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First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta #2216905 03/30/11 01:23 PM
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saaber1 Offline OP
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Drove a 2011 Jetta as a service loaner from dealer and wanted to share thoughts for folks who might be considering this car...

Car:
Jetta SE 2.5 liter. 6 speed automatic. Convenience group with sunroof. Edmunds TMV price $21,990

Liked:

1) Style looks very good and very BMWish to me, especially rear pillar
2) Handling and ride. Felt really good for an everyday car (i.e. car without any sporting intentions). Light but responsive road feel. Note it should not be compared to a car with sport handling IMO which is fine for this type of car.
3) Mid-end grunt of the 2.5l was very good
4) Tranny shifting was very smooth
5) Interior space was good

Disliked:

1) Low-end torque is very anemic. I'm used to the VW 2.0 turbo wanting to spin it's tires from stop signs so I may have a biased view here but this car felt extremely sluggish off the line to me.
2) "gruff" character/noise of the 5 cylinder. Every 5 cylinder I have had has been this way. I think it's a byproduct of the naturally unbalanced 5 cylinder design. Probably no big deal for a lot of people. Doesn't feel smooth to me.
3) Perforated plastic seats. For plastic seats they are good actually but cloth would be much better IMO. Sat in a 2011 golf with cloth and liked it much better.
4) Cheap feeling interior compared to other VW products. This has been talked about all over so no need to waste time here on it. Actually much better than some of the similar class import vehicles I've driven as rental cars but cheap by VW standards so it's all relative.

Conclusion: For $22k I would cross shop lots of other vehicles for comparison as that seems like a lot of money to me for what you get. For only a bit more I would prefer a golf TDI 4 door or of course a GTI but I'm biased as I love the GTI.

I would like to drive a base model which can be had as low as $15k. This car may make a lot more sense at that price point despite the 2.0 non turbo of the base car. I would prefer this car to many of the lowest end Japanese and Korean imports I've driven from rental companies. Some of those feel extremely cheap. It's all relative I guess. I like hatchbacks so there are a lot of cars I think I would prefer over this car but if you really want a sedan it might be worth looking at and the best way is to drive lots of different cars in the class/price point you are looking at.


"when 5W30 is cold, ...the oil is 35 weight (5+30),...20 w 50 starts at 70 and warms up to 50"
- Kyle, auto mechanic & VP Speedline Motorsports, INTL
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2216926 03/30/11 01:43 PM
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Quattro Pete Offline
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After having test driven a 2.5 Jetta last year, I agree that this isn't a very refined engine from the sound point of view. And the higher you rev it, the worse it sounds. If memory serves me right, the old 2.slow actually sounded better, alas, it wasn't as powerful.





2002 530i   2015 Q5 3.0T   2018 Charger SRT
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2216932 03/30/11 01:46 PM
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JHZR2 Offline
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surprised as I'd say that our 2.5 has a good amount of low-end grunt. At normal throttle, doesnt seem any different to me than my 9-3 that makes 195lb-ft off fast idle... In fact, the 2.5 seems a bit more willing to jump off the line...

And my turbo cars have zero lag and make full torque if desired immediately.

The golf is very utilitarian and the TDI is where it is at regarding fuel economy. Brother loves his, and wife lover her 4dr rabbit. But if you want a sedan, so be it. just a bit suprised as ive found the 2.5 to be a great if not super efficient engine around town. Wouldnt use it (at least as geared in the rabbit 5MT) as a highway cruiser. Maybe the 6sp helps in that regard?

Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2216940 03/30/11 01:57 PM
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ARCOgraphite Offline
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Thanks for the input. I am in the market and the base golf was on the radar as as the '10 Elantra, Base Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Fiesta, '10 Scion xC. BUT, I am moving and restoring an old house all spring through fall, so I am/maybe in the market for a light truck (Base 4cyl 5M W/T Ford Ranger, Colorado or Tacoma) I like the tech in the GM engine 2.9L (!) 4cyl. and had great luck with my 81 Chevy 2.8 v6 shortbox. Had bad luck due to poor assy and OEM parts on a base ranger (Edison Plant) a few years ago, but basically liked the truck and it was under 12K out the door. Bad luck with tacoma too. Hit a bump in the road and the headlight fell out. The ride over big bumps was totally unrefined. Also the "spaghetti string" ignition wires didnt work too well (just before OBDii) exhibiting - intermittent misfire. I am coming to prefer chair hight seating in a truck or car for improved ingress and egress (unless its a full on sports/GT car).

Last edited by ARCOgraphite; 03/30/11 01:58 PM.

2019 VW Jetta S 6MT OCI#2 7378mi-MOTUL Specific VW508.00+VW Service Filter; '17 Subaru Crosstrek CVT OC#8 60864mi-Subaru Idemitsu 0W20 + SOA Filter
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2216942 03/30/11 01:58 PM
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I personally don't get 5-cyl engines. 2.5L is big enough to make it hi-revving 6-cyl. I would think that it would feel much nicer and smoother as well. And they can easily squeeze close to 200hp from 2.5L V6. If they shoot for fuel economy then go with the 4 cyl 2L-2.2L engine with 140-160hp with a close ratio transmission on lower gears for acceleration and be done with it.

I personally love the idea of Lexus IS250 where they have 2.5 V6.

Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: unixguru] #2216968 03/30/11 02:34 PM
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Spazdog Offline
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Nice review thumbsup

Disappointed the seats weren't better. I have been impressed with the PETA friendly BMW faux leather and MB Tex. Feels better than the actual leather that comes in some cars.
(some GMs and Mitsubishis have particularly plasticky leathers)

Originally Posted By: unixguru
I personally don't get 5-cyl engines. 2.5L is big enough to make it hi-revving 6-cyl. I would think that it would feel much nicer and smoother as well. And they can easily squeeze close to 200hp from 2.5L V6. If they shoot for fuel economy then go with the 4 cyl 2L-2.2L engine with 140-160hp with a close ratio transmission on lower gears for acceleration and be done with it.

I personally love the idea of Lexus IS250 where they have 2.5 V6.


Nothing new there.
Lexus' first ES was a 2.5 V6. Ford, Honda (and Rover/Sterling), Mazda, Mitsubishi (via Chrysler. I don't think the 6G73 ever was used in a North American Mitsubishi) and Suzuki all had 2.5 V6-es
As the 4cylinders got bigger, I guess there was no need for the 2.5 V6 displacement shrug


2013 Chevrolet Cruze Eco - dealer Dexos
2014 Chrysler 200S - Whatever the dealer put in it.
1987 Honda CN250 Helix - Penn Platinum Euro5W40
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: JHZR2] #2216994 03/30/11 03:06 PM
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saaber1 Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: JHZR2
surprised as I'd say that our 2.5 has a good amount of low-end grunt. At normal throttle, doesnt seem any different to me than my 9-3 that makes 195lb-ft off fast idle... In fact, the 2.5 seems a bit more willing to jump off the line...

This makes me think that the Jetta's off the line sluggishness may be due to how the tranny is set up on the Jetta or possibly the throttle (I assume it is electronic throttle, didn't look).


"when 5W30 is cold, ...the oil is 35 weight (5+30),...20 w 50 starts at 70 and warms up to 50"
- Kyle, auto mechanic & VP Speedline Motorsports, INTL
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2217089 03/30/11 05:00 PM
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Jim 5 Offline
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The engine sound you describe reminds me exactly of my dad's 1983 Audi 5000 (non-turbo) with a 5 speed manual. I loved driving that car at 16 years old in 1986. I believe it was a very similar 2.5L inline 5.


Jim A
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Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: Jim 5] #2217146 03/30/11 05:42 PM
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Quattro Pete Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jim 5
The engine sound you describe reminds me exactly of my dad's 1983 Audi 5000 (non-turbo) with a 5 speed manual. I loved driving that car at 16 years old in 1986. I believe it was a very similar 2.5L inline 5.

It was a 2.2, IIRC.


2002 530i   2015 Q5 3.0T   2018 Charger SRT
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2217511 03/31/11 03:42 AM
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Rumor has it that the 2.5 liter Volkswagen is just a half-serving of the 5.0 liter V-10 that is offered up in the Lamborghini Gallardo. In the modern era of inbreeding among automobile manufacturers this would be plausible.

I drove the I-5 Rabbit prior to purchasing a TDI and I fell in love with the engine/transmission combo. I hear people complain about how crude the 2.5 is but I loved it. I actually only considered it because the TDI was out of my price range but I underestimated my negotiation skills and later got a TDI for a affordable price. The fuel economy of the 2.5 was not a very appealing aspect if I remember correctly.

Had I not gotten the TDI Jetta I'd be driving (and loving) a 2009 VW Rabbit 2.5 with 5 speed manual.

Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2218103 03/31/11 06:43 PM
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saaber1 Offline OP
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Couple of small details to add while they are still fresh in my mind. Several times the Jetta had a "wobbly" sensation on low speed tight turns, such as pulling into a driveway. Not every time, but maybe 25%? of the time.

Noticeably strong plastic smell to interior. I would say more plasticky than what I typically think of as "new car smell" (which is likely from plastics also I would guess).

The car has drum brakes in the rear which I didn't expect. Has a soft and long pull to ebrake to set it vs. short and taught pull of disc brake VWs/audis that I'm familiar with.

The horn honks every time you lock it. It's pretty loud and I find it annoying. I hope it can be disabled. I know on the cars with the multi-function display (not 2011 Jetta) it can easily be disabled. The trunk is really weird to open. There is a manual latch but it doesn't unlock when you unlock the car. You have to unlock it individually with a different button which was annoying. When you press the unlock button once it only unlocks the front doors (or maybe just the driver door, not sure). You have to hit it again to unlock the back doors which is annoying. Also if you leave the car unlocked it locks itself later with the loud honk. That is really annoying. Must be some way to disable that I hope. I know for the MFD cars these types of things are pretty easy to change but this car has no MFD.

That's all I can think of at the moment. The lasting impression I have of that car is the cheap feeling interior, particularly the radio. It is a low-contrast pale white and red touchscreen affair with a black background. It is really unattractive to look at IMO. Surrounding that is a very shiny black plastic that looks cheap and some plastic bits painted bright silver. The first thing my wife said when she rode in it is that stereo looks really bad. Of course these are little tidbits that may not bother anyone, just trying to list everything that struck me. And of course things I dislike, someone else may like.

Oh yea the instrument cluster is extremely simple looking. It has an electronic sort of bar graph thing for the gas gauge which is ind of neat but I prefer the simple normal round VW gauges.


"when 5W30 is cold, ...the oil is 35 weight (5+30),...20 w 50 starts at 70 and warms up to 50"
- Kyle, auto mechanic & VP Speedline Motorsports, INTL
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2225100 04/07/11 03:08 PM
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07Wolfie Offline
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I also just drove a new '11 Jetta SE rental and it was pretty surprising. If there were any doubts about VW's effort to move this model downmarket, they should be settled now. I think VW found a little design time machine and took a trip backwards. Like Saaber1 mentioned, rear drum brakes? What was the last Jetta MY that sported THOSE? Variable-assist electric power steering? Deleted. Long-dead 2.0 boat anchor? Reawakened!

The trunk feels cheap because the relatively sophisticated dampened scissor hinge is gone, replaced by arms that would embarass engineers at Diahatsu. (no offense...)

It's the same story inside, basically it seems that the overarching design motto has gone from "Better Than Average" to "Not So Bad That The Average Person Will Notice"... this puts it mid-pack in the C-segment market, with a new lower price to match. Disappointing.

The throttle is still electronic, and the pedal response mapping is even more mysterious than on the MKV's. If you felt like you wanted to look down to make sure you were stepping on the right pedal, you weren't alone. The auto 6 doesn't help that situation, either- DSG it isn't.

I'd like to defend the 2.5, however, with a few qualifications. First, it's not as good as the 2.0T, and nowhere near as good as the new TFSI. As far as the automotive rumor that it's just half of a Gallardo V-10, well... crazy It is true that the cylinder heads share some casting design, but that's about it. The 2.5 actually has more in common with the 2.0T, development costs were kept down by using as much of the existing design as possible and just adding a 5th cylinder. It uses VW's variable cam design on the intake cam with a fixed exhaust cam, and that allows it to actually produce a respectable torque curve in the lower rev range. Because it was the base engine (before they dug the old 2.0 non-turbo out of it's grave for 2011), it was required to run on 87-octane. Couple it to that auto 6 and it is pretty mediocre. Give it a manual transmission, though, and it's a whole different animal. You can use more of the low-end torque, and it changes the sound and feel of the engine tremendously. I'm not exactly sure why, maybe some resonance or damping from the automatic that doesn't occur in the manual? I've driven 3 or 4 automatic 2.5 Jettas, and none of them have the same nice satisfying "growl" as my manual when they're accelerating through the rev range. I know, it sounds subjective (and it is), but I'd encourage you to try to find a 5-speed 2.5 on the lot just for comparison.
After I'd driven my 2.5 for about 6 months, I decided to try an ECU reflash from APR. They had a good reputation with the turbo motors, but it was questionable how much change was possible in a naturally-aspirated engine. Apparently, in the 2.5, Volkswagen software engineers left quite a bit on the table. I've never been able to figure out why, either- the throttle response is SO much better, and when set to the 91-octane program it's like a completely different engine. Better fuel economy than stock, and a full-throttle run from 3000 to 6000 RPM is just a beautiful tactile and sonic experience. I've never had it on a chassis dyno or gotten certified 1/4 mile times, but the experience is more than just seat-of-the-pants subjective. I did do a top-speed run a year or so ago, and it was drag-limited at 142 MPH at an altitude of 4000' (Yes, I have photos grin )

Anyway, I suppose my point would be that there are quite a few reasons to pass on the 2011 Jetta. Maybe the 2.5 isn't one of them, though? I don't think VW has dumbed-down the Golf yet- if a GTI is out of your price range, a Golf 2.5 with a 5-spd and an APR tune is about 90% as good for 70% as much money.


-Josh
'10 Subaru Outback
'15 Chevy Volt
‘18 Ford F-350 DRW 6.7
‘20 Ford Transit Connect
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: saaber1] #2225114 04/07/11 03:24 PM
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I wonder why VW needed a 5th cylinder for the amount of power it produces. Is the bore spacing of the 2.0L too close to allow for 2.5 liters of displacement? Everything about this engine, including horsepower, torque, acceleration, and fuel economy, is pretty comparable to other midsize sedans with 2.5L 4-cylinder engines, and they don't have the inherent balance issue that VW does with the 5-cylinder design.

Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: Hokiefyd] #2225122 04/07/11 03:34 PM
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07Wolfie Offline
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Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
I wonder why VW needed a 5th cylinder for the amount of power it produces. Is the bore spacing of the 2.0L too close to allow for 2.5 liters of displacement? Everything about this engine, including horsepower, torque, acceleration, and fuel economy, is pretty comparable to other midsize sedans with 2.5L 4-cylinder engines, and they don't have the inherent balance issue that VW does with the 5-cylinder design.


I've often wondered that too. I wouldn't put it past product planners to see some value in the "5 cylinders > 4 cylinders" thought process of buyers... or maybe it was just cheaper to develop than a new 2.5 I-4 design?


-Josh
'10 Subaru Outback
'15 Chevy Volt
‘18 Ford F-350 DRW 6.7
‘20 Ford Transit Connect
Re: First driving impressions of 2011 Jetta [Re: 07Wolfie] #2225123 04/07/11 03:34 PM
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Quattro Pete Offline
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Originally Posted By: 07Wolfie
I've driven 3 or 4 automatic 2.5 Jettas, and none of them have the same nice satisfying "growl" as my manual when they're accelerating through the rev range. I know, it sounds subjective (and it is), but I'd encourage you to try to find a 5-speed 2.5 on the lot just for comparison.

That's a good observation. I actually noticed something similar. My friend's Golf 2.5 with a stick shift sounds quite a bit better than a 2010 Jetta 2.5 auto we test drove.

Quote:

Apparently, in the 2.5, Volkswagen software engineers left quite a bit on the table. I've never been able to figure out why, either

Two reasons I can think of:

1. They wanted to leave enough performance gap between the 2.5 and the 2.0T. There was only 50hp difference between the two initially. Then in 2008 the 2.5 got 20 extra hp (up to 170hp), so that difference is now only 30hp. Even though HP doesn't tell the whole story, that's what most buyers look at anyway. Reduce that difference even more, and the sales of 2.0T will plumet.

2. Potential EPA issues. I'm not sure how APR programming affects it. I know back in the day when I was chipping my old A4 1.8T, the extra power came at the expense of more pollution, or specifically, more of certain type of pollution which the EPA focuses on.


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