2015 Volkswagen Jetta First Drive
Jetta Mind Meld: More Technology and Better Performance Arrive in 2015 Model
Forget the Passat -- for Volkswagen, the Jetta defines the automaker in the U.S. This year, one out of every four vehicles sold by Volkswagen in America is a Jetta, which has outsold the Beetle, CC, Golf, Touareg, and Tiguan combined.
And while the German automaker has quieted its talk about world domination in automotive sales, it still needs to improve sales in the U.S. if it plans to usurp Toyota as the No. 1 car manufacturer in the world.
The Jetta has long been the car Americans most associate with the brand, perhaps because it is the easiest to pronounce compared to the likes of the Touareg or Tiguan. While the Jetta has been a good car up to this point, it has not been a great one. So Volkswagen went back to the drawing board with the Jetta, attempting to add more bells and whistles to create a high-tech compact sedan ready to mind-meld with the American psyche.
Of course, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta will arrive in nearly as many flavors as Baskin-Robbins offers. There are more than 10 different variations of the Jetta, including a base model with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a 1.8T Sport with a 170-horsepower turbocharged I-4, a 2.0-liter turbodiesel Jetta, a GLI performance sedan as well as a hybrid Jetta, just in case you need some eco-cred with your Prius-driving neighbors.
One day this week in Virginia, about 30 miles from Volkswagen's American headquarters, Motor Trend drove three Jettas: a 2.0-l.iter base model, the weakest in the bunch with 115 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque; a 1.8-liter turbocharged sport model with 170 hp and 184 lb-ft, and the diesel-powered Jetta with Volkswagen's new 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-banger.
Aside from the powertrains, all of the refreshed 2015 Jettas are pretty similar. The automaker changed out the front and rear fascias, adding a new three-bar grille and 15 LED daytime running lights next to the HID headlights. The look is more aggressive than the outgoing Jetta, but it's not likely to cause any car to leak oil in fear. On the 1.8L and TDI models, there's an added shuttered grille, allowing the grille to close to warm up faster and close at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics.
In fact, many of the changes to the 2015 Jetta were done to improve its aerodynamics and, thus, increase its fuel economy.
In the rear, the 2015 Jetta gets a new decklid, taillights, emblem, and bumper. The decklid includes an integrated spoiler, which also improves air flow over the car. (More important, the Jetta has 15.5 cubic feet of storage under that decklid, which is impressive for the compact class.)
But the biggest changes on the 2015 Jetta come with the newly available technology. Optional features include Blind Spot Warning, Rear Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning, and Park Distance Control.
Overall, the performance of all three 2015 Jettas I road-tested was pretty good. The winding roads through the hilly countryside of Virginia demonstrated that the Jetta's steering was nicely weighted. While the base model's 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine was certainly the weakest engine, when mated to a five-speed manual transmission it was pleasantly comfortable and certainly livable. The smooth-shifting manual allows you to keep the car in a lower gear a little longer than the automatic and thus squeeze out that additional torque to pull the car with more fluid power.
The volume turbocharged 1.8-liter engine mated to a six-speed automatic was an absolute thrill to drive. It felt well balanced through sharp corners. Its acceleration felt quick and the shifts always seem nearly perfectly timed, whether in normal driving mode or Sport mode. (Sport mode on the Jetta only changes shift points in the transmission and, on the 1.8T Sport, adjusts some throttle mapping. None of the Sport modes in the Jetta adjust dampening or steering feel.)
There is a limited-edition 1.8T Sport model that will have a tighter suspension and a host of features including navigation, with a starting price of $21,715.
Overall, the steering is well-weighted and smooth. The ride is also very quiet with the windows up and the AC on full blast.
The 2015 Jetta's interior changes are fewer, with more chrome trim added around the gauges and different vents on the dash and more piano black trim. I don't know how much more really needed to be done because the Jetta's interior was nice before the 2015 model arrived. It's comfortable, usable, and well put-together. The telematics system is easy to use and the Fender premium audio system blasts 400 watts. Then there's VW's Car-Net system that provides various safety and navigation services via a cellphone connection and there's even a red button that will call the cops. I didn't test that button, as I never call the police.
My favorite powertrain, of course, was the new 2.0-liter turbodiesel mated to the six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. The engine is extremely quiet, incredibly torquey, and just a little more fun than the other models. By the numbers it produces 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. It also can manage up to 46 mpg on the highway in EPA testing, with a manual transmission.
No matter what flavor 2015 Volkswagen Jetta drivers want, they're not likely to be disappointed. The cabin is spacious and comfortable. There's a powertrain for every kind of driver. And some excellent technological touches upgrade the Jetta in a meaningful way without emptying a customer's wallet.
|2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L, 1.8T, TDI|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINES||2.0L/115-hp/125-lb-ft I-4; 1.8L/170-hp/184-lb-ft turbocharged I-4; 2.0L/150-hp/236-lb-ft turbodiesel I-4|
|TRANSMISSIONS||5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed twin-clutch automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||2850-3300 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||183.3 x 70.0 x 57.2 in|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||23-31 / 34-46 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||122-147 / 82-99 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.61-0.72 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||September 2014|