By on March 29, 2017


Earlier this week, we reported on an influx of complaints from diesel owners who were required by law to permit Volkswagen to rectify their emission rigged engines. The consensus was that the company has not done a great job. If a veterinarian fixed a pet in the same manner that VW “fixed” these cars, you would probably put it out of its misery and then throttle the vet for butchering your now-ruined family companion.

Owners of the vehicles have complained of units lacking their former oomph, shuddering, stalling, and even being difficult to restart. While not every driver reported identical problems, the majority agreed Volkswagen had ravaged the engines’ ability to make power. At the time, nobody knew exactly how extensive the losses were. But, as the powerband-sapping solution closes in on North America, those numbers have come in. 

Swedish researchers from the country’s preeminent motoring magazine, Teknikens Värld, conducted back-to-back testing of 10 cars from Skoda, VW, and Audi before and after the fix. The findings, at the very least, indicate Volkswagen Group may have broken its promise to returning the corrected cars in the same state as before. While some of the vehicles became thirstier and made more power, most became significantly less impressive. Engines saw up to a 10-percent decrease in performance with a new torque curve biased toward higher engine speeds.

Volkswagen assured customers that their cars’ performance would remain unaffected, but Erik Lehfeldt, the owner of Passat Alltrack tested by Teknikens Värld, said that’s not been his experience.

“I’m disappointed in Volkswagen. First, they cheat on the emissions purification and then they lie to the customers. They promised that the car would be exactly as before the fix, but that’s not true. My car is considerably weaker,” Lehfeldt explained.

Of the diesel motors that took part in the Swedish tests, the 1.6 liter TDI mills performed best after the fix. Researchers actually saw those vehicles produce extra power and torque. However, the curve in Lehfeldt’s Passat had shifted enough to make the vehicles feel lethargic at normal engine speeds. A pre-fix rating of 125 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm transformed to a post-fix 118 ft-lb at the same engine speed.

Things were even worse in the 2.0-liter TDI cars. While a couple saw additions to peak horsepower, they were all down on torque and pulling-power tapered off far too early. A tested 2.0-liter Audi Q5 went from 266 lb-ft at 2,345 rpm to 247 ft-lb at 2,590 rpm. Interestingly, Audi announced it would be replacing the old Q5 powerplant with a new 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo unit just earlier today, showing its continued desire to distance itself from diesel-powered platforms. That’s likely a wise move as the company clearly doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing with them.

Here is your warning. If you were one of the precious few Volkswagen owners who opted out of the company’s diesel buyback program, now might be a good time to reconsider.

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36 Comments on “The Numbers Are In: Volkswagen Butchered its ‘Fixed’ Diesel Engines...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    VW didn’t actually promise that the TDI engines would perform exactly the same after the fix. These bugaboos should not surprise anyone.

    Many of us also predicted such an outcry once lab tests were performed on the fixed engines.

    Resale value on fixed TDIs? Forget it.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an ea189 engine (the 1.6) and every recall letter that I have received has stated that performance will remain the same, but the most recent letter said ‘peak performance will not be affected’.

    • 0 avatar

      Completely wrong. The US TDI forums are full of reports of people who have had the fix on their 2015 TDI’s and report either no discernible change to performance or fuel economy – or the car runs better.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Or opt out of the fix too if that’s legal. Will this be handled state by state in the US?

    • 0 avatar

      US Federal law was violated, so I don’t see how the resolution could be state by state. California is unique in that it is empowered to set stricter emissions standards than the feds. California might be able to offer a special deal in the context of its standards, but even then I don’t think it could require less than federal law.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        While the US Federal government sets the emission standards, the states enforce them. In PA gasoline powered cars are inspected for both mechanical safety and emissions annually. The vehicle must pass emission testing (reading the OBDII codes) before it can pass the safety inspection. Any conditions causing emission codes present during the inspection must be repaired before a new inspection inspection sticker is issued. Otherwise it is illegal to drive the car.
        There are two exemptions; diesels and cars driven under 5k miles per year.
        Neither type is actually tested via the ODBII download. The inspection is visual to verify that whatever emission system that came with the vehicle is still there. It doesn’t have to work.
        So, if the state does not change the current regulations, you can drive your unmolested TDI till the wheels fall off without violating state law here, and the diesel powered car only has to pass the annual safety inspection as long as you don’t remove the emissions system components.

    • 0 avatar

      Legal or “no one will hassle me”?

  • avatar

    Will there be a glut of “fixed” VW Diesels in the used market?

    • 0 avatar

      More like a rash of “thefts” and “engine fires”.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah. Seems like a lot of 6.0L PowerStroke-equipped trucks were “stolen” and destroyed beyond repair, or crashed in such a way as to inflict massive damage to the vehicle without harming the occupant, if such an individual could be found afterwards. Lucky break for the owners facing repeated multi-thousand dollar repairs to keep the lemon going.

        A shame, the rest of the truck was top-notch. Given the hit-and-miss (mostly miss) reliability of VW products, the same could not be said for them.

        I would’ve considered a Cummins swap had I found myself in such a situation (with a 6.0L/6.4L).

        Interesting note, the main consciences is that it was all the emissions-related equipment and design that made the 6.0L/6.4L the opposite of the 7.3L it replaced as far as durability and reliability. It certainly had more usable power in my experience, but obviously not worth the trouble.

        I guess Ford/Navistar could have taken the VW option.
        “Sure they pass emissions! [Very low voice]

        • 0 avatar

          The Cummins “swap” is waste, if you get to know a good Power Stroke specialist.

          Early 6.0s deserve their bad rap. Except it was more to do with weak high-pressure pumps, than “emissions”. They’re considered “pre-emissions”. But also Ford techs just weren’t “up to speed” on them. They’re hella complicated vs the “Stone Age” 7.3.

          Most of the bugs were worked out, “updated” by ’05, and the aftermarket and independent shops handled the rest. Ford never addressed the weak head-bolt design, except you can’t really beat-on, abuse, neglect, tune/mod them, like good ol’ 7.3s.

          Take care of them and they’re great, powerful, reliable, economical, 32 valves, and “keepers”. Early 6.0s accept all the later updates.

          Now the 6.4 is a complete “throwaway” engine from the start. Avoid that one at all costs!

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve got a friend who I’m convinced is some sort of “diesel whisperer” with how much he can improve a faulty diesel, mostly in an agricultural context. But even he can’t sort out all the little nagging issues with his 6.4. It’s seemed to have turned him off to diesel entirely (at least for the time being). His “farm pickup” now is an OBS F-250HD with a 351, and he’s looking at a Ram 1500 Hemi 8-speed or F-150 5.0 or 3.5 EB for his “nice pickup.”

      • 0 avatar

        Why would anybody bother with that though, they can just sell it back to VW at a hefty premium. I got my offer letter and it’s more than enough to go buy all sorts of replacement vehicles.

  • avatar

    I actually thought they would lose more torque after the fix.

    Man a 1.6TDI in a Passat, brutal.

  • avatar

    I’m disappointed this article has so little to report about changes in fuel efficiency. You might be surprised to learn that this is something diesel owners care about. Possibly even more than power and torque.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Those figures have yet to be throughly assessed. Although early claims seem to indicate economy has gone down by a few mpg under normal driving conditions. The cited Alltrack went from 46 to 40 mpg, according to its owner.

      I would guess that post-fix 2.0 TDI-equipped cars lose roughly 10 percent in efficiency, but I need to wait for more data to come in before I can give anything concrete.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        It is likely mpgs have dropped, but I’d wait for standardized testing.

        In my area, anyway, such a drop virtually eliminates any cost of ownership benefit since diesel is more expensive than gas.

        What a sorry mess.

        • 0 avatar

          Imagine where VW could have been today if they built the worlds largest battery factory instead of Tesla. VW certainly had the resources to do so.

          We heard for years from the Germans that they weren’t interested in electric cars, because Diesel was good enough and clean enough.

          What a arrogant bunch of liars.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    This is turning into the Euro version of the X-body, only with a ton more newspapers involved. Would love to see what these people think of VW in ten years.

    • 0 avatar

      It has nothing to dent sales or profits as they keep on rising. These ” Chicken Little” articles are very much out of sync to what is actually happening

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t forget, Volkswagen sales are over 75% gasoline powered, not diesels, and globally, the smaller diesel engines predominate. Fuel availablity in some parts of the world may contribute more toward diesel sales than performance/mileage, and of course, some standards are more lax outside of EU/US.

        “Dieselgate” in Europe/North America has very little impact on the bulk of Volkswagen’s business, and they can still be very profitable, but profits spent on fines and conversion expenses can’t be spent on technology or new product. That’s the main impact, and it could be years before we see the effects.

  • avatar

    Note that the European-spec fix involves just a software update for most cars and an “air flow straightener” plus software for a subset of engines. In the US the “fix” starts with a software update that is available now (for some models) and then there is a second hardware upgrade/replacement that will be performed sometime in the next couple of years once they have finished designing and manufacturing the parts. I would expect more dramatic difference from more dramatic changes.

  • avatar

    I am shocked to hear that a company that would lie to the US government would also lie to its customers.
    If these diesels could be altered to run better, with the same mileage, while meeting air standards, they would have been manufactured that way.
    The only question left in this whole mess is what will the state and federal government’s do with TDI’s that are not repaired? Down the road, will the states allow these to be re-sold?

    • 0 avatar

      I think the vast majority will be scrapped. It will be painful, but a good way for VW to start restoring confidence in the brand. What good will these cars be once they’ve sat for a year or two? The effort will be massive, and take some time. I think of the MV Cougar Ace stability incident, where 4,703 brand new Mazdas were scrapped. This will definitely dwarf that exercise.

      • 0 avatar

        Or the Nissan Van (pre-Quest) that was fitted with a larger engine to satisfy North American expectations of power, with the slightly inconvenient side effect of causing fires.

        People could opt out (I actually saw one for sale a few years ago), but the majority were bought back and destroyed.

        Again, FAR fewer units than the number of vehicles involved in this case.

  • avatar

    I’ve argued from the beginning that it likely technically impossible to retrofit the cheating engines to not cheat and simultaneously be as good as the delivered configuration when it comes to power, fuel economy, reliability and durability. Had it been possible to do all of those things at the same time …. VW wouldn’t have cheated in the first place!

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      I think they could, but the cost to do so doesn’t make sense (for them) so they buy them back at a huge loss which is still less than the actual cost to fix them properly.

      They could have also probably sold them initially with proper emissions equipment and similar performance but the added cost would have torpedoed sales and likely profits, hence the need to cheat.

  • avatar

    If you like your torque, you can keep it…

  • avatar

    VW has an incredible ability to keep suckers attached to their brand.

    If VW could have hit the necessary performance and emissions targets the first time, do you think they would have gone through the legal problems and half-assed fixes?

    These engines can never be made compliant without some performance and economy sacrifices. Anyone, at this point, holding on to a TDI is a fool.

  • avatar

    Ex TDi owner.
    Dump it.
    In NY, anyway, your Check Engine light is the emissions test. My experience with a bad Exhaust Flapper valve (open spring at the bottom clogs with dirt and rust), and bad Diesel Particulate Filter (dead at 80k, a $2600 repair !!!) shows me that that exhaust is poorly engineered, and keeping the car on the road means either neverending bills you won’t see with a gas car, OR you go the Freedom ! route, and do a tune and straight pipe, which you can’t do legally and depends on your state inspection regime. None of the choices are good.

    Meanwhile, the buyback folks keep asking me for more documents….and it is clear that whoever is running that office isn’t on the ball.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The DPF is the Achilles heel of all of these “clean diesels” that are used in “grocery-getter” or commuting service. The “regeneration cycle” is supposed to burn that stuff out, but if the engine isn’t under sufficient load for a sufficiently long time, things just don’t get hot enough to do a good job of burning it out.

  • avatar

    “If you were one of the precious few Volkswagen owners who opted out of the company’s diesel buyback program, now might be a good time to reconsider.”

    I’m not sure I’d agree with you.

    Here in Canada, I don’t think it’s mandatory to get the fix. Anyone with the 2.0 diesel that doesn’t have the fix still has the best combination of power and economy out there. I’ve told friends with a 2012 2.0 NOT to get it fixed for the very reasons reported on here.

    If you can live with your environmental conscience that your car is putting out somewhat more NO2 than it should (that’s the issue – and these cars ARE clean, in the sense of no particulate smoke as in old diesels), having one that WASN’T fixed could increase its resale value -again, assuming “nanny state” doesn’t INSIST that you have to get it fixed to continue driving, or more importantly, to re-sell.

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