

As someone who was fortunate enough to escape from northern New Jersey, I would encourage you to spoil yourself a bit. The weather sucks. The cost of living sucks. I won’t even mention the horror that is daily commuting to NYC.

I would keep the car. First off you want to get out of the debt trap. At least you pretend to have this goal in mind. So why not do it?

Second, that price is pretty good for a retail transaction. You like the car and know it’s history. Plus VW has seen fit to make up for their recent quality transgressions. To me this all sounds like a winning combination.

Keep it. Pay it. Worry instead about why the title of your work also includes ‘Affirmative Action Officer’. I would fear that more than I would fear any VW.

Sajeev answers:

The buyout on your lease is surprisingly good.  Which makes me wonder if the down payment or monthly bill during the lease were brutal?  But I digress…

Odds are you can get just what you need in a $15,000 Mazda 6 or Camry SE (only the SE) but perhaps that’s more trouble than it’s worth.  Sure these vehicles are sporty and known for far better long-term value, but the time value of your money hunting for one is a difficult number to quantify.

If this is a “keeper” and long-term costs are a concern, you’d be wise to dump the GLI.  I don’t even want to know the cost if the DSG fails at 100,001 miles.  Then again, will you really keep it for that long? And the Camry SE is still a Camry.

Don’t listen to me. Listen to Steve.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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VW Cranks Out Made-in-China DSGs Tue, 11 May 2010 17:13:30 +0000

The Chinese leader of the purchasing department of a very large Chinese car manufacturer once informed me: „Clutches? Don’t buy any Chinese clutches. They are all [expletive deleted]. We import all of our [expletive deleted] clutches.” Volkswagen is setting out to change that [expletive deleted] situation.

Today, the newly-founded Volkswagen Automatic Transmission Co, Ltd. started to produce Volkswagen’s tricky 7-speed dual clutch DSG transmission at a projected rate of 300,000 pieces a year. Its capacity will be gradually expanded to a maximum of 600,000 units. The factory is in the port city of Dalian, previously known for its beautiful scenery and beautiful women.

The Dalian facility is the second plant (after Kassel) in Volkswagen’s worldwide imperium to build the demanding DSG transmissions.

Volkswagen swears in their press release that “the locally-produced DSG transmissions will be installed in vehicles for the Chinese market.”

Note that they don’t say “for the Chinese market only.” At 600,000 pieces a year it would take a huge jump in DSG equipped Chinese VWs to absorb that kind of a volume. And if they are made at lower cost in Dalian than in Kassel, expect a Chinese DSG soon in a Volkswagen near you.

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