2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and SEL – First Road Test and Review

By Jonathan Spira on 8 August 2010
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Highway 1 runs along much of California’s Pacific coast and some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.  Portions of it are known as the Pacific Coast Highway, the Cabrillo Highway, and the Shoreline Highway.

I spent two days driving the new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta (see last month’s First Review for a detailed report on what’s new for the  2011 Jetta).  First I drove the petrol-powered SEL version and, on the following day, the diesel-powered TDI. For both drives I started in San Francisco and headed north (join us on the drive: our slide show is on page 2  of this article).




The Shoreline Highway is a winding two-lane road north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It passes through the Marin Hills and then intersects with Muir Beach, continuing past the Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay.

It was the perfect road to experience the Jetta’s version of Fahrvergnügen (a word coined by Volkswagen for use in several past U.S. advertising campaigns, joining “Fahr” (from fahren, “to drive,” with Vergnügen, “pleasure,” to convey “driving pleasure.”)

On the first day of my drive, upon leaving San Francisco, I noticed that the five-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine in the SEL was smooth and happy to provide power on demand and the five-speed manual’s light clutch and precise shifting made it clear that I was in a driver’s car.

The ergonomics of the new Jetta’s interior are excellent.  Controls are where they should be; radio, climate control, and navigation controls in the center stack are intuitive and the console is oriented towards the driver for a better view and ease of access.  The instrument cluster, with the multi-function display between the speedometer and tachometer, has been redesigned for optimal viewing.

I did notice what some in the industry call “decontenting.”  The nice, soft-touch dash of the old Jetta has been replaced by hard plastic (although most of the other trim is similar in quality from old to new).  The hood no longer stays up on its own and the trunk uses more intrusive hinges.

The faux leather V-Tex seats were firm and comfortable.  Several hours into my drive on day 1, I noticed that I was just about as comfortable and free of back pain as I had been when I got into the vehicle.

I didn’t have much reason to sit in the back sit – but, out of curiosity, I decided to try it out.  The Jetta’s back seat was quite comfortable; indeed I would say it had as much leg and knee room as one might find in many larger sedans today.

Once in Sonoma County, the Shoreline Highway became the Coast Highway as I passed the Sonoma Coast State Beaches.and started to head inland for the drive down 101 to return to San Francisco.  Click here to continue to Page 2.

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