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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Tied-down and tempered, but DSG upsets the polish

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  March 10, 2009 02:00 AM

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI(Clifford Atiyeh/Globe Photo)

Part 1

Right when I heard the solid ca-chunk of the driver door clamping shut and felt my bony rear wrapped in a firm, bolstered seat, I wasn't sure where all the negative talk of Volkswagen quality control was coming from. Issues with vibrations, rattles, and electrical problems – especially on VW's highest-selling models, the Rabbit and Jetta – have been well-documented in the industry. It's no secret Volkswagen hasn't been near the top of J.D. Power, but then again, part of those surveys involve people complaining about window switch locations, rather than answering if those switches actually work.

I like where the switches are on this white 2009 Jetta TDI, but more importantly, I like how this compact sedan drives like a much more expensive car. I’ve made a helpful seat-of-the-pants rule for all road tests: if a car can handle Boston’s potholes, crudely-filled patches, bumps, dips, and expansion joints without scraping the wheel wells and unsettling the occupants, then the suspension is truly well-sorted. Should the automakers need to cut back more of their R&D budgets, they can just drive here, where the wretched road conditions are far more abusive than any manufacturer proving ground.

Aside from luxury barges like the Lexus LS and Cadillac Escalade, which literally swallow road imperfections, it’s hard to find a smoother, more tied-down four-door than the Jetta. Steering kickback is almost nil, body shuddering is nonexistent, and pitch and roll are so tempered that you become more relaxed, and more apt to pay attention to where you’re going than trying to avoid deep asphalt chasms. Most cars under $30,000 lose their composure on such Third World roads, but not the Jetta – all the more surprising given the firmer spring rates typical of German cars.

Come to a stop, however, and the Jetta’s smooth demeanor vanishes and the quality controversies reappear. At first you’ll think the only jerk in the car is you – after all, every brake pedal has a different initial bite and feel. But after a few more times, the culprit becomes obvious: it’s the 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox, Volkswagen’s version of the latest transmission fad, the dual-clutch automatic.

The dual-clutch is a true hybrid transmission. It shifts automatically, but unlike a conventional automatic, there’s no torque converter. Instead, the gearbox is divided in two: one clutch controls the odd gears, while another controls the even gears. During a shift, the inactive clutch pre-engages the next gear while the active clutch disengages the current gear. This results in quicker upshifts without the lag of a typical automatic, or the momentary cutoff in fuel as required by a manual.

On paper, it sounds great to have this advanced gearbox in an average car, the same in principle as the 7-speeds on the latest Porsche 911 and Volkswagen’s 253-mile-per-hour Bugatti Veyron. On the way up, shifts are indeed quick and smooth, delightful even, thanks to the diesel four-cylinder’s generous 236 pound-feet of torque. But like a drug addict, the high literally comes crashing down.

In every transmission mode, the DSG delivers abrupt downshifts from third gear. It's mild for the most part, but the forced engine braking ruins the ability to coast and stop gently, even with the lightest of brake pressure. Stop-and-go traffic makes you realize what it’s like to be a bobble-head doll, and the DSG even has the audacity to shift into first while the car is still moving. There’s no rev-matching feature to abate the feeling, and it never goes away. Granted, it’s helpful for engine braking, but that should be the sole job of the Tiptronic mode. In short, the DSG - at least in the Jetta TDI - feels sloppy and better suited for high-performance cars where a jerky ride is more of an expected shortcoming. Volkswagen has introduced an improved 7-speed DSG for its Passat CC sedan in Europe, but we'll have to wait a while before it arrives here.

Thankfully, there’s a 6-speed manual that will happily accept your own downshifts and save you $1,100. Even if you’re halfway decent, you can do it better.

Read part 2 of our drive in the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI here.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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80 comments so far...
  1. "I wasn't sure where all the negative talk of Volkswagen quality control was coming from"

    Try driving the Jetta for at least 50K miles over the course of a few years. Then you'll know EXACTLY where all that negative talk came from.

    Posted by kdilkington March 10, 09 12:33 PM
  1. "the DSG even has the audacity to shift into first while the car is still moving".

    Huh? When you slow down enough - say below 15 MPH - you SHOULD shift down to first (and you would if you had the manual transmission). Or do you leave it in second, lug the engine, and destroy your main bearings??

    Posted by Chris March 10, 09 12:37 PM
  1. Chris, the DSG doesn't have a clutch pedal as it's meant to operate like an automatic. Most automatics never jerk the car when coming to a stop.

    Posted by Clifford Atiyeh March 10, 09 12:43 PM
  1. drive the r32 and then make a judgement on DSG, it will be much more positive.

    Posted by joe March 10, 09 01:25 PM
  1. Oh, VW's poor quality reputation is well-earned. People don't necessarily complain about window switch locations as much as windows that DON'T work. VW has had faulty electric windows for over 30 (YES 30) years.
    What does that tell you about VW?

    Posted by William Cervini March 10, 09 01:28 PM
  1. uhhh Chris... I drive a manual, and I never shift into first unless at a stand still - you just push the clutch in buddy - no lugging. 2nd gear has more than enough torque to handle a rolling start from

    Also as far as reliability goes... recall the ignition coil fiasco of about 5 years ago. The 1.8 turbo engines across the Audi/VW lineup were stranding owners left and right as the engines shut down and VW did not have nearly enough spare parts or even spare part manufacturing capacity. So even though it was a known critical defect, it happened to owner after owner like a plague.

    Posted by WVW in Newton March 10, 09 01:40 PM
  1. 27 Volkswagens later, and I still don't have any idea of what all of you are talking about when you say poor quality reputation. Am I just the lucky one?

    Posted by Kimo March 10, 09 01:52 PM
  1. The DSG is ideal for this car with almost unnoticeable upshifts and its ability to deliver all 236 lb-ft of torque smoothly. What is described here when slowing down sounds like diesel engine behavior, not the transmission. As the gas pedal is depressed, the diesel engine slows the car way down. VW's DSG is touted by car magazines and other experts as the best transmission in the world. Having driven the 09 TDI for many miles I'd highly recommend the 6-speed DSG (single clutch manual is fine too). I suppose we need to wait for Part 2 to hear about the incredible 50+ mpg gas mileage. Might be more interesting than the gripe with the city of Boston whose roads are far from the 3rd world countries I remember.

    Posted by Franck in Kansas City March 10, 09 02:06 PM
  1. I owned a Passat GLX and it was by far the worst quality car I've ever owned. It looked fine but mechanically was a disaster with engine problems that were essentially not repairable. I had to trade it for next to nothing after only 4 yrs and 50,000 miles. I will never look at VW again because of it. I actually refused to even look at Audi because of it (same DNA). I recommend that anyone considering a VW reconsider.

    Posted by Dave March 10, 09 02:34 PM
  1. I purchased a 1.8 turbo Jetta right after the ignition coil fiasco. All of the VW dealerships insisted that they only sold 1.8T cars with the new and improved ignition coils. I should have known better. A few years later the damn thing died in a parking garage in Boston at night while my wife was driving it alone - the problem? dead ignition coils. And since I was less than 3K miles over the warranty, VW wouldn't pay for any of the repairs, even though I was basically lied to when I bought the car. Of course it could've been worse, some people had the ignition coils die while they were on the highway. I don't think I'll ever buy another VW or Audi again.

    Posted by kdilkington March 10, 09 02:40 PM
  1. I had a 2000 GTI. I bought it new and drove it for 40k miles. I know exactly where VW's reputation for quality problems came from. I can't remember all the things that went wrong on that car: 1) replaced rear shocks and shock top mounts twice. Needed new ones when I sold the car. 2) starter motor. 3) spark plugs. 4) plug wires, 5) turn signal stalk, 6) mass airflow sensor, 7) thermostat, 8) coil pack, 9) AC condensor. 10) most of the bulbs to the running lights, multiple times. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. It was a nice car to drive. But going to the dealer every month to fix the latest thing that broke just isn't acceptable.

    Posted by JaredN March 10, 09 03:20 PM
  1. Maybe your test car had a problem, because I have been driving a DSG in my 06 Jetta TDI for 3 years now and love it. Always have. Mine doesn't shift into first until the car comes to a complete stop. The shift pattern and style does take a bit of getting used to, but once you do the fun-to-drive factor is very high. The DSG is basically a manual transmission inside with auto shifting capabilities - this is not a normal auto transmission! It is fun to drive like a manual is, but much easy to drive in traffic. Finally, a car that both the husband and wife can enjoy driving!

    Posted by Bondo March 10, 09 03:25 PM
  1. Again...very happy VW owner with 8 years of the VW Fox, 12 years of the VW Jetta and now just months of owning the VW GTI... all my cars no issues -other than routine maintanence. That is why I keep going back.

    Posted by BstnSoend March 10, 09 03:33 PM
  1. Have a 1999 Jetta TDI (5-speed MT) and had virtually no problems for 10 years and 150,000 miles. OK, the CD player sometimes skips when you hit a bump now... and had to fix the automatic trunk unlock once. That's it. Still averaging 51 MPG in mixed driving.

    Posted by willbuyanothertdi March 10, 09 04:04 PM
  1. VW Quality has been variable over the years. The question is where they are now. The last bodies - the golf/jetta IV's were terrible. The golf/jetta III's however were really amazing 200,000+ cars - they're still running.

    So where is this new 5th generation in terms of quality? I haven't yeard mucg

    Posted by Peter in Arlington March 10, 09 04:08 PM
  1. I have had 2 VWs, a 1999 and a 2002. Both were my favorite cars ever, and had no real problems whatsoever (other than nitpicky things because I am really anal, and one window clip failure in the 1999).

    I put 60k on the 2002 TDI, and I put 30k on the 1999 2.0. I only traded the 99 to get the TDI, and I only got rid of the 02 because I didn't need two vehicles at the time, and the bug wouldn't tow my boat. I sold it to friends and they have had no problems with it since then, I don't know how many miles they have on it though...

    I will be buying a TDI Rabbit/Golf when they hit.

    If you want quality problems - try a Dodge.

    Posted by ValkRaider March 10, 09 04:27 PM
  1. I have a '99 Passat 1.8 with 197,496 miles on it. Other than a few expensively replaced noisy control arms it has been terrific. Original clutch, original exhaust. Battery replaced once after 8 years. All mechanical/elictrical still works including heated mirrors. After reading and following the John Muir book in the 70s, I have had pretty good luck with the 8 others before this one as well. Really looking forward to getting a TDI in the next 2 years.

    Posted by CeeBee99 March 10, 09 04:37 PM
  1. I bought new 2004 Jetta 2.0 wagon and drove it over 63k miles. there is
    no problems but some engine noise.

    Posted by Daifeng March 10, 09 04:41 PM
  1. Not a single mention of the reported 45MPG on the highway. I'm on my 3rd VW. Last is a GTI VI but before that a New Beetle. That car was so solid I bought a new Audi TT (same frame) and found that to be one of the finest cars I've ever owned. No troubles with any of my VW's under HARD driving conditions.

    Posted by Dan March 10, 09 04:52 PM
  1. i drive one of the first 09 tdi's i don't know what you are talking about. i have owned mercedes, rolls royce etc. this is my favorite car. it does every thing well. i have never experience the down shift problems you are talking about.

    Posted by gary Buch March 10, 09 05:06 PM
  1. Kimo, if you've gone through that many VWs, you are probably not keeping them long enough to experience their rapid deterioration after about 50k. Totaling my 2000 GTI at 70k was a blessing. Even though I loved the car, I hated having to hitch rides from friends every month when it broke down (VW had no loaner car program; I don't know if it does now, but it NEEDS one). My $1400 extended warranty paid for itself probably 4 times over. Not even my SAAB 9000 was that bad.

    Posted by Alex March 10, 09 05:06 PM
  1. "Body shuttering," that's just too funny, albeit bordering on sad in a major metropolitan newspaper. Editor's day off?

    Posted by Dave March 10, 09 05:43 PM
  1. I've owned five VW's since 1979. I find the quality to be most outstanding. I sold my 1985 Golf GL a few years back with 369,000 miles on it, for a Mercedes Benz 4Matic wagon, which was a big mistake. The Golf had never been rebuilt, all factory original, except the water pump, rear wheel bearings, and CV joints, the Mercedes on the other had was a nightmare! It's gone now. We are in the market for a new car, and are considering the Jetta wagon or an Audi A4 Avant.
    I purchased a 1987 Vangon Syncro GL new 22 years ago it now has 290,000 miles on the clock. It's not as reliable as the Golf was, but extremely functional, and still worth keeping.

    Posted by Deon March 10, 09 06:06 PM
  1. I owned a VW Beetle for 8 years. Never again. The negative reputation of the VW electrical system is well earned. I don't think there is an electrical system on the vehicle that I didn't have to replace, some of them twice. The electronic motor controlling the door to the gas cap died while I was in a gas station on the MY Thruway. The electric latch on the hatchback died, the electric window fell into the door at a toll booth, the brake light switch failed three times (this was a recall, actually), the hazard light switch had to be replaced, the security system regularly malfunctioned. I put $7000 into maintenance in a seven year period. Stay away from VWs, Get yourself a nice Japanese car.

    Posted by Neelix March 10, 09 06:06 PM
  1. I've had 2 DSG equipped cars in the past 3 years and its simply one of the best pieces of automotive technology brought to the consumer this decade. Dozens of manufacturers are working on their own now. It offers improved performance over a manual and improved economy versus an old school auto. And its performance characteristics are just plain fun.

    Also, to those complaining about VW reliability...take the time to check out their current models. The MkIV Jetta/Golf (sold from '98-'05) was a huge POS. The newer MkV ('06 forward) cars are great. Heck even Consumer Reports now recommends them.

    Posted by Brian March 10, 09 07:00 PM
  1. After having 6 VW's, i have never had any problems, love all my VW's, gti, tiguan, jetta, and gli. They are the best.

    Posted by Patrick March 10, 09 07:36 PM
  1. Complain. Complain. I owned a 1976 Fiat 128 for 10 years - the complaint desk is now closed! lol Four cars with three of those VWs in the past 23 years. The Chevy Celebrity was junk. The Golf and Jettas? Trusty steeds albeit with the usual non-Tokyo problems. Tolerable. Generally reliable. Current Jetta now approaching 100k. By the way, the 1986 VW GTI is still in the stable having never seen salt.

    Posted by TexLeeger March 10, 09 07:55 PM
  1. Chris, this sounds like a calibration issue. The DSG's decisions about when to shift are software controlled, perhaps they need to change logic or you got an early model with a weird software version.
    The lack of a torque converter does mean that DSG can't have quite the smoothness of an automatic, especially at very low speeds, but tossing the converter is also where the efficiency and performance gain comes from. Can't have everything.

    Posted by Bubba March 10, 09 08:00 PM
  1. Most of the German cars have quality problems even Mercedes. If you want a trouble-free vehicle the Japanese make the most of these. All vehicles have their shortcomings but some have serious problems year after year.

    Posted by jeremyroenickhead March 10, 09 08:12 PM
  1. I've driven my VW Golf R32 with DSG for over a year - zero issues. The 8-millisecond gear shifts combined with the VR6 engine, Haldex controlled AWD are an absolute thrill. Best car I've ever owned.

    Posted by Stuart March 10, 09 08:26 PM
  1. i have been driving my DSG 2.0T GTI for 8 months now
    i have no idea what this clunking is you describe
    it is a very very good transmission and very fun to use to bang through gears without having to worry about a clutch
    and as far as the horrible quality im on my 3rd VW not one of them have ever left me stranded on the side of the road EVER (unless it was to my poor maitenece)

    Posted by Dennis M March 10, 09 08:48 PM
  1. Purchase a VW ! Please become familiar with the check engine MIL light, Airbag warning light, water got in the interior because of a poorly manufactured pollen filter and damaged my carpet, transmission computer, and airbag sensors and declined to pay for it. Well guess what, after paying for the water damage and selling the car, VW recently RECALLED the water leaking pollen filter. I paid appx $3000 to fix my car for the issue prior to the related recall. VW had known about this water leak issue for years and did nothing about it under warranty. EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE BLAMED ON CUSTOMERS, NOT A POORLY ENGINEERED VEHICLE ! The driving pleasure of VW is not worth the pain of poor engineering & poor customer service ! Now I own a Toyota with No Problems :)

    Posted by john March 10, 09 10:03 PM
  1. But... do the doors freeze shut on a cold day?! My 98 Jetta's four door consistently froze shut, to the point that I traded it in for a new 2004 Kia Optima, despite loving the Jetta's ride far more than the Kia. The simple fact is, if you're car freezes shut in a typical New England winter, then it doesn't deserve a New England owner.

    Posted by Kia March 10, 09 11:16 PM
  1. 1998 Jetta = bulletproof with 160K on it
    2008 GTI = outstanding performance and no reliability issues at all. Rated as a top 10 by Motor Trend
    2008 Audi A4 - awesome car - absolute beast in the snow (crap.s all over BMW's x-drive), safe, reliable and great looks -- no problems at all!
    Enough said!

    Posted by brenndino March 11, 09 04:35 AM
  1. In 2006 I bought my first Jetta TDI, it was an exciting moment moving into a German engineered car, I thought my kids could inherit this car in 6 years after 150,000km. In 2007 after a blown transimission, worn out front end joints, complete change of steering control, then airbag worning lights coming on plus numerous trips to the overpriced Volkswagon dealership I bailed and traded it in for a Jeep. Yes I am proud to be backed to American engineering. No more over priced German engineering for me, from now on only Amercian cars for me and the family.

    Posted by Roger Michaud March 11, 09 07:22 AM
  1. I have had 4 Jettas,and each of them has been superb.
    Owned a Ford and GM product in between,and niether were as good.
    The current A5 platform is by far the best though.

    Posted by anthony March 11, 09 07:45 AM
  1. We have 3 VW's, each with over 100K: 98 Beatle, 99 Passat, and 01 Eurovan. Each is quite sound and the Bug has 160K.

    Posted by Larry Lewis March 11, 09 08:04 AM
  1. Not a big fan of VW since I owned a 93 Passat. The car's cooling system broke just about every two weeks and I finally gave up. The V6 engine was also a pain in the butt to work on. Cannot believe they fit the engine in that small a place.

    Previously I owned a Jetta Diesel and loved it. Got 190,000 miles on it before the engine block cracked and sold it for parts. I also had the pleasure of the 79 mircobus - it was great other than no heat. Jerry-rigged a space heater to keep warm in the cold Maine winters.

    Posted by David March 11, 09 08:33 AM
  1. owned a Jetta for 4 years, 60k miles..just like clockwork, the problems started right after the 50k mark. Electrical issues in the rain (stalling on the Mass Pike), power doors not opening, etc. Traded it in for a Subaru Forester recently, and after having 13k miles in 6 months, love the reliability and snow driving of the Forester.

    Posted by Rick March 11, 09 08:41 AM
  1. Get your test car's DSG looked at by the dealer. I have the DSG transmission in my EOS and it is smooth and efficient at all times. It's the best automatic I have ever driven... ever. Yours must have some specific issue.

    Posted by Kincade March 11, 09 08:47 AM
  1. I have a love / hate relationship with VW. I bought a 2001 GTI (VR6) with 45k miles on it, which I still feel was the perfect car for me. I loved everything about it - except the quality problems. My repair nightmare list over the two years I owned it: 1) Engine hesitation (requiring a complete engine take-apart and cleaning of cylinders) 2) coil-pack & cables 3) cat. converter 4) rear oxygen sensor 5) front drivers side airbag failure 6) wheel bearings (failed twice) 7) glove box broke 8) plastic console broke 9) mysterious leak developed (heavy rain would leak in, causing eventual permanent musty smell) 10) failed ECU.

    That's just what I can remember off the top of my head. Sadly, there was more.

    I still drool over sexy new VW models coming out, but before I head to the dealer I think of that list. My 2001 Civic may be boring, but you just put in gas and it goes. VW is going to have to prove to me that they've drastically improved the quality of their vehicles before I ever consider purchasing one again.

    Posted by marc March 11, 09 11:06 AM
  1. In response to JaredN's comments. I feel your pain. I too had a 2000 GTI (2.0 liter engine). Let me highlight the top ten problems I encountered:

    1. Rear hatch door misaligned from factory, cracked two tail lights in the process
    2. Glove box door broke off upon opening it one day
    3. Dashboard center stack lights failed on one occasion
    4. Tail light main fuse blew, thus leaving me with no brake lights
    5. Right headlight fogged up from the inside, required replacement
    6. Front left brake rotor deeply scored after 20,000 miles. Right front brake rotor smooth as glass at the time.
    7. Rear seat latch busted apart in my hands. Half of the rear seatback was removed, entire seat reupholstered upon removing the guts of the faulty latch.
    8. ABS and check engine lights would turn on and off on a semi-regular basis
    9. BOTH windows fell inside the door after the PLASTIC window regulators busted apart
    10. One of the interior lights was broke upon delivery of the vehicle

    I sold this car ONE DAY after the warranty expired. It gave me great headache. I had never traded a car in before, but I was so sick and damn tired of this car I took it to my local Mercedes-Benz dealer and bought a certified pre-owned 1998 C230. Six years later I sold that car to a friend. That Benz never owed me anything. Now I have my second Mercedes, a 2007 C230. As usual, it is rock solid.

    I'll never, EVER, touch a Volkswagen with a ten foot pole AGAIN!

    Posted by Paul H. March 11, 09 11:07 AM
  1. Wife had a 2002 GTI 2.0 that was an absolute blast to drive and really one of the best handling cars I have driven. Drove it off the lot brand new and within 3 months we were back at the shop for coil pack issues. Of course at the time VW would only replace one at a time time so over the next year the car went back three more times for a total of one month out of the first 12 spent in the shop. Other things that broke all within the 50K warranty period.
    Glove box broke off in my wife's hand
    front right wheel bearing needed to be replaced (20K)
    Both windows fell into the doors,
    The radio needed to be replaced 4 times,
    In cold weather the clutch would not come out on its own causing you to pull over to manually pull the pedal out.
    Various creaks and rattles from the sunroof.
    We traded that car in with 10K left on the warranty for a subaru wrx that gave us no problems for 5 years.
    I would love to buy another VW but cannot trust them until they work on build quality.

    Posted by Zac S. March 11, 09 12:14 PM
  1. Had a 1985 Jetta. Sold it in 1995 with 325,000 miles on it. No major problems. Original clutch, H2O pump, etc. Did have rear door handle problems, rear door leaks and rear wheel bearings. Now I have a 2000 Chevy Tahoe with 155,000 miles and not one problem. It is a pleasure to drive just like the Jetta was. In between had a Saab, Dodge Dakota, Honda Accord (new), Ford Taurus, Volvo V70, Dodge Aries K and Mazda Miata. The Dakota and the Accord were the worst of the bunch.

    I'd buy a VW, Ford, Chevy and maybe a Mazda again but not a Honda and unfortunatly not a Volvo (way to many problems but fun to drive)

    Posted by JT March 11, 09 12:27 PM
  1. I have the 09 TDI with the DSG. Prior to this purchase I would always prefer a manual gearbox, but my wife couldn't learn to operate one properly. In the past I have raced gymkhanas and quarter mile drags making full throttle power shifts. This DSG is so perfect that, if it is not prone to failure,I will not consider any other trans on any future car that I may purchase! I can't second guess it. I had driven diesel pickup trucks and noticed that they had no engine braking. This car decelerates when you lift off the throttle. It is always in the correct gear. It doesn't up shift when you are off the throttle, which would upset the suspension on a curve.

    Posted by William Ramsay March 11, 09 12:32 PM
  1. VW has had qaulity problems with the 3 models built in Mexico. They now have the
    worst QC out of all the car factories around the world.

    "I wasn't sure where all the negative talk of Volkswagen quality control was coming from"?

    Posted by Padro March 11, 09 01:32 PM
  1. I must have been lucky - my car must have been made not on a Friday or Monday. Consumer Reports has the 2001 Jetta 1.8T as the worst used car you can get. Aside from the power window failing which VW fixed in a day, I had no problems. However, I would like to try the diesel for better gas mpg.

    Posted by Louie1 March 11, 09 03:40 PM
  1. Paul H: I did not suffer the window regulator problem, but that was widespread in the Golf/Jetta IV. I did have to replace the rear brakes at 20,000 miles and I also had to replace the water pump. They never did solve the 2nd gear grind either.

    The Golf/Jetta IV cars were just horrid.

    Posted by JaredN March 11, 09 03:55 PM
  1. I no longer own a VW and can tell you I will NEVER BUY ANOTHER ONE ! When my ignition coils went bad before the recall , they could only replace one coil at a time. The engine was a 4 cyl. turbo, so it had 4 seperate ignition coils. I literally made 4 seperate trips to the dealership before all 4 coils were replaced. The dealership was advised NOT to replace all 4 ignition coils because there were not enough new coils to go around. They could only replace the 1 faulty ignition per trip due to the parts availability issue ! VW doesn't really seem to care when they have problems in the U.S. because they sell 90 % of their vehicles elsewhere... Why should we go crazy to keep 10% of our customers happy? OH WELL . . . GOODBYE VW - FOREVER !

    Posted by john March 11, 09 04:53 PM
  1. Love my two 2004 R32s with manual transmissions. Would have gone for a 2008, but they were only offered with DSG. All automatic transmissions are more complicated than manuals, hence more prone to fail. No matter how perfect DSGs may be as automatics, they cannot replace the joy of mastering a manual.

    Posted by 2Xr32 March 11, 09 05:06 PM
  1. I've had my diesel Jetta Sportwagen with DSG for two months/3500 miles, and never experienced the jerkiness you describe. Agreed, the car doesn't "freewheel" in low gear like a manual when you let up on the gas, but I don't find that translating into an uncomfortable ride. Quite the opposite, I'm still amazed at how beautifully the car drives - I feel like I got an Audi for a VW price tag. Love the car!

    Posted by Paul Bianchi March 11, 09 06:15 PM
  1. I have owned 2 Jettas, and both had the basic 2.0 4cyl. My first was a 1993, which was the first of the third generation (no airbags, auto seatbelt). That car was so much better than my current 2001. Despite some minor electrical issues with Jetta #1, my latest Jetta has had issues with anything and everything that can make the check engine light go off. It's like whack a mole at the carnival. Fix one issue and another pops.

    That being said, I would throw caution to the wind on a diesel. VW's reputation with diesels is solid. I even know of an old diesel rabbit engine that is pulling duty on a lobster boat.

    Posted by DW March 11, 09 07:56 PM
  1. I experienced the coil issue on an A4 1.8T, maybe Audi was getting preference for the parts because on the 2nd failure they replaced the three other coils at once. Never had any other issues with that car and I've now had an A3 for 2.5 years with zero issues. While mechanically there is technically little difference between Audi and VW, all the Audi's are built in Germany while the best selling VW's are all built in Mexico. They switched the GTI production to Mexico around 2004 and a friend of mine owned both a German (2000) and a Mexican built GTI at the same time. He swore the older car was just better.

    Posted by Jim March 11, 09 08:27 PM
  1. There is a current " bulletin " which exists on almost all vw's since the 2005 model year. This bulletin is regarding the airbag warning light being on and there are trouble codes stored for the front side airbags which are part of the front seats. When the airbag warning light is on, the entire airbag system is disabled. This means that in the event of an accident which would normally cause an airbag deployment, the airbags will NOT deploy! There are poor airbag system electrical connectors under both of the front seats which cause the airbag light to come on and endanger everyone in the vehicle in the event of an accident. This problem should not be just a bulletin, this should be a RECALL. The connectors under the front seats should be replaced prior to having an airbag warning light come on and putting the driver and occupants at an increased risk during an accident! A TYPICAL VW DECISION . . .

    Posted by john March 11, 09 08:32 PM
  1. Padro - where is this information coming from?
    My GTI was built in Wolfsburg
    This is the deal with VW: They use to make reliable cars with unmatched fit and finish. Then, the execs wanted to create distance between VW and Audi, so VW decided to cheapen their interiors and thus, suffered. This period was in the late 90's on some models and the early 2000's.
    As a result of these issues, VW and Audi have both made a serious commitment to quality.
    Like I said, my 2008 GTI and 2008 Audi A4 are both great cars. My 1998 Jetta Wolfsburg is bulletproof.
    However, I do agree that VW should yank their cars from Mexico as the country does not have a great reputation for building cars.

    Posted by brenndino March 11, 09 09:08 PM
  1. dave - i had the same problem - maybe i got your vw??? i bought in 07 with 50Kmiles on it, beautiful passat v6 glx 4motion wagon, and the gas tank ended up needing replacement. didn't wanna deal with that so I traded it in and barely got what I owed given the work that needed to be done. my wife now drives a lexus es300..not as fun and i loved having the wagon, but also much more reliable. i really loved the way audis and vws drove, but our other car is an E320 4matic so we get our german fix that way :)

    Posted by FJ March 12, 09 05:26 AM
  1. 00 Jetta, 150K miles, still going. Definitely has needed some TLC over the years. If you want a nearly-maintenance free car, sure skip VW. If you want a fun car for a great price supported by a great community of enthusiasts, VW is your family.

    Posted by hortron March 12, 09 09:49 AM
  1. If you want a "drivers car" with top of the line safety features and peforms quite well, then VW is for you. Yes, they have small electrical issues as like any other German car maker. If you want a "reliable car" with vanilla features and doors that feel like tin cans, then you want a Honda or Toyota. I am on my 3rd VW now and I don't think that I could buy anything but a VW or Audi going forward. As for the DSG, Cliff has it all wrong. I recently traded in my 06' GLI w/DSG and it was the slickest transmission I have ever had. The best transmission, hands down!!! I drove that car in manual mode more often than not. I agreee that the DSG may not suit the TDI as well as the GTI or R32, but the fact is that it is more fuel efficient than traditional automatic transmissions (slush box').

    Posted by Paul March 12, 09 09:54 AM
  1. I noticed that most of the complainers are talking about pre-2005 VWs. I have a 2005 Jetta 2.5 with 97k miles on it and the only things I have done to it are regularly scheduled maintainence, brakes at 55k and new tires at 85k. The only issue i have had with the car is that the trunk release doesn't seem to like temperatures below 20 degrees.

    Posted by 2005VW March 12, 09 10:03 AM
  1. Tex....willing to part with that GTI..... I have owned 2 VW's and now an Audi. I can honestly say that I have had nothing but a great experience. I must say that I have been to very good and very bad dealerships involving sales, service, and everything in between. Many dealerships I simply walked out of and could not believe how they treated people. I bought 2 VW's from the same dealership. The service staff was incredible. I can honestly say that I take care of my cars and get all of the scheduled maintenance, rotate my tires religiously, etc. I have had success with all 3 vehicles by maintaining them this way. I have never experienced some of the issues mentioned above. I had one quirky Moonroof issue, but was fixed the first time in. Please note that I travel extensively and rent roughly 50 cars per year. As far as overall build quality is concerned, VW is definitely up there IMO.

    Posted by Craig March 12, 09 10:13 AM
  1. After 2.5 years of ownership, my DSG has performed beyond expectations. The downshift comments may be true when compared to a conventional auto transmission, but this is a gearbox with an automatic clutch. It provides engine braking which in turn saves brakes. After 60K miles of mixed highway / city driving, my brakes are still good. I agree 100% that VW has electrical issues. Other than that, the MkV Jetta is a great car. Better than my BMW 328I. It does have gear engagment lag between reverse & drive to protect the transmission from the large amount of torque that the TDI provides. It also has some lag when starting from a complete stop. It seems that it has gone away with time, but I may have gotten use to it.

    Posted by brian March 12, 09 10:54 AM
  1. Volkswagen has very intelligent management involved in the U.S.. VW has LOST just about a BILLION DOLLARS each year for the past few years due to vehicles having an excessive warranty repair history because of many electronic and mechanical faults with their vehicles. Well when you're in such a negative position, you give VW customers free scheduled maintenance in '09 model year vehicles ( which is basically 3 free oil changes every 10,000 miles ) so VW takes alot of attention away from the fact that they've cut 1 entire year & 14,000 miles off their bumper to bumper warranty... I guess they're geniuses figuring out a way not to lose so much revenue here in the U.S. by cutting warranty expenses ! Way To Go Volkswagen !

    Posted by john March 12, 09 07:29 PM
  1. you yanks hate vw, you know why , because you cant build anything even close

    Posted by Anonymous March 13, 09 09:09 PM
  1. Try an Alfa Romeo for a change then you'll know what problematic really means. I owned only one worst nightmare ever then switched to VW now i'm stuck with them for life love them too much to give up. Performance, quality, safety all in one small package. Vanagon, Jetta, Passat, Eurovan, Passat, Touareg, Jetta. My kids also drive Jetta and Golf not very kind to their cars, my father also owns a passat flawless. By the way this things are men made will have issues, issues are expected. Our new TDI is a 6 speed manual, small wonder much nicer than my Bimmer. Looking forward to the future Rabbit TDI.

    Posted by Wain March 14, 09 01:44 AM
  1. Please read a CONSUMER REPORTS edition of one of the past few years or even the current 2009 edition. There is NOT just one VW listed as one of the most problematic vehicles since 2000 model year, there are TWO ! One of them is a 2000 Passat V6 - the other is a Touareg, 2004 Model year. VW is so unconcerned about their customers, VW ACTUALLY LET A SAFETY RECALL REGARDING THE FRONT SIDE AIRBAG CONNECTIONS ( ON A 2004 TOUAREG ) EXPIRE !

    Posted by john March 15, 09 12:58 PM
  1. My first car was a 1977 Rabbit. After a couple of years of hell I would have happily pushed it off a cliff. More than 25 years later and I stil can't bring myself to consider a Volkswagen. I must have some kind of vehicular post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Posted by Jeff March 18, 09 12:59 PM
  1. Clifford,
    I have a 2006 TDI with DSG, and have no issue with the downshifting problem that you had. As I see it, the only way to get those jerky/high compression, fuuel wasting auto-downshifts is to keep the selector in "S" mode.
    "S" or Sport mode keeps the engine reving near it's power band, so that you can have the maximum torque nearly immediately. Move the selector to "D", and the up and down shifts are smooth and subtle, maximizing fuel economy, and low rev deceleration. Try it next time. Regards


    Posted by Marty M March 24, 09 05:53 PM
  1. I got a 2007 jetta , 36000 miles with manual never had a problem except the window switch broke but was replaced under warranty, and i think it broke because i left my window open and it rained and caused damage , i test drove the dsg transmission i hated it , it feels like driving a play station car . And whoever complain about the clutch i say one time that real guys drive manuals. Love it how guys cry about that they have to work the clutch in stop n go, i have a friend she lives in new york city and drives manual and never heard her complain once

    Posted by Istvan March 25, 09 10:27 PM
  1. Hey everyone!, to each his own. Some hate VW others love them. I have an 2006, Jetta TDI and I personally HATE this car. I always drove Fords until I had the stupid idea of the VW diesel and the great mileage. Well, the DSG tranny is terrible. Just like written in the article, it is so jerky, especially in the cold. You haven't lived until you drive a VW Jetta TDI with the DSG tranny on a cold PA morning like I have. It jerks you around so bad my coffee splashes out of the cup. The every 5k services? Come on VW!!!! It's 2009, people don't want to go to the service station every 5k. My Lincoln TC needed to be serviced every 12k, much better. What about the costs of the services, $500.00 for the 40k service!!!!!! OBSURD!!! I will go back to either Ford or GM in the furure.

    Posted by John D. April 16, 09 02:05 PM
  1. I have a 09 VW Sportwagen TDI with the DSG transmission. The transmission is not downshifting when I come to a full stop. So when I step on the accelorator pedal there is no response until the transmission downshifts. This leaves you will a little sinking feeling if you are crossing a busy intersection. Anyone have a similar problem?

    Posted by Neil B April 20, 09 05:59 PM
  1. I have a 09 VW Jetta Tdi. It only downshifts when you press the brake pedal. If you have the ability to coast then don't press the brake pedal. I also like the downshift feature it saves on brakes. and to John D. Your 06 Jetta diesel does not have DSG. 09 is the first year that VW offers the combination of the clean diesel and DSG.

    Posted by Matthew S. May 2, 09 12:18 AM
  1. I have a 2006 VW Jetta TDI. The engine recently had a catastrophic failure when a lifter stuck causing damage to a cylinder and piston and possibly more when the engine is opened up. Repairs are estimated at $7000. Possibly more if additional damage is done. The car is out of warranty.Only the repairs will be warranted so the same thing could happen again with the other cylinders and I would be liable. So much for a car I had planned to keep for 10 years

    Posted by Clive R June 23, 09 03:51 PM
  1. Folks who are not used to driving diesels or maintaining VWs should either not buy VWs or learn to deal with them. A diesel is another animal to drive when compared to a gas engined vehicle, just the same as a hybrid (gas/electric) is different from either. On my previous TDIs, both Golfs, I had to learn some VW peculiarities, most of which were "solved" by carrying extra fuses, changing the oil & filter every 3000 miles, and making sure the injector ports were periodically cleaned. The reward--over 100K miles on each within a period of less than 4 years. Looking forward to an '09 as an alternative to my current hybrid Camry.

    Posted by C. George C. June 23, 09 06:47 PM
  1. DSG Trouble = Mechatronic Unit Failure (The brains of the DSG - The Control Unit)

    Just punch in (Mechatronic DSG Problems) into a Google search. The bad news, these units cost $3000 - $4000.00 US to replace if not under warranty.... good news... it makes the DSG shift they way it ought have since new.

    Posted by Dennis June 29, 09 05:13 PM
  1. I find this intrigueing,Americans complaining about German car quality. You guys really do live in your own little world!

    Posted by Noel July 8, 09 06:40 AM
  1. Sorry Noel but you can keep your German engineering if that's how you feel... all we expect on this side of the pond is engineering that WORKS for even a little while, not putters and dies... Check your Google search for DSG failures.... over 1600 reports filed with the NHTSA since Jan.'09! All VW and Merc and BMW cars are at the BOTTOM of all our reliability ratings. You guys must love visting your dealership service teams quite often... not we yanks. My brand new '09 VW Jetta 2.0TSI/DSG came to it's end because the DSG failed on a major highway with less than 621 miles on the OD. (Lucky for Germany no one was killed)

    DSG's should be renamed "The Not Ready For Prime Time DOG".

    Posted by Dennis July 17, 09 02:24 AM
  1. Had a 2005.5 New Jetta 2.5 Sedan gasoline 6-spd auto for 42 months, the ONLY problem with it, right front passenger window had a mind of its own every now and then...if the window was partially or fully open when the ignition was shut off, the window would automatically and without response to the window switch roll up then down all the way, the window would then have to be rolled up while holding the button. this was reset by turning the key to the next notch. that car gave me ~30 MPG. I traded it in for a 2009 Jetta TDI 6-spd. now at 29,000 miles I have NO PROBLEMS to report. the jerkiness of the car was something to get used to, but that is accomplished by teaching yourself how to drive a diesel engine, as opposed to a gasoline engine, THEY ARE DIFFERENT. I DO NOT BLAME THE DSG!!! If the car jersk more in cold weather it's because the engine has to fight the colder temperatures to operate normally...diesel engines have no spark plugs, right?! the DSG actually helps keep jerking to a minimum. The diesel engine jerks quite some because it has a shorter range between idle and redline, which means less time to blend things out between shifts AND this diesel engine is putting out 236 lbf of torque over 140 hp. the 236 is why we are normally 1st off the stop at the intersection, while the 140 is why V6's then catch up to us. Bottom line, don't complain about the DSG, unless you have had breakdowns, just don't get a diesel! Also, the antilock brake system works GREAT, trust me...twice :)

    Posted by Peter M July 25, 09 02:24 PM
  1. I have owned a 2009 Jetta TDI with a 6-speed DSG for 7 months now. My previous car was a 2003 Jetta with a 5-speed manual. If I had it to do over I would have bought this car with the 6-speed manual. This automatic transmission is quirky, you can learn how to deal with it. At worst a bit dangerous. It does do weird downshifting.... I'm hoping VW does a computer update to elimate that aspect. It's just odd, and not an aspect of any other car I've owned. Maybe they are trying to save on brake wear at transmission expense? At it's worst you can confuse the computer and create a dangerous conditon where the car rolls back in a hill.

    Posted by Matt August 16, 09 03:26 AM
  1. My wife just bought the 09 TDI Sportwagon with DSG and was driving it back and forth to college 4 days a week. (150 mile round trip). She was in the left turn lane entering the expressway and started across the intersection with plenty of space from the oncoming traffic when she started out there was a lag in the DSG which left her in the path of a Toyota 4 runner.traveling at 60mph. Both vehicles were totaled. Luckily, there were no serious injuries.

    Posted by Paul Cobb September 4, 09 10:03 PM
  1. I have the 2008 Golf GT SPORT TDI 2,0 140hp and since I bought it, the 2nd gear down shift is like a truck, clunks like you dumping the clutch. Machetronics have been replaced, software upgrade no happiness, I now have the Factory involved after throwing all my toys out of the cot cause 9months is long enough. Surfing the NET on DSG problems you will be shocked to see how many recalls there has been, one case 13500 units ,and how many people even in the UK are bitching. I have driven the new 7 Speed DSG/S-Tronic, smooth but crap, to many gears means hunting between 5th-7th at just the slightest touch of the throttle. A3 Tdi's and GTI's, all I drove perfectly smooth changes but not mine. I would say, test drive a dsg before you buy it, even a new one else, walk away....So great article and I agree with what you found as I am living with it and NEVER again!

    Posted by TREV October 6, 09 07:50 AM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
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