The Clean Diesel Standard Setter
Clean Fleet Report reviews more than 50 cars, trucks and SUVs a year, which means we experience a wide range of vehicles across a spectrum of design, features, performance, fuel economy and, of course, price. So it is a real treat when we are handed the keys to a car that stands-out from its class competitors. The latest for me was the 10 days and more than 1,000 miles I spent driving the
2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE throughout California, which included a trip up the Eastern Sierras and into Yosemite National Park.
Volkswagen has massaged the Jetta design over the years to continue the long German tradition of clean lines, good handling and performance, plus, in the case of the TDI, class-leading fuel economy.
Driving Experience: On the Road
On pushing the start-up button, the 2015 Jetta TDI’s distinctive diesel rumble is low in volume, but disappears when driving. Volkswagen’s all-new 2.0L turbocharged and intercooled clean diesel engine, known internally at VW as the EA288, puts out 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque that kicks-in at a low 1,750 rpm. Our test car was mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission that is rated at 31 city / 46 highway / 36 combined. (The highway rating is one mph less for the six-speed DSG automatic transmission.) In 1,135 miles of driving Southern California freeways and climbing and descending the Sierras to as high as 9,500-feet, I averaged 52.2 mpg. Take away those mountain treks and who knows what numbers could be achieved.
The manual has short throws, a smooth and not-so-heavy clutch, and the gears are easy to find without any grinding or hunting. For the hyper milers, there is an Upshift light in the speedometer cluster. If you follow it, the fun of driving this car is reduced significantly. Of course, doing so will maximize the fuel economy, especially when the light wants you to be in 6th gear at 45 mph. The true economy comes at freeway speeds in 6th gear, when at 70 mph the tachometer is reading about 2,000 rpm.
So what kind of fun can you have in the TDI with a manual? When asked, this car has instant, push-you-back-in-your-seat torque that brings a big smile to your face. The torque delivery is smooth at any speed and delivers exactly as expected when in the lower gears. Where you will really appreciate the pull of the TDI engine is at freeway speeds. For example, when traveling at 65 mph and needing to briefly get to 75 mph+ for passing, most automatics would kick down from 6th into 5th or 4th, but with the six-speed manual you leave it in 6th, tromp the accelerator and the car without any effort gets you where you want to be. It is such a wonderful feeling that you will find yourself on open stretches of road doing it just for the fun of it.
By now you must have sensed I enjoy and appreciate Volkswagen’s new-for-2015 EA288 TDI engine. In my reviews of the 2013 Jetta TDI and 2014 Jetta TDI, I was impressed with those car’s 2.0L TDI engines that “only” produced 140 hp. Volkswagen has raised the bar in clean diesel engine design and technology, which will only challenge competitors to up their game too.
Driving Experience: Interior
I was driving the nicely optioned 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE with Connectivity. The interior fit and finish, which has been updated for 2015, was German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics, no unnecessary fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or design gimmicks often found on other cars.
The heated leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include a manual adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment. There was a good
choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made a comfortable position easy to be found, making long drives a breeze. At 5-foot-9, I fit in all cars, including open wheel racers, so a true test was having a 6-foot-1 associate sit in the driver’s seat and, when positioned, have him climb into the back to check leg, knee and head room. The Jetta accommodated my friend in comfort with room to spare. The rear seat for three adults would be fine for commuting, but as with most compact cars, for longer trips two in the rear seat would be preferred for comfort and space.
The six-speaker, Premium VIII sound system with a touchscreen AM/FM/HD radio and CD changer with MP3 playback, delivers a deep, full sound. Also part of the infotainment system was SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface, or MDI. It all worked very well, but one oddity is that VW does not offer a USB port on the Jetta. There is a built-in adapter cable to which you can attach an aftermarket cable to make the car USB capable.
Other conveniences are the power tilting and sliding sunroof, power windows with one touch operation and pinch protection, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power-adjustable and manual-folding heated exterior mirrors and a rearview camera. Another nice touch are the variable intermittent windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles. Living in Southern
California, heated nozzles may not be used too often, but in cold weather climates they make perfect sense.
The 60/40 folding rear seat with a ski pass-through opening and a very large trunk provides for excellent storage capacity. The Jetta TDI easily seats five and can handle their luggage too. Make no mistake, the Jetta TDI is a spacious, comfortable car.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Jetta TDI exterior has been refreshed for 2015 with subtle changes to the front and rear, including front grill shutters that close to increase aerodynamics and reduce wind resistance. In the rear there is an integrated aerodynamic trailing edge on the trunk lid that gives the car a more upscale look and improves wind flow for increased fuel economy. Overall, I like the conservative-leaning Jetta exterior styling with its clean lines and no useless cladding or body panels. VW calls this “class-up appeal” in which they offer more for less. I agree.
The Driving Experience
The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE is quiet and smooth, making for a very enjoyable driving experience. The SE model I was driving had 16-inch wheels and all-season tires, which provided above-average handling via the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and telescopic dampers, and the multi-link, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar on the rear
Road feel was excellent with electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering that was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above the recommended corner speed limits on the seemingly endless turns through the Sierras. The 17-inch wheels on the SEL model might have made the driving experience even better.
Of course, a good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Jetta comes standard with ABS, power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. A good test for brakes are downhill mountain roads, with constant turning, where the brake load is applied on straight, right and left hand corners. I experienced no fade with instant response when braking through corners. On the flats, the stops were straight, true and confident.
Safety and Convenience
All 2015 Volkswagen Jettas come with six airbags, Electronic Stability Control and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, TPMS. An available option on the SEL model is the Driver Assistance Package that includes Forward Collision Warning, Blind Sport Monitor and Rear Traffic Alert.
Pricing and Warranties
2015 Jetta TDI Pricing, including the $820 Destination Charge:
S with manual $22,460
S with automatic $23,560
SE with Connectivity and Manual $24,895
SE with Connectivity and Automatic $25,995
SEL with Connectivity and Manual $27,230
SEL with Connectivity and Automatic $28,330
All 2015 Volkswagen Jetta models come with these warranties:
- 3-year/36,000-mile Basic
- 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain
- 1-year/12,000-mile First Scheduled Maintenance
- 3-year/36,000-mile Roadside Assistance
- 12-year/Unlimited miles Corrosion Perforation
Volkswagen has 75-percent of the passenger vehicle diesel sales in the USA, a clear number one in sales versus diesel competitors. Little on the horizon is likely to knock VW off that perch. Therefore, you can purchase a VW TDI-powered car (Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat and Touareg) with confidence of its quality, workmanship and many years and millions of real-world miles of proven clean diesel technology.
Observations: 2015 Jetta TDI SE
I have now tested the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Jetta TDI and easily place them in the top of all the cars, trucks and SUVs I have driven. They are smooth, quiet, powerful and get excellent fuel economy against their class competition.
The 2015 Jetta TDI SE has had minor but important interior and exterior design changes that make it the best overall car in its class for comfort, torque, fuel economy and ease of operation. The SE is a nicely equipped car but for added safety and convenience, I would recommend the SEL with the Driver Assistance Package & Lighting Package ($1,690 option) and the six-speed DSG
automatic. Doing so, you will have a fully equipped car at less than the $31,200 average price paid for a new car in 2014 in the United States.
The 2015 Jetta TDI SE will make your commuting and those long road trips a pleasure as will the infrequent stops to fill the tank.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
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