SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,950 Price As Tested $ 22,325 Engine Type DOHC 12-valve 2.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 170 cid/2792 cc Horsepower 174 @ 5800 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 181 @ 3200 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 98.9"/68.3"/172.3" Transmission Five-speed automatic Curb Weight 3027 pounds Fuel Capacity 14.5 gallons Tires (F/R) 195/65R15H all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content Five-percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 19/26/23 0-60 MPH 7.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.0 seconds @ 90.5 mph Top speed (Electronically limited) 130 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
Volkswagen has made a remarkable recovery here over the past few years, says Matt Hagin. Bob Hagin is pleased with the news since he's enjoyed more than a few VWs of his own.)
MATT -It wasn't long ago that Volkswagen sales in this country were so bad that it was questionable if the company could stay afloat in the U.S.. But new products and a "boppy" advertising campaign put it back in American consciousness. The resurrected New Beetle appealed to lots of Baby Boomers who drove the original in their younger days, along with lots of first-time buyers too young the drive during the '60s and '70s.
BOB -The New Beetle gave Volkswagen the shot of adrenaline it needed to jump start sales and its new line of sedans last year rounded out the mix. The Jetta that we're evaluating this week is an example and it shares the basic chassis platform with the Golf and the New Beetle. Although the bustle-back, four-door Jetta has been the best-selling VW for more than a decade, it wasn't setting the sales world on fire numerically. It comes in three degrees of trim, the GL, the GLS and the GLX. The basic 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the GL and the GLS is the same unit used in the Beetle and its 115 horsepower is a bit short in giving performance to the 3000-pound Jetta. But the twin cam 2.8-liter V6 is another story. It was an option in our GLS but standard equipment in the upscale GLX. It's called the VR6 and interestingly, the cylinder banks are narrow at only 15 degrees. Pulling power is strong from around 2000 RPM to its redline of 5800. It is front-wheel-drive and the standard transmission is a five-speed. I felt that the shifting mechanism is a bit "notchy," but maybe that smooths itself out in time.
MATT - For those buyers who aren't entranced by the idea of rowing a gearshift lever hundreds of times a day to get through traffic, the Jetta can also be had with a four-speed automatic. The suspension systems are pretty conventional with MacPherson-type struts up front and now-traditional Volkswagen twist beam and trailing arms in back. There's a sway bar at each end and braking power comes from disc brakes front and rear. I think that's a real plus for consumers to have the best brakes possible on even the standard models. Its handling is sharp, although there's the typical torque-steer that shows up in relatively high-powered front-wheel-drive sports sedans.
BOB - Historically, the Jetta pretty much started the genre of hopped-up four-door sports sedans. Although Volkswagen's GTI Rabbit two-door re-introduced Americans to high-performance "pocket-rocket" mini-muscle cars the year before, the same performance equipment was found on the Jetta GLI 15 years ago. Both the first year GTI and GLI border on being collectible "hobby" cars and aren't being relegated to the wrecking yard like their common siblings.
MATT - The interior of our test car shows that it leans towards the luxuriousness in typical Teutonic style. Our test car came with upscale leather upholstery and the front seats are bolstered so that the driver and front passenger stay firmly in place during high-speed cornering. The back seats are a little tight, though, and short on leg room for six-footers. Also, the back doors are somewhat on the small side, which makes getting in and out of the back seat a little awkward. But it doesn't skimp on luggage space in the trunk, so for avid snow skiers and snowboarders, the rear seat is split in a 60/40 fashion so packing a couple of sets of skis still leaves room for boots, bags and other cold weather gear. The styling of the new VWs is obviously from the current German school of design - muscular and definitely far from the mainstream ideas. These days, the popular Japanese sedans are so generic in shape. it's difficult to tell them apart.
BOB -The Jetta is so popular with the American public that Volkswagen makes them in its plant in Puebla, Mexico so the cars can be easily transported to U.S. buyers. They also make original VW Beetles there but they're only for sale in Central and South America.
MATT -I sometimes get nostalgic for those old Bugs, Dad, until I ride in one. Then I really appreciate a modern car like the Jetta.