2005 Jetta New Car Test Drive
This totally new Volkswagen Jetta, the fifth-generation of this four-door compact sedan, is one of the most important in VW's long history of selling cars in America. Certainly it's the most significant since the turn of the century, because its success is crucial to reviving Volkswagen's flagging fortunes. The Jetta has long been the company's best-selling model in the U.S. The Jetta has, in fact, been the perennial best-selling European nameplate on this side of the Atlantic, and its continued success is central to Volkswagen's fortunes in this, its most critical market outside of Europe.
Key elements of this larger Jetta are a new, developed-for-America-only high-torque five-cylinder engine, a sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission (optional), a much more spacious interior, and a high level of standard content to help sweeten entry prices that begin under $20,000.
Despite forays into the ultra-luxury market with the Phaeton and the lucrative SUV game with the Touareg, VW sales have flagged, primarily because the Jetta/Golf model platform was aging and overdue for replacement. Add in the factor of a weak dollar against the Euro, which led to severe price challenges from competitors, and it was no wonder VW dealers were clamoring for a level playing field. With the new Jetta, they're getting what they want, and the game's momentum could very well shift in Volkswagen's direction yet again.
Greeting the driver of a new Jetta is a commanding seating position, excellent outward vision paths and a logical, ergonomically sound array of controls and instruments. The build quality is superb inside and out and even the base model has an elegant, high-quality cabin. The raspy-sounding five-cylinder is pleasantly robust delivers and the Jetta carves through corners with precision. It's comfortable on long trips and responsive around town.
The all-new Volkswagen Jetta goes on sale with two engines, with a third engine choice available shortly. Officially, the new Jetta launches in March 2005 as a 2005 model, but you should think of it as a 2006.
New to the VW engine family, and the 'base' motor that replaces the aged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the line-up, is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine putting out 150 horsepower. If you live in one of 45 states where new diesel-fueled cars can be sold, the Jetta can also be ordered with VW's highly regarded, 100-horsepower 1.9-liter TDI turbodiesel four-cylinder. The third car of the trio, the Jetta GLI, will follow in late summer, with a new 2.0-liter turbo engine boasting an output of 200 horsepower.
The standard gearbox for both the 2.5L and 1.9L engines is a five-speed manual carried over from the previous Jetta. The optional transmission for 2.5Ls is a new, very slick six-speed automatic, augmented with a Sport mode and Tiptronic gear selection. And there's more good gearbox news: Soon, VW's super DSG twin-clutch gearbox will be an option with the Jetta TDI and the GLI.
Despite the increase in power and size and more generous standard content, the 2006 Jetta's base sticker is just $220 more than a comparably equipped outgoing model. Two levels of equipment and trim are offered: the Value Edition ($17,900 manual; $18,975 automatic), which is available only with the 2.5-liter engine; and the 2.5 ($20,390 manual; $21,465 automatic) and TDI ($21,385 manual; $22,460 automatic).
The list of standard equipment belies the cars' price points. Even without ticking a single box on the options sheet, the new Jetta arrives with plenty of content: a full gauge cluster; climate control system with rear passenger vents in the center console; cruise control; tinted windows; power windows with one-touch open and close; AM/FM stereo and CD player; external temperature display; eight-way front-seat and lumbar adjustments; heated power outside mirrors; split/folding rear seats; remote central power locking; two power outlets in the center console and one in the trunk; remote trunk and fuel-filler flap releases; and an anti-theft alarm.
And because VW considers superior dynamics and optimum safety to be standard fare on each of its models, every new Jetta sports Servotronic power steering; a two-way adjustable steering column; ABS with discs at all four wheels; ASR (traction control); EDL (electronic differential lock). Passive safety features include front, side-impact and curtain airbags along with crash-active front headrests; front height-adjustable safety belts with and emergency locking retractors for all five seating positions.
Standard running gear on Value Editions is 6x15-inch steel wheels with 195/65R15 all-season radials and a full-size spare wheel and tire. The 2.5 and TDI models are fitted with 6x16-inch steel wheels and 205/55R16 all-season radials.
A number of options and packages can add more than a few euros to the price of entry. Package 1 includes a sunroof, 16-inch silver alloy wheels and the Premium sound system ($1,960). Package 2 includes all that plus leather seating surfaces; multifunction steering wheel; interior wood trim for the shift knob, dash center console and doors; Homelink; 12-way power adjustable driver seat with 3-position memory and 4-way power adjustable lumbar support; power passenger seat; manual rear sunshade; and XM Satellite Radio, which includes activation plus 3 months of service ($4,660). Package 3 is identical except that Sirius Satellite Radio replaces XM. Either satellite radio service can also be ordered separately ($375).
A brace of electronic handling aids are standard on 2.5 and TDI models but must be optioned into Value Edition Jettas. Electronic stabilization program (ESP) is a worthy option ($280); and engine braking assist (EBA), which helps prevent compression-induced skids in slippery conditions.