My mother-in-law recently purchased a 4 door Volkswagen (VW) Jetta TDI clean diesel sedan. After 3,500 mi (~6,000km) I had the opportunity to drive it this past week in the less than ideal conditions of an icy Minnesota winter. Not being a northerner (I hail from sunny Southern California) I found the car to provide a smooth ride on the compacted snow and ice. With a six speed automatic transmission, the car shifts into gear at low RPM, furthering its gas sipping reputation. At highway speeds, the engine runs between 1800 & 2200 RPM, much lower than my four cylinder sedan.
According to VW’s website, the Jetta TDI (which retails for $22,660) has won several awards:
- Green Car of the Year (Green Car Journal, 2009)
- Best of the Year (MotorWeek’s Drivers’ Choice Best Awards, 2009)
- Automotive Excellence Award (Popular Mechanics, 2009)
- Best Green Car (Autobytel Editors’ Choice Awards, 2009)
- Top Safety Pick (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2009)
- TDI engine ranked among Ward’s 10 Best Engines (2009)
As a nice perk, the car is rated at 30 miles per gallon city (with a +/-20% margin) and 42 mpg highway. When I asked my mother-in-law about the mileage she had been experiencing, she said that in the late summer/early fall when she purchased the car, it averaged in the mid-30s for miles per gallon. However, in the winter it had dropped – to the low 30s. We happened to fill-up the tank while I was driving. In approximately 9.5 gallons she had driven just over 350 miles (36.7mpg) during the heart of winter.
When I was pumping the gas, I noticed that a note on the door of the gas tank said “low sulfur” diesel only. Having grown up where dirty diesel emissions spewed from the tailpipe, I was glad to see diesel engines had come a long way. While filing up, we paid a premium for the diesel. It ran about $0.35 more per gallon than the lowest octane of unleaded. The blend though was 70/30, with 30% being comprised of biodiesel. Although 70% of the fuel derived from oil, the higher efficiency of the car as well as the significant portion of fuel from renewable sources combined to make the Jetta a powerful intermediate step on the road to a more sustainable mode of transportation. Interestingly, FuelEconomy.gov reports “Use of blends above B5 not yet warrantied by auto makers.” In an archived press release from 2006, VW states that “Volkswagen diesels have also been approved for use of B5 biodiesel fuel.”
Through the end of this calendar year, a limited number of vehicles qualify for a tax rebate from the government. Once the government’s quota for eligible vehicles has been met, the Internal Revenue Service will either decrease or discontinue the credit which was made available through the stimulus package signed early last year. In order to qualify, the vehicle must be purchased on or before December 31, 2010. For more information on which vehicles still qualify, check out the IRS’s website or FuelEconomy.gov.
– Eric Wilson
[image source: VW]