The entire Volkswagen lineup has had considerable improvements in fuel economy, user-appeal, stylish, and luxury, something that most used VW Jettas for sale didn't have. The dubbed 1.8T looks perfect, even the 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid carries more of an appeal than any other hybrid on the market except for Lexus's CT200H.
We Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Passat, Jetta, New 1.8T, What You Need to Know
Volkswagen sent us out to wine country to test its 2014 models, and we've come back with a few tasting notes. Nestled among the famed vineyards of Napa, California, were a few models meant to strictly tease us--Volkswagen Scirocco, we're staring straight at you--and a few such as the seventh-gen VW GTI, and VW Golf that we can expect on these shores in the future. Perhaps most importantly--if financials are to be considered--were the 2014 Volkswagen Passat, and 2014 Volkswagen Jetta sporting the automaker's newest engine, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo. And with a full day, we were able to make a few observations. Volkswagen's new 1.8T, dubbed "EA888" Volkswagen is replacing the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine currently powering most of the current Passat and Jetta models with a new version of its 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder. What does this mean for consumers? First off, greater efficiency. But this isn't just downsizing an engine, the 1.8T returns the same 170 hp, with more of it coming on earlier. And the fuel economy gains are significant: 5 mpg highway on the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta, bringing that figure to an impressive 36 mpg when paired with an automatic transmission, and it's more than half a second quicker to 60 mph. I like the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, but found the 1.8T a good substitute. The power band is more linear, and you're never wanting for power. There's also a touch of the turbo that adds a little pep. One thing I did notice was a lull while coasting, and automatic downshifts that weren't as smooth as I'd hoped. This will likely get sorted as engineers tune the engine to match the transmission. Overall, 2014 Volkswagen Passat and Volkswagen Jetta buyers should be pleased with the new powertrain. European-Spec Volkswagen GTI and VW Scirocco For a Volkswagen enthusiast in the U.S., the GTI hits the sweet spot: 210 hp delivered masterfully, a firm suspension, and engine and exhaust notes that have been actuated and sound glorious. The new GTI is every bit as good as the current GTI, if not better. But there's another model that the Euros are hogging, and there's no chance Wolfsburg will be sending it to the U.S. I'm referring to the Volkswagen Scirocco, of course. The Scirocco is the impetuous teenager that isn't quite ready to listen or behave; It's got a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine--this one cranks out 265 hp--and sends it all to the front wheels. The bucket seats engulf you, and it takes the GTI's glorious sound, and dials it up a notch. Acceleration is thrilling, and it's a small tragedy that it doesn't make financial sense to sell it in the U.S. But, we will have the very excellent 2015 GTI, and we're crossing our fingers that we'll get the diesel GTI, the VW GTD which we got to test drive earlier this summer. R-Line Strategy While Volkswagen enjoys a 15.6 percent market share in China, and a healthy 12.7 percent share in Western Europe, less than 3 percent of all cars in the U.S. are Volkswagens. The automaker is taking this as a sign that there's plenty of room to grow, and increasing its offerings is one way to grow market share. The easiest way to do this of course, is to build upon existing vehicles. Like Audi with the S line, or AMG adding a sportier nature to Mercedes-Benz's lineup, Volkswagen wants to expand its R-Line. The automaker has already expanded the R-Line to include five models--Touareg, Tiguan, CC, Beetle, and Beetle Convertible--with plans to continue growing the range. I hopped in the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan R, and appreciated the flat-bottomed steering wheel and paddle shifters, and overall sportier appearance. R-Line vehicles generally get visual enhancements such as unique wheels--19-inch "Mallory" wheels in the case of the Tiguan R--as well as spoilers, side skirts, and LED lights for some. It's only a matter of time until the whole lineup gets a sportier R-Line sibling. Next Golf R I caught up with Volkswagen's Golf R product planner Andres Valbuena, who shared a little of what we can expect on the next Golf R. Based on the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf "MQB" architecture, the new model is expected to be available in the U.S. sometime in early 2015, as a 2016 model. I appreciated the driving modes on the European-Spec Golf R, ones that never made it on to the 5,500 Golf R's sold in the U.S. Valbuena assured me that the next-gen would have the unique driving modes, "the same as the GTI." While the current 2013 Volkswagen Golf R gets 256 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the 2016 model will up power to 285 hp. And while I love the current model, it's $35k price tag is hard to swallow with a very capable GTI selling for far less. It appears Volkswagen is looking to keep pricing similar to the current model, which would be great news for enthusiasts. And with more power, bigger brakes, and an excellent all-wheel drive system, it may justify the significant cost over the regular Volkswagen Golf. One surprising statistic is that 28 percent of buyers opted for the base trim, meaning they did without the premium Dynaudio sound system, sunroof, etc. Clearly, this is an enthusiast model. The next-gen Golf R will also have LED lights, and be available as a two- or four-door model. One thing the Golf R won't have? That glorious bottle opener lodged in the center console; That one's just for the Euros.
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