It's hard not to be impressed with the diesel engine and its fuel economy. Displacing 2.0-liters, the turbocharged inline-four generates 140 horsepower. While that first figure isn't particularly impressive, the 236 pound-feet of torque is. Even with five passengers and a full load of soccer equipment in the huge trunk, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI pulls confidently and has no trouble maintaining speed regardless of the grade. The EPA rates the Jetta at 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway – figures that aligned nicely with my overall average of about 36 mpg for the month of October. The TDI's frugality is maximized on the highway, where I have seen better than 50 mpg more than once.
In terms of reliability, there have been no issues to report in the month of October. All switchgear and everything mechanical work well and it doesn't appear to burn engine oil (the dipstick still reads a bit overfilled even after a month of stop-and-go driving). Tire and brake pad wear is almost immeasurable.
Now that I have become familiar with the sloppy transmission shifter and light clutch, they don't bother me. Even the hard dashboard and lack up upscale appointments are last month's complaints. My biggest gripe – and it's likely a deal breaker – are the seats. First, the V-Tex leatherette doesn't breath despite the tiny perforations in its surface. Second, the lumbar support is too high for me – it misses my lower spine. The result is a driver's seat which is genuinely uncomfortable for any trips over half an hour. I came close to purchasing a wood beaded seat cover, just like a taxi driver, and wedging a pillow under it to comfort my vertebrae.
As my time with the Jetta TDI drew to a close, I decided to pamper it with a good detail. With that in mind, I contacted a product specialist at Griot's Garage - I've been using their products for nearly two decades and those guys have helped make car care a religion. After hearing about Autoblog's blue Jetta and learning about its relatively new but slightly marred dark paint (mostly swirl marks from automatic car washes), they were generous enough to send me a Machine One-Step Sealant Kit, a bottle of Machine Polish 2, some Car Wash soap and a dozen microfiber cloths for treatment.
With a bit of elbow grease, several hours on a Saturday and with the help of my son, Autoblog's long-term Jetta eventually emerged sparkling with mirror-like paint. All of the Griot's products performed very well. A little bit of the car wash soap went a long way, the clay bar was generously sized and the microfiber cloths baby-soft. I was most impressed by how easy a random orbital machine makes polish and wax application (this particular Griot's model was fitted with a must-have twenty-five foot cord). According to the company, their One-Step Sealant should keep our Jetta looking good for about six months if properly taken care of. (Let us know in the comments if you want to hear more about the detailing process. If so, we will do an informative separate post on it.)
I'm saying goodbye to our long-term Jetta TDI this week and handing the keys to Drew Phillips, our hot-shot photographer, to see how it fits his busy lifestyle and accommodates his photo gear. In the meantime, don't forget to check out our weekly Facebook updates.