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  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI

    New activity vehicle joins the Golf family

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

    2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

    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

    2015 Volkswagen Golf R

    2015 Volkswagen Golf R

    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

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    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 »

  • 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

    Compact sedan is fuel thrifty and fun to drive

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

    2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

    While there are a lot of hybrid passenger cars on the market, few meet the needs of driving enthusiasts. Volkswagen, a brand known for its driving dynamics, engineered the Jetta Hybrid to fill this square and give eco-conscious fans of the brand an alternative to clean diesel.

    The difference between the Jetta Hybrid and competitors in the compact segment is components. The Jetta has a turbocharged engine while others do not, and a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission in lieu of the more common continuously variable unit. The suspension is independent front and rear as opposed to competitors with torsion beam rear axles.

    With a starting price of $25,560 excluding the $820 destination charge, it’s a lot of car for the money. Volkswagen throws in two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance and three years of roadside assistance as part of the factory warranty to sweeten the deal.

    The Jetta’s other ace-in-the hole is interior versatility. While it can’t match models such as the Toyota Prius liftback for cargo space, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat is rare in a hybrid sedan. There’s a bump between the trunk and rear seat where the battery pack is located, but the driver has considerably more room to work with than in most competitive products.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include Bluetooth interface, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a rear spoiler and remote keyless entry. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf and GTI First Drive

    Seventh-generation hatchbacks gain performance and efficiency

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Volkswagen Golf Family

    2015 Volkswagen Golf Family

    In 1974, Volkswagen introduced a front-wheel drive hatchback intended to replace the Beetle as the automaker’s volume leader. The car came to the United States a year later as the VW Rabbit.

    Its success was instant and unprecedented. While American automakers had started to focus on smaller cars, few were well engineered. That left Toyota, Honda and Datsun, all of who produced excellent small cars, but none of which had widespread acceptance outside core markets such as California.

    I was among the first generation of Rabbit enthusiasts, having purchased a ’77 model. My neighbor in Cincinnati who had a bit more money plunked it down on the sporty Scirocco: this on a street where anything aside from Ford, GM or Chrysler was considered somewhat subversive.

    Volkswagen sold over 100,000 units during the car’s first year in the United States and opened an assembly plant to produce Rabbits for American buyers in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania in 1978. It was the first facility on US soil owned and operated by a foreign automaker.

    Forty years later, Volkswagen introduces the much-anticipated Golf and GTI for the 2015 model year. The seventh-generation hatchbacks are clean sheet of paper cars. The new Golf that debuted in Europe in 2014 is based on the automaker’s transverse matrix architecture. In simplified terms, it’s modular system enabling economies of scale my basing multiple car chassis off similar components. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Volkswagen Eos Sport

    Retractable hardtop for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Volkswagen Eos

    2014 Volkswagen Eos

    The Volkswagen Eos is like two cars for the price of one. With the hardtop in place, it’s a sport coupe, powered by a turbocharged 200 horsepower four-cylinder engine and six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Utilizing a toggle switch adjacent to the center console, the driver can fold the top into the trunk in less than 25 seconds, transforming the Eos into a cabriolet.

    Following a major redesign for the 2012 model year, the 2014 car is essentially unchanged. The biggest news is the availability of VW Car-Net connected car services, including automatic crash notification. New car buyers receive a six-month complimentary subscription to the service.

    The Eos is available in three trim levels: base Komfort, midgrade Sport and upscale Executive. The Sport model tested incorporates a modified suspension with firmer spring and damper settings. The car also sits half an inch lower for enhanced high-speed performance.

    Base price for the test car is $37,495. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, the power folding hardtop with a sliding sunroof, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, 12-way power driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, touchscreen navigation and bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and tail lamps. Adding the $865 destination charge, final MSRP is $38,360. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SE

    Sporty five-passenger crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2014 Volkswagen Tiguan

    Of the two crossover vehicles in Volkswagen’s lineup, the midsized Tiguan is my favorite. Powered by the same turbocharged two-liter engine as the GTI, it’s a hoot to drive. Turbocharging minimizes parasitic power loss at altitude, making the Tiguan a good choice for mountain denizens.

    A six-speed automatic transmission with two overdrive gears extends fuel economy on the front-wheel drive version up to 26 mpg on the highway. Those who prefer a manual gearbox can find one on the base model.

    Base price for the upscale SE model tested is $29,620, excluding the $865 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features on the test car include 18-inch alloy wheels, touchscreen with rearview backup camera, Bluetooth interface, keyless access with push button start, leatherette seating, electronic parking brake, cruise control, air conditioning, fog lamps and roof rails.

    New for 2014 is a complimentary subscription to VW Car-Net: service includes crash notification, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location. Final MSRP is $29,620. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE

    Clean diesel five-passenger midsize sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Volkswagen Passat

    2014 Volkswagen Passat

    It appears that Americans are finally realizing clean diesel is a win/win proposition. It’s about time.

    Cars that run on low sulfur diesel have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline-powered equivalents. Diesel has the advantage over other forms of alternative fuel in that it utilizes the existing infrastructure. The technology adds little to no additional expense to the MSRP, and extends fuel economy by about 25 percent over gasoline.

    The midsize Passat produced at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant is a perfect example. Base price for the upscale SE model with a sunroof is $28,295, excluding the $820 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include leatherette seating, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, a rearview camera, sunroof, automatic headlamps and a 60/40 split folding rear seat. Final MSRP is $29,115.

    The turbo-diesel version averages 34 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA, but the sedan did much better on my 130-mile test-drive: 37.7 miles-per-gallon. The two-liter engine delivers 140 horsepower and 236 foot-pounds of torque for excellent power off the line. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Volkswagen Preview

    New engine, heritage styling and connectivity features spice up lineup

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Volkswagen models

    Riding on the wave of a 5.5 percent global sales increase, Volkswagen is adding a new engine, heritage Beetle model and Car-Net connectivity feature to its arsenal for 2014. A 1.8-liter direct injection turbocharged engine replaces the 2.5-liter block in the compact Jetta and midsized Passat sedans, offering more power and better fuel economy.

    All Beetles get a rear independent suspension instead of a solid axle. Turbo models are now designated R-Line, with 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlamps and leather seating on premium grades. A GSR coupe recalls the yellow and black racecar of the 1970s. The new 1.8-liter turbocharged engine replaces the 2.5-liter block in the middle of the 2014 model year.

    Car owners can access the Car-Net connectivity feature via an overhead console in the vehicle, mobile app or online. The system is similar to OnStar, including crash notification, remote lock and unlock, stolen vehicle location and parental controls. Owners can also use Car-Net to schedule service appointments. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Heels and Wheels 2013

    Annual conference puts women in the driver’s seat

    By Nina Russin

    Aston Martin DB9

    I feel like the Queen: not the one with the Queen wave and frumpy clothes, but rather a Pussy Galore queen with Sean Connery by my side, oozing sex appeal and confidence. I don’t typically have Pussy Galore hallucinations, but I don’t usually get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9 either. The experience was the highlight of my trip to the third annual Heels and Wheels women’s automotive conference in Bend, Oregon

    Of course, there was a more serious aspect to the event, its primary focus being the buying power of women, which currently accounts for at least 50 percent of all new car purchases and up to 80 percent of car buying decisions.

    According to Kelley Blue Book research Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Mazda and Volkswagen are the most popular brands among female buyers. Women tend to favor crossover vehicles and SUVs over sports cars and pickup trucks, with models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 topping the popularity charts.

    The internet has become the most popular source of information among women shopping for a new car, due partly to the unease with which many women approach dealerships. KBB visitors typically research a vehicle for two months, take about three more months for the purchasing process and keep their cars between 8 and 10 years.

    Connectivity features are playing a larger role in purchase decisions, with Bluetooth and GPS both included among must-haves. Read the rest of this entry »