We drive the 2015 Volkswagen TDI SEL

2015 VW Jetta TDI SEL

The Jetta remains Volkswagen's best-selling car, four years after the sixth-generation car was introduced to the U.S. market as a 2011 model. But in the cut throat world of the auto business, you must keep pushing and improving and Volkswagen has made improvements to the Jetta over the years. Our favorite Jetta model has always been the diesel version and we were happy to test the 2015 Jetta TDI to see how the new diesel engine performs.

The Jetta has been a roomy car and the 2015 version is perfectly sized, not too big and not too small. A key benefit of the Jetta's extended 104 inch wheelbase is a truly spacious interior, with impressive rear-seat legroom of 38.1 inches.

Long legs have plenty of room and the gently arcing roofline also means more than ample headroom of 37.1 inches for rear-seat passengers. And stretch-out legroom in the back isn't achieved by a cramped front seat either. Since the Jetta was tailored for the American buyers, it offers plenty of room for the front seat passengers.

Interior

The interior of the Jetta is roomy but it is also rich and luxurious feeling, at least in our top of the line SEL model. Our SEL came standard with power sunroof, touchscreen navigation, Fender audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, and much more. It really makes you feel like you are in a much more expensive vehicle. The sound insulation is also first rate as our Jetta was super quiet on the freeway.

The suspension tuning on the Jetta has resulted in improvements as well. The rear suspension is now a multilink design and the SEL model comes with 225/45-17 all season tires on alloy wheels. The suspension is typical German firm but not harsh and results in a car that is a blast to drive on twisty roads up to a point.

If you push too hard, the stability control kicks in and stops the fun quicker than a pair of strict parents at a sleepover. Unfortunately, the stability control or the traction control is not defeatable in the Jetta.

TDI diesel engine

The best part of the Jetta has to be the engine and the TDI engine has been revamped for 2015. Volkswagen's all-new diesel engine platform, the EA288, powers the 2015 Jetta TDI model. It is one of the most fuel-efficient engines in its class, and already conforms to the upcoming LEV3 emissions standard in the U.S.

The EA288 in the 2015 Jetta is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injected diesel engine, and marks a thorough update from the powerplant in the previous Jetta. Despite the similarity in basic specifications, only the cylinder bore spacing carries over from the previous EA189 unit. The new engine produces a peak 150 horsepower – 10 more than before – from 3,500 to 4,000 rpm, as well as 236 lb-ft of torque from just 1,750 rpm up to 3,000 rpm.

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The compact EA288 engine has the intercooler for its turbocharger system integrated directly into the intake manifold, which serves a two-fold purpose of increasing throttle response and performance as well as helping lower emissions. The engine block is cast iron, with a forged steel crankshaft that runs in five main bearings and has four counterweights.

In order to counteract engine vibration and maintain smooth operation, the EA288's crankshaft is connected to two gear-driven counter-rotating balance shafts that spin at twice engine speed. Friction has been reduced by about 15 percent throughout, thanks to the use of roller bearings for the drivetrain side camshaft, increased piston-to-wall clearance, and lower piston-ring tension, among other measures.

The aluminum-alloy crossflow cylinder head has a number of unique features. First, the camshafts are integrated into a separated housing by a thermal joining process, helping ensure a very rigid camshaft bearing while keeping the weight low.

Second, each overhead camshaft operates one intake valve and one exhaust valve per cylinder (as opposed to one camshaft for intake valves only and one for exhaust), allowing for greater air delivery and swirl.

Like its gasoline-powered brethren, the EA288 places strong emphasis on thermal management, which is evident in the cylinder head's two-section coolant jacket, as well as a three-part cooling circuit and switchable coolant pump. Compared to the previous engine, emissions are reduced by up to 40 percent, helped by siting the exhaust after-treatment module close to the engine and by the use of a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system.

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The engine is available with a manual or automatic transmission. Our car had the six speed DSG automatic transmission. The transmission shifts smoothly and quietly but is not as much fun as a manual transmission and it tends to not listen to the driver very well either.

Fortunately with all of that diesel torque, you don't have to shift much. The engine pulls hard from almost any speed. While it is not going to win a drag race against many sports cars, the TDI is not slow and it is not boring. It is actually quite fun to drive and revs very quickly. It does not sound like a diesel from inside the car so you most people would not even know that they are behind the wheel of a diesel.

All of the technology has resulted in more power, reduced emissions and much better fuel economy. The 2015 Jetta TDI with manual transmission is rated at 31 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. Our automatic model loses 1 mpg on the freeway with a rating of 45 mpg. Drive it on a level road at 70 mph and we managed to beat those numbers, easily reaching 55 mpg. Drive with a steady foot at 55 mph and we managed to get as much as 65 mpg over a 60 mile trip.

Those numbers are just fantastic especially considering that the Jetta is not a small, boring car. It is a luxurious, safe and roomy car that has enough power to make you smile while getting amazing fuel economy. It also handles like a sports car, up to a point. All of this can be yours for as little as $17,325 for the base 2.0S model. The cheapest TDI model is the TDI S which starts at $21,640. Our top of the line TDI SEL costs $27,510 which is still a great deal considering how much car you are getting.

4- Door Sedan Price as-tested

$28330 Jetta 4dr DSG 2.0L TDI SEL Sedan
4-Door Front Wheel Drive Car, 150 bhp, 236 lb-ft, 6-sp Automatic, 31/45 mpg

General Specifications

Brake Type N/A
Brake ABS System 4-Wheel
Brake ABS System (Second Line) N/A
Disc – Front (Yes or ) Yes
Disc – Rear (Yes or ) Yes
Front Brake Rotor Diam x Thickness 11.3 in
Rear Brake Rotor Diam x Thickness 10.7 in
Trunk Volume 15.5 ft³
Total Cooling System Capacity N/A qts
Cold Cranking Amps @ 0° F (Primary) 540
Maximum Alternator Capacity (amps) 140
Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year 6.0 (Est)
EPA Greenhouse Gas Score N/A
Engine Type Intercooled Turbo Diesel I-4
Displacement 2.0 L/120
Fuel System Direct Diesel Injection
SAE Net Horsepower @ RPM 150 @ 4000
SAE Net Torque @ RPM 236 @ 1750
Wheelbase 104.4 in
Length, Overall 182.2 in
Width, Max w/o mirrors 70 in
Height, Overall 57.2 in
Track Width, Front 60.4 in
Track Width, Rear 60.3 in
Min Ground Clearance 5.5 in
Liftover Height N/A in
Fuel Tank Capacity, Approx 14.5 gal
Aux Fuel Tank Capacity, Approx N/A gal
Passenger Capacity 5
Passenger Volume 94.1 ft³
Front Head Room 37 in
Front Leg Room 41.2 in
Front Shoulder Room 55.2 in
Front Hip Room N/A in
Second Head Room 37 in
Second Leg Room 38.1 in
Second Shoulder Room 53.6 in
Second Hip Room N/A in
EPA Fuel Economy Est – Hwy 45 MPG
Cruising Range – City 449.50 mi
EPA Fuel Economy Est – City 31 MPG
Fuel Economy Est-Combined 36 MPG
Cruising Range – Hwy 652.50 mi
EPA MPG Equivalent – City N/A
EPA MPG Equivalent – Hwy N/A
EPA MPG Equivalent – Combined N/A
Battery Range N/A mi
Steering Type Rack-Pinion
Steering Ratio (:1), Overall N/A
Lock to Lock Turns (Steering) N/A
Turning Diameter – Curb to Curb 36.4 ft
Turning Diameter – Wall to Wall N/A ft
Suspension Type – Front Strut
Suspension Type – Rear Torsion Beam
Suspension Type – Front (Cont.) Strut
Suspension Type – Rear (Cont.) Torsion Beam
Shock Absorber Diameter – Front N/A mm
Shock Absorber Diameter – Rear N/A mm
Stabilizer Bar Diameter – Front N/A in
Stabilizer Bar Diameter – Rear N/A in
Front Tire Size P225/45HR17
Rear Tire Size P225/45HR17
Spare Tire Size Full-Size
Dead Weight Hitch – Max Trailer Wt. N/A lbs
Dead Weight Hitch – Max Tongue Wt. N/A lbs
Wt Distributing Hitch – Max Trailer Wt. N/A lbs
Wt Distributing Hitch – Max Tongue Wt. N/A lbs
Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
Trans Type 6
Trans Description Cont. Auto-Shift Manual w/OD
First Gear Ratio (:1) 3.46
Second Gear Ratio (:1) 2.05
Third Gear Ratio (:1) 1.30
Fourth Gear Ratio (:1) 0.90
Fifth Gear Ratio (:1) 0.91
Sixth Gear Ratio (:1) 0.76
Reverse Ratio (:1) 3.99
Clutch Size N/A in
Final Drive Axle Ratio (:1) 4.12
EPA Classification Compact Cars
Base Curb Weight 3217 lbs
Front Wheel Size 17 X 7 in
Rear Wheel Size 17 X 7 in
Spare Wheel Size Full-Size in
Front Wheel Material Aluminum
Rear Wheel Material Aluminum
Spare Wheel Material Steel

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