• May 4th 2008 at 1:03PM
  • 50

2009 VW Jetta Sportwagen – Click above for high-res gallery

While we were in Virginia attending the inaugural race of the Jetta TDI cup series, Volkswagen provided us hacks with a some new Jetta Sportwagens with which to make the 45 minute morning and evening commute between the Berry Hill Inn and the race track. Like the last generation Jetta Wagon, the new Sportwagen is branded as a Jetta in North America because Jetta is Volkswagen's top-selling model here. The rest of the world, however, knows this estate-bodied Volkswagen as the Golf Variant. No matter, because the Golf/Rabbit and Jetta share all their important hardware and are, for all intents and purposes, the same car.

In typical fashion, the new Sportwagen has grown since the previous model was retired and is now nearly as big as the last-gen Passat wagon. My first impression upon climbing into the Sportwagen was how it felt nearly as roomy as the 2000 Passat wagon that resides in half of my garage at home. VW provided an assortment of cars with both 5-speed three-pedal and 6-speed two-pedal transmission arrangements. Unfortunately, all were paired with the base 2.5L inline five-cylinder engine. Check out my impressions of the new Jetta Sportwagen after the jump.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

As I said, the interior volume of the newest Jetta is comparable to the last Passat even though its wheelbase and overall length are five and four inches shorter, respectively. The previous Passat shared its platform with the Audi A4 of the time, meaning its engine and transmission were mounted longitudinally, taking up more space in the front of the car. The smaller Jetta Sportwagen has the same transverse configuration that Jettas, Rabbits and Golfs have always had. The interior of the car, in typical Volkswagen fashion, is attractive and well laid out. The gauges are large and legible, and the HVAC controls consist of the classic, simple three-round-knobs setup.

The seats, in typical German fashion, are also comfortable and supportive -- if somewhat confusing to adjust. One of the long-time complaints about many German cars that don't have full power adjustment is the wheel you have to twist to adjust the backrest angle. This delivers precise control of the angle, but ergonomically, it's terrible. The Jetta now has a power adjuster for the seatback but manual adjusters for the fore-aft position and the bottom cushion angle. Once you get the seat in position so you can reach the pedals, the steering wheel can be adjusted for both rake and reach. For those who like natural light, the Sportwagen has an available panoramic sunroof replaces almost the entire roof with glass. The front half pops up and slides back over the rear half.

On the road, the Sportwagen is a bit of a dichotomy. The chassis clearly outclasses the standard five-cylinder engine. The suspension is well-articulated and seems to do a decent job of absorbing the road contours, although the worst pavement in rural southern Virginia still outclasses the best in Michigan by a pretty wide margin. Once I get to sample the Jetta on my home turf, I'll give a better evaluation of its ride. Going through the curves, the Sportwagen felt more like a GTI than a Country Squire which is always a good thing.

Even though the Jetta is a few inches smaller than the previous-generation Passat wagon, at 3,250 lbs it manages to come in at about 150 lbs heavier. Most of that is due to increased levels of equipment like additional airbags and nav systems, but improved body structure also plays a part. The five has 20 more horsepower than the 1.8L turbo that resides under the hood of the Passat in my garage. It also has 22 more lb-ft of twisting force available, with a rating of 177 lb-ft. VW quotes a 0-60 time of 8.5 sec for the automatic sedan, which is adequate for almost all driving. The problem is the torque peaks at 4,250 now compared to the 1,750rpm peak of the turbo four. In normal driving, the five-cylinder just doesn't feel very strong. The rather coarse sound of the engine also seems to outweigh the thrust by pretty good margin.

The easy-shifting 5-speed manual box manages to make the most it can out of the available power. The six-speed autobox shifts smoothly but does nothing to enhance performance. The 2.0L TDI diesel that's coming this summer will be paired up with a 6-speed DSG and will certainly be the combination to have in this car. The diesel has 140hp but cranks out 258lb-ft of torque at almost any engine speed. It will also be capable of fuel economy in the 40s and potentially up to 60mpg on the highway. Volkswagen expects the TDI to make up half of all sales of the wagon and 35-40 percent of sedan sales. The first batch of TDIs should be arriving about a month from now and we're waiting patiently for our chance to spend time with a TDI Sportwagen.

VW hasn't announced pricing on the Sportwagen yet, but the sedan runs from $17,000 - $23,000. The wagon offers plenty of space for four passengers and their gear -- and five in a pinch. Currently, there aren't a lot of wagons available in this size class in the U.S. market, so if the estate body style appeals to you, this may be one worth checking out, particularly with the diesel engine.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why does the back look like it's from a six-year-old Suzuki?

      Also, are we going to see an AWD diesel version here?
      • 7 Years Ago
      the rear lights are not so impressive. it may need a facelift. i don't know about you.. it may just be me
      • 7 Years Ago
      I took delivery of mine last monday; Fantastic replacement for my leased 2005 Mazda6 sportwagon. Of course it is a little bit smaler than the 6, but it takes a mesuring tape to know exactly where. I was concerned replacing the Mazda wagon by a smaller less powerful car, but so far it excedes my expectations. Now I just need to get used to the different location of the reverse gear... :-)
      • 7 Years Ago
      60 mpg for the diesel... really????
      • 7 Years Ago
      Could have a strong interest in a Jette diesel but have reservations about VW quality or lack of quality....there are horror reviews written by owners that make me wonder.....Has VW corrected their aparent severe problems with the Jetta?
      Seems other VW models aren't as bad.
        • 7 Years Ago
        We have an early release 2005.5 Jetta, with around 40k on it. This car has been flawless since day one. it's a nice solidly built car. I would recommend it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Your information regarding VW Jetta reliability is grossly outdated.
        Consumer Reports now rates reliability of VW Jetta with the normally aspirated engine as "average". As a result, this model has been put on the Consumer Reports "Recommended" list.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I don't understand the reasoning that quality is a moot point if you lease, or repair it yourself. Being without a running car is still a pain in the ass, stranded is still stranded.
        • 7 Years Ago
        5/7/08 Re your concern for Jetta's quality or lack thereof. We have owned a '97 Jetta GLS TDI sedan 5-speed stix, then an '03 Jetta GLS TDI sedan Auto, then an '04 Jetta GLS TDI SW Tiptronic and then an '06 Jetta GLS TDI sedan 6-speed auto. We still have the '04 and the '06. The quality of fit and finish ... and all else ... has been tops. We feel that we are owning and driving luxury cars that are a sensible size. All VW owners know that their vehicles are more expensive than average in cost to maintain but, I blame that on VW Germany's training of all their service people around the world. Everyone of them presses too hard on the pencil. I understand that VW of America has just decided to change the frequency of regular oil changes to every 10,000 miles. This is a small improvement. Obviously, enough owners have complained bitterly over the last 55 years. Of all of the 4 cars mentioned above, we still fight to see who gets to drive the '04 SW. The steering and handling in the '04 is far superior to that in the '06. VW ... like Honda ... has gone to electrically assisted steering ... apparnetly to reduce weight. Bad decision. We have an '05 Honda Accord Hybrid too. The steering is terrible ... one cannot relax for a minute. My wife and I fight over who ends up having to drive the Accord. I usually lose this argument. The Accord has gone 14,000 miles. The Jetta SW has gone 49,000 miles. We sat in a new VW Tiguan in New Zealand in February. Great size and quality. I think we will go for one of those when we get ride of the Accord. But, we will definitely wait for the TDI. We put on about 15,000 miles a year on each of our two main vehicle. We love the miserly fuel ecomomy and stellar performance that we get from the TDIs. On the highway, we easily get 50 miles per Imperial gallon. And around town, the economy is great too. I owned my first new VW Beetle in March 1953. I still think they are AMAZING.

          • 7 Years Ago
          Hi Daucie:
          Glad to hear from you. No, we just holiday in New Zealand each winter. Our home is on Vancouver Island in British Columbia ... about a 25 minute flight from Seattle's airport.
          I have been told that the VW Tiquan SUV will prtobably be sold in the U.S. within a few months and that the TDi should arrive within a year of that arrival.
          I find it strange that the price of diesel fuel is priced so diferently around the world. I am not sure how much a litre of diesel costs in Europe vs a litre of Regular gas. Here in Canada diesel fuel has been as much as 10 cents per litre less than regular. presently, it is selling for abour 2 cents per litre more than regular. In New Zealand we are thrilled to see a litre of diesel selling for about 40 cents less than regular. We always rent a used Japanese SW diesel in Auckland when we are in New Zealand.
          I think you will like the new VW Jetta sedan with TDI. I prefer the SW model but there is no doubt that the 2 Jetta TDI sedans that we owned had much less road noise than our '04 SW. That is normal for any wagon to have more road noise than any sedan. After one drives just 15 yds in a TDI diesel Jetta, nobody notices any excessive noise from the engine.
          Happy motoring.
          • 7 Years Ago
          I have learned from all of the replies but I want to especially thank you for your very informative reply.....I haven't looked at VW in a very long time but did own a 1957 and 1965 VW...they were both fun cars to drive, esp the 57...I just posted a brief blog in response to the story about how far can you drive past the Empty slash of your gas gauge.(posted this A.M.)
          I have neighbors who own a 2006 Jetta sedan Diesel power and I do see them driving it more than their pickup...they say they love the Jetta and have had no problems....I have read Consumer Reports and know they are right on target for most all products tested, especially automobiles. I checked owner reviews on several sites and many of those reviews took me aback at some of the horror stories I took to be true...I know they could be complete fabrications. So it was a pleasant surprise to hear from an owner who does speak highly of the VW diesel.
          I do think diesel power will be the best"stop gap" fuel/power source until the alternative sources currently being tested/developed can be brought to market to the world masses at reasonable prices. 45mpg city/60mpg hwy(U.S.Gal) should be more than adequate for quite a few years...your 50 mpg Imp gal is outstanding ; just hope we can approach that figure with new Jettas.
          To me, 10,000 mile oil change intervals speaks volumes of the manufacturers confidence in their engine, thx for that info.
          My wife loves our van so pehaps we won't have diagreements about who drives which vehicle...most our driving, as of April 1, has been city...if the Jetta is as comfortable as you and CR have indicated, we will probably use it for long trips also. I did speak with our local VW dealer who told me we will be able to see one in June and perhaps be able to buy in July or a little later..depending on U.S. emmission testing results...SW will be offered in the fall..Sept/Oct ...
          Our current regular gasoline prices in the Columbia ,South Carolina area are approx $3.45/gal , diesel $4.05/gal but I believe $5 or more/ gal is on the horizon.
          I know other manufactuers(Honda ,Subaru and others )
          have diesels in the works but VW is the only dealer with mechanics familiar with automobile diesel engines at this time...I don't want to wait too long.
          The electrically assisted steering...could have possibly driven a rental car with taht feature...the steering felt dead and the most minute movement of the steering wheel caused a direction change...did not like that at all.
          You mentioned sitting in a Tiguan in New Zealand... have read that it will be a TDI also...probably not in the U.S. but would like to take alook at it also..if TDI is an option.....
          Is New Zeland your home?...
          would love to visit that beautiful country..it is on our "bucket list"
          Thank you again for all your information,
        • 7 Years Ago
        You still have to remember that the industry as a whole - including VW - has vastly improved over the past 10 years to the point that the 'worst' new car today still has fewer reported problems than the BEST new car 10 years ago.
        • 7 Years Ago
        If you're handy, quality could be a moot point. Most problems are relatively easy. Maybe leasing for you would be a good option - then it's all on the dealer.

        Boss has a Jetta diesel and he's had no problems over the last few years. Very happy with it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Fixing it yourself won't make reliability a non-issue any more than a 100,000 mile warranty would. It's annoying to have your car out of commission a lot, whether it costs you any money or not.

        I say this as a VAG product owner.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'd consider the diesel, though a new paint job to turn that garish grille a nice matte charcoal would be a must. One thing I've got to know, though - does the rear seat fold flat? I don't mean angled up, I need a flat, level load surface. If that's the case, I'm probably in.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yes, it folds COMPLETELY flat, no tools required. If you just fold the seatbacks down it'll go about 90% flat, and if you want it/need it completely entirely flat, then you just pull the seat bases up and forward first, then fold down the seatbacks. It's more simple than it sounds.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Your photos are very crooked.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It is a pity that the 2.0t isn't available in this car at a decent price point. Give us a basic version of this car with leatherette, some convenience basics, and the 2.0t and the result will be a performance/economy/utility bargain.

      VW diesel motors are a bargain but the 800lb gorilla in the room is that even premium fuel where I live is only $3.75 a gallon. Diesel is pushing $4.50. That's a 20% premium so a lot of the savings are lost right there. Add to that the cost of the motor itself and inferior Diesel performance and the bargain is not nearly as obvious.

      Just my 2 cents.
      • 7 Years Ago
      well once again VW USA gives us the worst engine in the corporate parts barrel. that five-pot engine is heavy (an iron block? what year is it again?), it makes too little power for its size and fuel consumption is possibly the worst in class. why do we get stuck with this thing? it's not even offered in Europe and if it was nobody would order it.

      where is that 1.4TSI engine?

      oh if the diesel tax is $2000, it's going to take quite awhile to recoup that premium, even if diesel fuel in the US wasn't so much more than gasoline.
        • 7 Years Ago
        2-3 years to recoup. That's not long.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The 2.5 notoriously doesn't have any mechanical trouble eeeevvvvaaaar. Its simple, its robust. That's why its in America. Americans like that kind of thing. -- VW ignoring that is why VW hasn't been popular for some time (if you don't remember).
        • 7 Years Ago
        the $3400 clean diesel federal tax rebate should cover that
      • 7 Years Ago
      Not really into wagons, but I was out and about today on my bike and stopped at the local VW dealer (all dealers are closed on Sundays here) and took a look at the Wolfsburg Edition Jettas...they're actually pretty nice. I'd lease one.
      • 7 Years Ago

      So is it quiet? How is road noise and wind noise?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I actually like the wheel to adjust back angle. I wish more cars came with them. I find the wheels are more precise than a lever or an electric motor that constantly overshoots the desired position (like on my BMW).

        Hopefully VW has fixed their reliability issues. If they offered this or the Golf in a TDI with a Manual Transmission, I'd consider it. I hate automatics regardless of how special or new and improved or modern the press thinks they are.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Not bad at all for probably a lower price, although I still prefer the passat wagon in looks and transmission (6 speed manual)
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