2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Review

by Brad Pretzer

Side view of 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDIThe 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a four-door sedan with a 2.0 liter, 140 horsepower, inline 4-cylinder diesel engine producing 236 foot-pounds of torque. I purchased my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI in late November of 2008 from Boston Volkswagen in Watertown, Massachusetts. Since this was a 2009 model-year car purchased in 2008, there were not many to choose from. Furthermore, prior to the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Massachusetts had a statewide ban on the purchase of new diesel powered passenger cars. Consequently, there was a lot of pent-up demand for these diesel cars and dealers didn't have many to choose from. That has all changed now as the manufacturer has caught up to demand. The sticker price on my car was $23,268. The limited number of Jetta TDI's available combined with demand allowed the dealer to be firm and unwilling to move on price. I did get Boston Volkswagen to remove the doc fee and the sport and protection kit surcharge. After tax and title fees the final price was $23,876.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI EngineWhen looking for a new car, I considered many; however, my decision was quickly narrowed to either the 2009 Jetta TDI or a 2009 Mazda 3. The Mazda and Volkswagen have nearly identical body dimensions. The Volkswagen was priced significantly higher; however, I chose the VW becuase of the TDI engine.

What Does TDI Mean?

2009 Jetta TDI BadgeThere seems to be a lot of confusion about what TDI stands for. I have seen Turbo Diesel Injection, Transistorised Diesel Injection, and Turbo Diesel Intercooler. However, the manufacturer indicates it means simply Turbocharged Direct Injection. This means the engine is turbocharged vs being normally aspirated. Secondly, the fuel is sprayed directly into the combustion cylinder instead of the fuel mixing in a pre-combustion chamber then being injected into the cylinder. Wikipedia has a good discussion on how all this works. When this engine was released it was a newer version of previous TDI's. As such, it received the name BlueTech and the TDI badge has a blue letter I.

Clean Diesel

2009 Volkswagen Jetta badgeSome of my friends told me I was foolish for getting a diesel vehicle. They said it would be hard to start, or not even start at all during our cold New England winters. They told me diesel cars are noisy, smelly, and would paint the area near the exhaust with soot. How wrong they were! The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is not your father's diesel car. This is a modern clean diesel car that starts like, runs like, sounds like, and smells like any modern gasoline car. The only time you will know it is a diesel is when you go to the gas station to fill up. You won't be visiting the gas station that often either when you are getting 600 miles to a tank.

The 2009 TDI engine is called a clean diesel because it meets the world's most stringent emission controls standards, California's Tier II, Bin 5. It is the first diesel passenger car to be legal in all 50 states. The engine stores up the harmful emissions that are produced under less than optimum operating conditions until the engine is at peak performance at which point they are reintroduced into the engine and burned off. As a user all this is transparent and automatic allowing you to drive as you desire.

VW Jetta TDI vs Toyota Prius or other Hybrid

In tests, the Jetta TDI and Prius had the same efficiency on the highway; however, the Prius did much better in city driving. Interestingly though, the Prius costs more than the Jetta TDI. Also, you will have to replace the batteries in the Prius somewhere around the 100,000 mile mark costing over $2,500. Finally, the TDI qualified me for a $1300 federal tax credit whereas the Prius does not qualify for this credit. Overall, the aquistion cost of the TDI is less, the operating cost is slightly higher due to the higher price of diesel over gasoline and there are no batteries to worry about replacing in the TDI. Popular Mechanics has a good article on this comparison as does the The Auto Channel.

Fuel Economy

Side view of 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDII am still amazed at the incredible fuel mileage I get from my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The sticker indicates an estimate of 30mpg in the city and 41mpg on the highway. Around the city I am consistently getting 33-35mpg. On the highway I get a bit over 44mpg; however, that is driving a bit over the posted speed limit and with the flow of traffic. On one particular trip from New York City to Boston I followed the posted speed limits perfectly and received over 48mpg! That trip was in the middle of the night. I am sure that if I did that during the daytime I would hear from the other drivers.

The Volkswagen Jetta TDI gets significantly better fuel economy when it is warmed up which takes a bit longer in a diesel car than in a gasoline car. I plan 10 miles to get the engine completely warmed up in the winter time. It takes a bit less in the summer. As such, the car is not outstanding for very short trips. Also, the warmer the weather, the better my fuel economy. Even though diesel is more expensive per gallon than gasoline my vehicle costs less to operate per mile than a gasoline powered car because I get so many more miles from one gallon of fuel.

Inside The Car

Interior of 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDIStandard on the Jetta TDI are seats covered in leatherette so no animals were harmed in the manufacture of this vehicle. The leatherette is easy to clean and maintain, doesn't stain, and won't fade or crack like leather. The steering wheel and shifter knob are both covered in leatherette as well. Also standard are heated front seats.

I love the windows. They automatically go all the way down or all the way up with just a touch of the window button. On the way up if they encounter even a slight amount of resistance they will reverse, freeing whatever may be caught in the window. Several times I have put my hand in the closing window and am always amazed at what a soft touch the windows have.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Multifunction DisplayThere is a multi-function display in the center of the gauge cluster. This display is more advanced than the screens in the Boeing 767 that I fly for work. In the setup menus you can make many adjustments, even the intensity of the foot-well lighting upon door opening. I also used the setup menu to select the option to unlock all the doors when I press unlock once on the key fob. The default is to unlock only the driver's door, requiring you to press unlock twice to unlock all the doors. While driving, I like to keep the instantaneous fuel economy on display. Information on the display is easily changed with a few buttons on the right side of the steering wheel just under your thumb.

The fuel gauge does not operate linearly. It is slow to move at first and when it it indicates 1/2 tank, there is indeed less than 1/2 of fuel remaining. The needle moves more rapidly from 1/2 to 0 than it does from full to 1/2. It is accurate at full and empty however so it safe to rely on. Furthermore, it indicates lower than actual when you are going uphill.

The radio is great. It has an in-dash 6-CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio, and great sound. Also, there is a standard RCA input in the center armrest which allows me to use an iPod, or any other device with a headphone jack for an auxiliary input.

Boston Volkswagen Service Department

All my friends told me to avoid the service department at Boston Volkswagen at any cost. I heard their horror stories and read countless more online. I thought, how can a dealership's service department really be that bad? They had just moved into a new and massive space. It is clean, bright, and modern. I figured I'd give them a fair chance, form my own opinion, and ignore the advice of others.

I have had 3 encounters with the service department at Boston Volkswagen. The first was upon initial delivery of the car. As I drove away, I noticed the steering wheel wasn't centered when going straight down the road. I took it back and Ronnie Sousa, the service department manager, told me that the steering wheel wasn't straight because the roads in Boston were slanted. Did he think this was my first time driving? I asked him to drive the car and he agreed it wasn't right. In short order they adjusted the steering wheel and it has been perfect ever since.

My second encounter with the service department at Boston Volkswagen came at the 10,000 mile oil change. VW covers all scheduled maintenance on a new car for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles. This is basically 3 oil changes and tire rotations. Throughout the owner's manual there are several places where it is insisted that you use only synthetic oil that meets the Volkswagen 507 00 standard. They are adamant about it. I had read online horror stories about new owners getting the wrong oil and causing damage so I wanted to be sure the dealership was going to use the right oil. When I dropped off my car I asked what oil they were going to use and they said synthetic. I tried to make sure it was appropriate for diesel engines and met the 507 00 specification. The representative seemed confused and assured me they used synthetic oil in all the oil changes. That worried me even more. I showed the service representative the Volkswagen Service Circular VWA-07-27 titled Volkswagen Engine Oil Quality Standards which lists the only approved oils under the 507 00 specification. His eyes widened and he seemed surprised. Finally, he did some checking and found several cases of the Castrol SLX Professinal LL03 oil in the back and told me he would use that. I was hesitant, but handed my key over for an oil change. In the end, I suspect they used the right oil. Though, I thought the dealership would be more aware of these things.

My third encounter with the Boston Volkswagen service department came at around 16,000 miles. Both side-view mirrors are supposed be able to be manually folded in. The passenger side mirror was completely stuck however and could not be moved inward. I made an appointment to have it looked at and it took the service department nearly 3 hours to tell me the mirror was stuck and they would need to order parts. Several weeks later I took the car back to have the mirror replaced as the parts had arrived. Again, it took nearly 3 hours and I continue to wonder why I bother making an appointment. When I arrive at my scheduled time my car still sits waiting for over an hour before they get to it. I got the car back and the mirror was fixed. As soon as I got home however, I noticed a 3-inch vertical scratch directly below the mirror that has just been replaced. I immediately called the service department and brought the car back. Again I met Ronnie Sousa, the service department manager. For over a minute he looked at, picked at, studied, and analyzed the scratch. He stood up and told me that it was an old scratch. Impossible, I thought! I am very meticulous with my car and would know if there was scratch in the door. Furthermore, this scratch was directly below the area that just received work. He continued to deny responsibility and the scratch remains. I have filed a complaint with Volkswagen USA; however, it is only a complaint and has no chance of fixing the scratch.

I really like my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and am extremely satisfied with the product. I recommend it to my friends and I know of 3 others that have purchased this car due, in part, to my enthusiasm. Boston Volkswagen is a fine place to buy the car as well. In contrast, my experience with the Boston Volkswagen service department has been terrible. I have found them to be unknowledgeable about their products, poor at scheduling and prompt service, and deceitful.

A 2,700-Mile Road Trip

In June 2010, I took a trip in my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI from Boston to Columbus, Georgia to Manchester, Tennessee, and back to Boston. The trip distance was 2,756 miles. The car performed flawlessly and I had the 20,000-mile service performed at Carl Gregory Volkswagen in Columbus, Georgia. In contrast to Boston Volkswagen, I highly recommend the folks at Carl Gregory VW. They were extremely friendly, polite, knowledgeable, and fast at servicing my vehicle. For the entire trip I averaged 43.3 mpg. It would have been significantly higher; however, there was a period of over 5 hours of idling and inching along as I waited in line to get into the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Creeping along really hurt the overall mileage. In comparison, on the way from Manchester, TN to Boston, MA I averaged 44.8mpg.