2017 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI
Sporty compact sedan adds spice to the daily commute
By Nina Russin
The GLI is the premium sport grade for Volkswagen’s Jetta compact sedan. Priced from $27,895, it comes loaded with safety and convenience features including a rearview camera with park distance control, blind spot monitoring, keyless start, Bluetooth interface, Fender premium audio system, satellite radio and cruise control.
Eighteen-inch alloy rims are an upgrade from 16-inch wheels on the base model. Automatic headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensing wipers and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof make the GLI an appealing yet affordable package. Final MSRP is $28,715. Read the rest of this entry »
2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Midsize sport-utility vehicle with room for seven
By Nina Russin
Volkswagen’s newest family member, the Atlas, is a midsize SUV based on the automaker’s MQB platform first introduced in the current-generation Golf. Volkswagen is building the Atlas along with the Passat at its newly expanded Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like the Golf and Passat, the Atlas is a front-wheel drive vehicle, and as with the new Golf Alltrack wagon, is available with all-wheel drive. Although the Atlas competes in the same segment as the Volkswagen Touareg, the vehicles are quite different.
The premium Touareg is available only as an all-wheel drive vehicle, and with two rows of seating as opposed to three for the new Atlas. While the Touareg can tow more- up to 7,716 pounds as opposed to 5,000 for the Atlas equipped with the V-6 engine, the Atlas holds more on the inside: something that should appeal to growing families with active lifestyles.
It’s also more affordable. The front-wheel drive four-cylinder model that arrives in dealerships later this year starts at $30,500, while the V-6 front-wheel drive base model starts at $31,900. Buyers can add all-wheel drive for $33,700 excluding destination and handling. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Sport
Four-door hatchback delivers the goods
By Nina Russin
If you’re looking for a car that’s cool, yet affordable, with peppy performance plus good fuel economy, take-a-look at the newest Volkswagen Golf. The current version that debuted for 2015 is the first constructed on the automaker’s new modular global architecture, giving the chassis more torsional rigidity for better steering feedback.
The sporty GTI comes with a two-liter turbocharged block that delivers 210-horsepower while averaging 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The Sport grade comes standard with a performance package including brakes from the Golf R, a limited-slip differential, 10-horsepower boost (when using 91-octane fuel) and 18-inch wheels. Base price is $26,695 excluding the $820 delivery charge.
Options on the test car add red exterior paint, plaid cloth interior, six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and summer performance tires, all at no cost. Final MSRP is $27,515. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL with 4Motion
Active lifestyle wagon with German performance
By Nina Russin
Volkswagen’s new Golf Alltrack sport wagon is the masculine yang to the Subaru Outback’s more feminine yin. Athletic performance comes from a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine and available six-speed manual gearbox on all grades. Like its Subaru competitor, the Alltrack boasts a versatile easy-to-clean interior with a spacious cargo bay for larger gear, and enough ground clearance to clear the tea kettles on unimproved roads.
VW product planners hope the Alltrack’s available panoramic sunroof and slightly lower roof height than the Outback will lure existing Subaru owners into its showrooms. Roof rails are standard on every Alltrack grade to facilitate overhead cargo carriers and roof racks.
The Alltrack is based on Volkswagen’s popular Golf Sportwagen. Although its sibling is available with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the Alltrack’s higher ground clearance makes it more capable on uneven trails. A drive-select mode system automatically engages downhill descent control when the driver chooses the off-road setting.
The standard 1.8-liter turbocharged engine develops 170-horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque from engine speeds as low as 1600 rpm for excellent low-end acceleration. The DSG automatic model that launches in October starts at $26,950 excluding an $820 destination charge while the six-speed manual version available in January, 2017 is priced from $25,850. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL
Open-air fun for four
By Nina Russin
Volkswagen is known as the most affordable of German performance brands. The R-Line version of its Beetle convertible brings this driver-focused approach to one of America’s favorite drop-tops.
The third-generation Beetle maintains the classic lines of the original car but with a more aerodynamic focus. The convertible’s folding soft top is actually lower when in place than the roofline of the hardtop car. A single button near the rearview mirror retracts the top and rolls down the windows in less than ten seconds and can operate at up to 30 miles-per-hour.
The R-Line SEL model tested gets the larger of two available engines: a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder block rated at 210 horsepower, mated to a six-speed direct shift automatic transmission.
Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Fender premium audio system, climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather seating, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface. Volkswagen has expanded its Car-Net infotainment system options, enabling owners to access Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as well as a variety of smartphone apps though the car’s head unit.
Base sticker for the upscale SEL is $36,050: final MSRP including destination is $36,870. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan S
Sporty compact crossover
By Nina Russin
With new compact crossovers flooding the market, it’s easy for models to get lost in the crowd. A few, however, stand out: among them the Volkswagen Tiguan. Volkswagen’s talent for engineering fun-to-drive cars is the reason. With its peppy two-liter turbocharged engine, the Tiguan appeals to both the practical and emotional sides of vehicle ownership.
The test car is the front-wheel drive Tiguan S, priced from $24,890. Standard convenience features include 18-inch alloy rims, automatic headlamps with daytime running lamps, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, folding and reclining rear seats, keyless entry with push-buttons start, rearview camera and eight-speaker audio system.
Final MSRP including the $855 destination charge is $25,755.
Test drive in Phoenix
Over the past week I drove the Tiguan throughout Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as on a rural road through the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. I had the opportunity to test the Tiguan in rush-hour traffic, load up the cargo area and see how well the car handled moderate changes in altitude.
The Tiguan’s turbocharged engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a nice pairing, with the transmission delivering seamless, linear shifts throughout the power band. The turbocharger gives the engine great power on the low end, with peak torque available from 1700 rpm. I heard what sounded like lifter tick which is odd since the engine has hydraulic lifters, but didn’t find the noise bothersome. Volkswagen recommends but does not require premium unleaded gasoline for optimum performance.
The electric power steering system is very well tuned, with on-center performance close to a hydraulic unit. There is none of the numb feeling competitive units seem to suffer from. A 39-foot turning circle makes it possible to perform U-turns on wider surface roads.
Construction on some stretches of rural road prevented me from pushing the Tiguan as hard as I would have liked. Having said that, I noticed no tendency for the front-wheel drive platform to push in the corners. Drivers living in four-season climates can opt for all-wheel drive to improve traction on wet roads.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts and coils mounted to an aluminum subframe up front and a four-link system in the rear. The suspension does a good job of absorbing jousts from pitchy hills and off-camber turns without feeling overly harsh. Large vented disc brakes up front and solid rotors in back provide firm, linear stopping power.
The Tiguan’s versatile interior with fold-flat and reclining rear seats makes it a good choice for buyers with active lifestyles. Keyless entry and start is an unusual feature in vehicles in this price range. I found manual driver’s seat adjustments easy to use, with good lower lumbar support.
The center stack screen is on the small side but I was able to clearly see the rearview camera image. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from both front seating positions and intuitive to operate. It’s a bit of a disappointment that the Tiguan does not come with satellite radio even though owners can use their smart phones to extend listening options.
Leatherette upholstery is attractive, though I would prefer cloth living in an area where hot summers can make it uncomfortable. The heated front seats were another nice surprise for our cooler mornings at this time of year.
The Tiguan’s low lift-over height makes it easy for smaller drivers to load up the back with bicycles, camping equipment and other large cargo.
The Volkswagen Tiguan comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps. Intelligent crash response automatically shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lamps after a serious collision.
Volkswagen builds the Tiguan at its Wolfsburg, Germany assembly plant.
Like: An affordable, fun-to-drive compact crossover with available all-wheel drive for good four season performance.
Dislike: Satellite radio is not standard equipment. Cloth upholstery is not available on the base model.
Model: Tiguan S
Base price: $24,890
As tested: $25,755
Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 207 lbs.-ft. @ 1700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 21/26 mpg city/highway
2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T SE
Peppy compact sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
Compact sedans are go-to cars for first time buyers because of their affordability. A well-designed model can take its owner through college and starting a new family. While there are plenty of options on the market that are safe, fuel efficient and competitively priced, fewer that fill those squares are also fun to drive.
Volkswagen’s talent is in offering European performance without the price tag of a German luxury brand. The compact Jetta, priced from $16,215 is a prime example. Nicely styled and well engineered, the Jetta is a package that will serve its owner well through whatever changes life might throw at him. Plus it’s a hoot to drive.
The Jetta is the only compact sedan available with two green options: a gasoline-electric hybrid and turbo-diesel. Buyers can choose between three four-cylinder gasoline engines (one being the hybrid) as well as the TDI, mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The test car is the upscale GLI SE, priced from $28,020 excluding the $820 destination charge. Buyers who don’t like to haggle at the dealership with appreciate the monospec pricing strategy. The car comes fully loaded, including a power sliding sunroof, keyless entry and start, Fender audio system with satellite radio, rearview camera, heated front seats and split folding second-row seat, rain sensing wipers, daytime running lamps and LED tail lamps. Final MSRP is $28,840. Read the rest of this entry »
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI
New activity vehicle joins the Golf family
By Nina Russin
For athletes, a car is more than transportation: it is also, in a sense, a giant gym bag- its cargo capability every bit as important as performance. The fact that the former Jetta SportWagen could deliver on both fronts made it a perennial favorite at our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year competition. The new Golf model, based on the same MQB architecture as its hatchback siblings, promises to do the same.
The SportWagen comes with a choice of two engines: a 1.8-liter 170-horsepower gasoline block and 150-horsepower turbo-diesel. Buyers can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and six-speed automatic for the TSI model. The turbo-diesel comes with either a six-speed manual gearbox or the six-speed automatic transmission.
Pricing for the base S grade gasoline car begins at $21,395, excluding the $820 destination charge. Standard equipment includes fifteen-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lamps, heated side mirrors, a cooled locking glovebox, leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, satellite radio, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and cruise control.
The upscale SEL priced from $29,345 adds automatic dual-zone climate control, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, formula-style shift paddles for automatic transmission cars, rearview camera, navigation, Fender premium audio, Bluetooth interface, keyless entry with pushbutton start and cruise control.
A split-folding second-row seat across the model lineup lengthens the cargo floor. Read the rest of this entry »
2015 Volkswagen Golf R
German performance to the power of R
By Nina Russin
Wet roads, chatter bumps and chicanes are all in a day’s work for the 2015 Golf R: the race-prepared version of Volkswagen’s popular hatchback utilizing all-wheel drive technology derived from the OEM’s World Rally Championship experience.
Volkswagen has been a WRC regular since the early 1980s, with six podium finishes between 1983 and 1988 in the Golf GTI. In 2013, the OEM put on a new game face with the Golf R Polo, jumping on the podium for six of its initial eight competitions. The first street-legal R to come to the United States was the 2004 R32. Volkswagen sold all 5,000 units allotted to the market with ease.
The 2015 Golf R shares the same MQB platform as the current Golf and GTI. Powered by a turbocharged 2-liter engine rated at 292-horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque the newest Golf R accelerates from zero-to-sixty in under five seconds.
Buyers can choose between the DSG automatic transmission available at rollout and a six-speed manual transmission that follows shortly thereafter. Pricing begins at $36,595 for the base DSG model, excluding the $820 destination charge. Read the rest of this entry »
2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI
Fun for the long run
By Nina Russin
As feel as if I have fallen down on the job. The purpose of doing an extended test drive is to put in some serious mileage: begin with a full tank of fuel and finish with the tank almost empty. However after a week and several hundred miles in the Volkswagen Beetle TDI, the fuel gauge shows the tank over half full.
Anyone who has been in a car with me knows that I’m a right brain kind of driver. I have a bit of a lead foot. Emptying out a fuel tank is never a problem for me. So what happened’
The culprit was the TDI’s 600-plus mile range, thanks its 41 mpg highway fuel economy. Add the engine’s 236 foot-pounds of torque available at 1750 rpm, and the Beetle becomes fun for the long run.
Readers who want a greener alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars and don’t want to pay the premium for hybrid technology should take a second look at diesel. The new generation of common rail diesel engines has reduced CO2 emissions as compared to gasoline, and average between 25 and 30 percent better fuel economy. That’s a statistic both sides of the brain can feel good about.
Base price for the Beetle TDI test car is $27,495 excluding the $820 delivery charge. Volkswagen specs out its models to include popular convenience features- in this case a sunroof, Fender audio system and navigation- in the MSRP. It makes pricing easier for the consumer to understand and reduces haggling at the dealership.
A carefree maintenance program adds two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance. Other standard convenience features include Bluetooth interface, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, split folding rear seat, keyless entry and start. Read the rest of this entry »