Is there anybody left in this country who gives a single damn about Volkswagen? If so… why?
This is a company that has spent the past 40 years treating their American customer base with the kind of contemptuous disdain that most of us associate with the wait staff at Le Bernardin. The thousand injuries of Wolfsburg we have borne as best we could — from the Westmoreland Rabbits to the 8-valve Mk2 GTI to every single aspect of the Phaeton ownership experience — but when the company ventured upon insult to the very air we breathe, that should have been enough for all of us to abandon the brand permanently.
The problem is that some of us just can’t let go. Maybe it’s misplaced loyalty. Maybe it’s dim memories of the Corrado VR6. Maybe it’s just a certain delight in the way that Volkswagens feel when you’re driving them. Whatever the reason, there’s still some goodwill left in the United States on which the company can capitalize. One of the ideas being floated is a “hot Passat”, or at least a slightly sportier Passat. Our own Steph Willems made the case earlier in the week that such a car would be a waste of time.
I disagree, and I’ll tell you why.
(Please give a warm welcome to Ian, who has 40,000 miles on his Jetta GLI! — JB)
About three years ago, I was the owner of a 2004 Ford Focus SVT two door and simultaneously the dad of a one-year-old child. Our family car was a 2008 Saturn Vue. One day I got a call from my wife telling me that the Saturn wasn’t shifting into second anymore. Thankfully the Saturn’s powertrain warranty covered what ended up being a clutch pack failure.
Thanks to the factory warranty, at first it seemed like the biggest hassle of the incident was going to be the sketchy tow truck guy who didn’t have a parking brake on his truck and had to resort to using part of a broom handle wedged against the brake pedal and the truck’s bench seat to keep the truck from moving while the Vue was loaded onto the bed. It turns out this wasn’t the biggest hassle. That was reserved for a week of loading my daughter in and out of a rear facing seat on a two door hatchback.
The U.S. version of the 2015 Golf R will be a five door, unlike the three door Euro spec model.
Volkswagen of America confirmed that the U.S. spec 2015 Golf R will debut at the Detroit auto show next week. While at 290 horsepower, it’s down 6 HP from the Euro spec Golf R shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show last September but that still will be enough power driving through all four wheels to tick off 5.3 seconds in a zero to sixty run with a six speed fully manual transmission and an even quicker 4.9 seconds in the DSG dual clutch equipped R. That’s correct, U.S. consumers will finally have a choice of gearboxes in the R. Starting with the 2004 R32, VW has only offered either the six speed manual or the DSG transmission on American versions of the Golf R. (Read More…)
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…