The engine quit with a sudden un-dramatic snap, and the little Golf TDI began to slough off speed. Reflexively, I bumped the gearshift lever into neutral, flicked on my signal and began moving towards the left edge of the expressway. My exit was less than a mile away and, rather than stop alongside the highway, I used my momentum to coast up the off-ramp and over the small knoll that stood between the expressway and the toll plaza. I stopped there, on the back side of the hill where the road widened on the approach to the toll booths, to avoid blocking traffic and dug out my cell phone to call for a tow truck. I didn’t know it then, but it was the last time that I would ever sit behind the wheel of the little car, never mind the fact that it would follow me again around half of the globe. (Read More…)
A mix of good and bad news for fans of European forbidden fruit – the Audi SQ5 will be coming to our shores, but with the familiar 3.0T V6 rather than the Euro-spec TDI powertrain initially shown earlier this year. And I think that’s a big mistake.
A 2012 VW Jetta TDI Wagon.
It comes with the usual six speed stick that you would find among thousands of other Jetta wagons all over the world.
It has the ‘arrest me red’ color that always comes across as neon pink whenever you photograph it in the sun.
But there are at least two mysterious facets of this urea indulgent uber-wagon. A rare and unusual frame damage announcement in the run list, and only 815 original miles.
Alas, no wagons among them, but Audi is launching four new diesel powered models for 2013, marking one of the biggest pushes for diesel in the North American market.
Hybrid or diesel? For peak fuel economy in a $30,000 midsize sedan you need one or the other. The Toyota Camry is the most efficient of the five available hybrids (until the 2013 Ford Fusion arrives). If you live in Europe, the diesel world is your oyster. In North America, you have one option for an oil-burning mid-size sedan, the Volkswagen Passat. Which would you pick?
Fans of Volkswagen products who hoarded canned goods and ammunition in anticipation of the VWpocalypse – the launch of “Americanized” versions of the Jetta and Passat – may be unhappy with how their new product lineup is shaking out. But the market is responding favorably. The Volkswagen Jetta outsold the Hyundai Elantra in January (the two finished 11th and 10th in 2011 respectively) and the Passat spends half as much time on dealer lots compared to the industry average.
Editor’s Note: Be aware that photos are larger than the usual format.
When I told friends that my European vacation would give me the opportunity to test a few European cars, their reactions fit a certain pattern: “So you’re going to be running around Europe in Porsches and Audis?” they asked. “Can I have your job?”
“No such luck,” I replied. “I’ve got a Hyundai station wagon and a VW minivan lined up.”
And though my friends may have been disappointed, I certainly wasn’t. After all, I expected great things from the Hyundai i40 I had during my first week, and I was actually quite excited to have secured a VW Sharan for week two. After all, I have something of a history with minivans (I drove a Grand Caravan in High School, the only vehicle I’ve ever crashed), and I was looking forward to comparing VW’s new Euro-MPV to its US “counterpart,” the Chrysler-rebadge VW Routan. If VW would rather sell a rebadged Town & Country than the slick little MPV I received straight from Wolfsburg with only 3,500 km on the clock, surely there was a reason. And I was determined to find it out.
Last Monday’s review of the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SE found the large, value-priced German sedan to be roomy but unpolished. Today: the TDI in SEL Premium trim. In this form the “from $19,995*” new Passat gets a bit far from the segment’s mid-twenties sweet spot, with a list price of $32,965. But perhaps the turbodiesel engine and top-of-the-line interior transform the car?
The Touareg TDI is not your father’s Oldsmobile. I know, because I unfortunately drove my father’s 85HP, 1983 Cutlass Cierra diesel when I was a kid. Since my dad was a glutton for punishment, this was not his first unreliable GM diesel; we also had a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser with the infamous diesel V8. After about 30,000 miles, both our diesels smoked like a 60 year old hooker. Since potential clean diesel shoppers seem to fall into the 30-60 year old demographic, this is still the image that diesel brings to mind for many, not the reliable but low-volume European diesels from the 70s and 80s. If sales numbers are any indication however, BMW Mercedes and VW have been changing the tide of public opinion.
The benefits of gasoline engine downsizing has its latest poster child: the new Polo GTI. It’s a graphic example of why diesel market share in Europe is declining, especially in smaller cars: a 25% reduction on the European mileage standards, without any loss of performance. The GTI’s 1.4 liter TSI produces 177 hp (132kW), exactly the same as its 1.8 liter predecessor. But the combined fuel consumption is 5.9 L/100km (40 mpg US)—equivalent to CO2 emissions of 139 g/km, 25% lower than the outgoing model. Knowing that it also squirts to 100km (62 mph) in 6.9 seconds and comes standard with a 7 speed DSG transmission is only rubbing the wound of knowing it’s not coming to the US with salt. But undoubtedly, tightening CAFE standards will eventually send VW’s pioneering 1.4 and 1.6 TSI engines our way; the question is only in what body. (Read More…)
Today, on the last day of media access to the LA Auto show, the mystic powers that be continued VAGs green run by selecting the Audi A3 TDi as the 2010 Green Car of the Year (The Jetta TDi won last year). In the running this year were the Audi A3 TDI, Honda Insight, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Golf TDI. According to the LA Auto Show,
The Green Car of the Year® award is a program that honors environmental leadership in the automobile field and recognizes vehicles that are readily available to consumers during the award year. Green Car Journal/ editors perform an exhaustive review of vehicle models to identify the five finalists. The winner is ultimately decided by jurors such as Jay Leno, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Carroll Shelby, Matt Petersen of Global Green USA and the Sierra Club’s Carl Pope, along with Green Car Journal editors.
Interesting then that this same bunch of car czars chose the Chevy Tahoe two years ago for getting 1 MPG better than the gasoline version. Anyone feeling some Volt love in 2011?
Want to do your bit for the environment, like ride a bike or take the bus? You loser! Buy an Audi instead! [headline explained here]
One of the enduring lessons of the car game is that good vehicles don’t always sell well. As a car writer who took on news analysis before ever getting manufacturer-sponsored time behind the wheel, this lesson can’t help but tinge my impressions of a road test. So when my first weeklong tester arrived in the form of a Q7 TDI, I felt no desire to justify Audi’s decision to bring the thing to market. After all, by any reasonable analysis, the brand built by Quattro wagons should have been the primary beneficiary of America’s SUV craze. Or, at least its worst enemy. Instead the Q7 showed up for the party fashionably dressed but fashionably late. And very few wanted to buy it. With the high price of luxo ute party fuel already killing the festive vibes, is switching to a new drink enough to make Audi’s SUV sales party like its 1999?
When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After all, that $1 could win you the $1m payout at the Luxor’s giant slot machine. It’s thinking that makes both Sin City and the VW Jetta diesel so great.