The Perfect Diesel

VW Jetta TDI Cup Edition (2010)

Regrettably, most people in the US have a lasting misconception regarding diesel passenger cars and we can thank the failed 1980’s experiment by some of the domestic manufacturers for this… My father had a Cadillac Fleetwood diesel when I was growing up and what I remember most was the nasty smell, smoke, and constant noise and vibration that this car produced. The 2010 VW Jetta TDI Cup Edition is definitely none of these. Diesels are the mainstay type of vehicle in Europe but regrettably, not in the USA. VW is betting that with the TDI Cup Edition as well as other models offering a diesel engine option, it can change the minds of those that are looking at a high fuel economy vehicle but do not want a hybrid. VW went one step further with the Jetta TDI Cup Edition, adding sporty and fun to drive into the mix.

The TDI Cup Edition is easy to recognize, as it brings a different front air intake, dropped side valances, rear bumper, wheels, side graphics and assorted performance items picked from the VW parts bin, making this oil burning sports sedan a unique Jetta.

Once inside, the driver and passengers are greeted by an efficient and lively cabin, thanks to the “hound’s-tooth” or as VW calls it, Interlagos cloth sports seats that are simply some of the best seats this writer has experienced. There is a large high-center multi-function display as well as a delightful to the touch leather wrapped steering wheel. The fit and finish is excellent and works particularly well with this design.  Main controls are managed by simple, large rotary knobs that are easy to understand and use without taking your eyes of the road. The integrated sound system is simple enough that we did not need to dig out the manual. Rear seat is comparable to most sports sedans, that is to say, tight for three ok for two. Trunk space is excellent, with a well-appointed and large opening space.

Starting the TDI Cup Edition offers a hint of its diesel power, giving a slight audible valve clatter, especially when the car is cold. Our Salsa Red test car was a six speed version that, as we suspected, made it even more fun to drive. The clutch is a delight, offering an excellent balance of resistance and take-up performance, while the gears are simply silky smooth. I’ve never driven a manual transmission diesel in the US and I was curious to see how the TDI Cup Edition would behave, especially in the perennially aggressive and congested South Florida traffic. Well, it didn’t disappoint to say the least. There is a slight lag from idle to just past 1,500 RPM’s, when Mr. turbo finally starts blowing. Torque is as expected, superb, right up to the all-too-low 5,000 RPM red-line where, at just 500 RPM’s short of this limit, the power band drops off noticeably. There is no exhaust smoke, even under full power, nor are there any unusual or loud noises in the cabin. We found that at highway speeds and in six gear, the TDI Cup Edition is as quiet as a Sunday Morning on South Beach. Due to the smallish power band, the TDI Cup Edition needs to be in the right gear to make fun things happen from the 140 HP, 236 Lbs/ft of torque, 2.0 liter, four cylinder turbo diesel engine. So naturally, you rely on torque as well as momentum to keep the joy in the drive. Steering offers good feedback and response, giving this VW sedan more of a small coupe feel. The suspension, when asked to work hard, rewards the driver with a predictable and balanced sensation. Brakes, larger than the standard Jetta, offer a no surprises direct feel and easy modulation.

The 2010 VW Jetta TDI Cup Edition is a good-looking, hyper-efficient and fun to drive sports sedan, dismissing once and for all the old myths about owning a diesel automobile.

The Essentials:

MSRP: $24,990.00
MSRP (As tested): $30,013.00
Fuel Economy: (Observed): 38 MPG
Engine: I-4, 2.0 liter, 140 HP Turbo Diesel
Popular Options: Power Sunroof, Wing Spoiler, Media Device for iPod integration

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