2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition: How low is too low?

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition – Click above for high-res image gallery

My daily driver is lowered. Really low. Like damn-near-touring car low. Almost every car I've owned over the last decade has benefited from some kind of suspension setup that dropped its ride height. Traversing speed-bumps and steep driveways has always been a slow-speed, one-wheel-at-a-time affair for me. But with all these different cars with their low clearances, I've never had as many problems with scraping as I have with our long-term Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition.

The first time it reared its ugly head wasn't in a parking lot or on a curb, but during my initial blast down a favorite backroad. I went into a banked right-hand bend, and as the left suspension loaded up, I heard a faint scraping noise up front. I figured it was a fluke until it happened a second time. Then a third. After the drive, I stopped to scope out the damage and found the paint stripped down to the base coat under the left bumper.

Since then, it's only gotten worse, but it's not the lower fascia that's taking the brunt of the abuse.

There's a small lip on the plastic underbody tray that gets caught on driveways and a marginally steep curbs, and after a few dozen scrapes, the four plastic clips holding it to the bumper are approaching their breaking point. It's not a major issue, but hearing plastic meeting asphalt on a regular basis is enough to make anyone cringe.

As such, I make it a point to reverse into driveways steeper than a few degrees and slowly pull out, careful to drop one wheel, and then the next, when leaving. Yes, this is a sporty sedan. And yes, some concessions need to be made. But with a suspension that's barely lower than a stock TDI, it's the front fascia – and specifically this underbody tray – that's to blame. And considering this is the same kit pulled from VW's TDI racers, a slight modification to the lower valance might have been in order for street duty. While it's more than just eye candy and has been optimized for increased airflow over the standard Jetta, the Cup Street Edition's lower valance must live in the real world, and so far, the real world has left its mark on our long-term tester.

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