Last weekend we were invited out to San Francisco, CA to try out the new 2009 Volskwagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel and were pleasantly surprised in more ways than one. It had enough torque and power to zip through downtown San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge through Sausalito, and was smooth and quiet on the winding roads up through Napa. Even better, almost 200 miles later back at the airport in San Fran, we had only used about 1/2 tank of gas for the whole tour. More efficient than most hybrids, the Jetta TDI is the first gas burning clean diesel engine compliant and available in all 50 U.S. states.
Already the preference in most of Europe, diesel burning engines today are drastically different than the ones of the past but they have a persistently bad stigma here in the States. In fact, new oil refining and combustion technologies arguably make them the most efficient automobile today. You won't see the stereotypical dirty diesel smoke containing harmful and smelly sulfur particulates — a result of unburned or partially burned fuel. This new type of diesel engine offers a full combustion of the more refined fuel resulting in less carbon dioxide emissions. Diesel fuel is also higher in the amount of hydrocarbons which gives the automobile a bit more oomph. In other words, there is more energy in diesel fuel offering more power and gas milage per gallon. The EPA recently conducted a research study that concluded if diesel powered 1/3 of all light duty vehicles in the U.S., the shift would save approximately 1.4 million barrels of oil a day — an amount that's equal to the daily shipment from Saudi Arabia to the U.S.
The only downside is that these new diesel engines cannot be converted into biodiesel burning engines. We asked.
Although not a luxury vehicle, the interior of the TDI is surprisingly roomy for a compact sedan and the trunk is huge, allowing us to stuff it with all our baggage. It comes standard with most bells and whistles including a premium stereo system, Electronic Stabilization Control, single zone climate control and an eight-way adjustable front seats to name a few. And for a long picturesque ride through wine country, music is a priority so lucky for us the vehicle comes with an iPod adaptor. VW also tests all their vehicles at five miles above the standard speed when testing for safety and they were still a top pick, so we felt safe in taking turns a bit too fast — it handled great.
We'd ultimately like to see a zero emission battery powered car but the fact is that sort of technology is still a ways off. Averaging 38 city/44 highway miles per gallon, an immediate and efficient solution is the Jetta TDI. The TDI even holds the Guinness World Record for the lowest fuel consumption at 58.83 miles per gallon, accomplished by professional driving duo John and Helen Taylor.
Boasting a four-cylinder turbocharged, 2.0L, 140hp engine with 236 lbs-ft of torque, the TDI is available in both Sedan and SportWagen models and starts at a very affordable $22,000 — and you get a $1,300 tax credit. If you don't want to give up power but do want to leave a smaller carbon footprint we think it's a no-brainer.