2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

If you had told us last year that this year's most controversial redesign would be the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, we would've politely walked away and laughed at your outrageous claim behind your back. We're like that. But here we are, and the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is, arguably, the most controversial redesign of the year.

The reason is not so much how the designer's hand has changed the car's look, but rather how the bean counters and product managers have completely changed what the Jetta is. It's no longer a premium compact sedan with a price to match. Now it's a near-mid-size four-door with an ultra-competitive base price.

Jetta fans and auto journalists have been less than enthused with the changes. Buyers, however, apparently disagree. Sales of the new Jetta through April are up 68.8 percent. So which camp is right?

After the untimely demise of our last long-term Jetta (follow the jump for the whole story), a 2010 model year TDI Cup Street Edition, we were offered a 2011 model to take its place. Driving these two diesel Jettas back-to-back will help us craft a before-and-after snapshot of what the car has gained and lost with this latest redesign.


Our particular long-term tester is a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with Tempest Blue Metallic exterior and Titan Black Leatherete interior. We chose the six-speed manual transmission and added the optional navigation system, which raised our MSRP from a base of $22,995 to $24,195 (excluding a $770 destination charge). There's only one way to configure a more expensive 2011 Jetta TDI: add the six-speed DSG transmission, which raises the price to $25,295.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Since we'll be pointing out lots of differences between our old 2010 model year Jetta TDI and this 2011, let's start with price. Our 2010 long-term diesel Jetta had a higher initial base price of $24,990 and was loaded with every option except a nav system for a grand total of $31,113. It's a shocking difference, though let's not forget our last car was laden with the expensive Cup Street package, which isn't available on the new 2011 model (if it were, we would've definitely ordered it again – if only for the immensely comfortable, supportive and stylish plaid seats). Forget the Cup package and the price difference is still over $4,000 between last year's and this year's model.

The purpose of spending a year with the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is to find out if that $4,000 price cut has ruined a vehicle we were falling head over heels for. Keep your eyes locked on the official Autoblog Facebook page for the majority of our updates, as well as the official Autoblog Twitter account (@therealautoblog, look for the #ablongterm hashtag).

We're already piling on the miles, so let us know what questions you'd like answered in the comments.



So Long, Heidi: How The 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Street Died
by Steven J. Ewing

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Street Cup

I was scheduled to have the Jetta TDI Cup Street in my possession for a good portion of our time with the car. Six days after Editor-In-Chief Neff handed me the keys, I snapped the photo you see here of our diesel Jetta being towed out of my friend's apartment complex, never to be seen again.

Six days. The short-term test cars I review are in my care for longer amounts of time than this long-termer.

The Jetta TDI Cup Street ran like a dream up until its sudden death. It was our little German sweetheart – "Heidi" (as associate editor Zach Bowman and I named her), fit me like a glove.

The car hadn't had a single fault in the eight months it had been in service with the Autoblog crew.
I was explaining to my friend how great the Jetta had been, citing that while modern Volkswagen automobiles have notoriously plagued with glitches and gremlins, Heidi hadn't had a single fault in the eight months it had been in service with the Autoblog crew. I put the Jetta into Drive, started to pull away, and the car came to a slamming halt, an "Engine Shut Down" warning glaring at me from the instrument panel. Confused, I turned the key again, the engine fired back up, and I drove approximately ten feet into a different parking space, at which point the engine shut down again and refused to turn over.

Heidi was dead.

One call to Volkswagen's roadside service department and 15 minutes later, the Jetta's front wheels were hoisted off the ground, strapped to a tow truck and pulled out of the still snowy parking lot. My last memory with that Jetta involved slipping on a patch of ice and falling into the rear passenger's side door after gathering up all of my belongings. Insult now had injury.

The car was taken to Howard Cooper Volkswagen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the diagnosis was grim. Due to a slow leak from the oil pan, our car had been running without oil for quite some time and both the engine and turbocharger seized. Now, it's important to note that no warning lights were present on the Jetta letting us know about the low oil, but we must admit we may share some fault here.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Street Cup Edition2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Street Cup Edition
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Street Cup Edition2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Street Cup Edition

Pressed for time before a long trip, when we took the car in for its most recent oil change, we neglected to use Volkswagen's lovely free scheduled maintenance feature and instead took the car to a local lube shop, where the technicians struggled with performing the oil change on the diesel Jetta. They had a tough time removing the skid plate in order to get to the oil pan, and apparently neglected to properly re-install the plug on the pan. Still, in the two and a half months after the oil change, not a single Autoblog staff member noticed oil pooling in driveways or parking lots or observed any other telltale problems. In short, we remain full of questions about the reasons for the Cup Street's demise, as it continued to perform brilliantly up until the very end.

We never saw Heidi again.

According to the post-mortem we received from VW authorities, our 2010 Cup Street Edition was eventually fitted with a new engine and a new turbocharger. After two months sitting at the dealership, it was returned to Volkswagen's headquarters. A few weeks later, I was given back the CD that I had left in the changer.

Our replacement 2011 Jetta TDI will only be serviced at Volkswagen dealers. And just to play it safe, we won't name this one, either.