Let's get this out of the way now: wagons are cool-especially when they aspire to higher levels of performance, something our friends across the pond seem to have nailed. That said, how cool is it if the wagon in question runs on biodiesel (a renewable energy source) and is as well integrated as our featured grocery-getter: Christine Duran's 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GLS TDI?
Duran, whose past performance exotica has included Camaros and Corvettes, needed something practical as well as sporty. Her Jetta certainly fills that requirement as she's moved from the Bowtie darkside. It doesn't hurt that husband Chris Fierek is a marketing manager at audio and security supplier Directed Electronics, with extensive connections to aftermarket suppliers like Kerma TDI, Magnaflow, PIAA, Alpine, and Viper.
Originally from Chicago, Duran now calls Southern California home. The car was purchased in the Windy City and arrived five months after submitting her special order. A transfer to Seattle provided her first taste of biodiesel and the advantages it offered. But she admits to missing the kick in the gut that was part and parcel of the Corvette experience.
"After some research, I came across Kerma TDI," says Duran. "They were a one-stop shop for all my tuning needs. I started out at 90 hp and I'm now in the vicinity of 200. The best part is the mileage didn't budge. With fuel costs climbing the way they are, this was a huge bonus."
Under the hood is where Kerma worked its magic. Upgrades include the company's 1852 Hammerhead turbo, Powerplus 764 injectors, R520 nozzles, a TDI downpipe and a replacement intake manifold with superior flow characteristics. A KermaWare Q Loader Flash Programmer was used to dial everything in. Other mods include an AEM dry flow air filter, a Kerma three-bar MAP sensor, a EuroJet front-mount intercooler, and an ABD Racing cold-air intake. Ron Hembd of RLH Industries was the point person in getting things ship-shape.
To ensure her Jetta sounded like no other, Duran turned to Magnaflow for both an exhaust and a high-flow catalyst. The results bumped horsepower up a notch-Duran estimates a gain of about 10 hp-as well as giving the car a remarkable exhaust note, something more akin to a mid-'60s V8 than a typical VW diesel.
"My tastes have changed over the years and I'm all about the Jetta's clean Euro styling," says Duran. "The Caractre kit offered the ideal look for what I wanted, clean and stylish. In an effort to fulfill the ideal Euro style, there was one must-have, the E-Code VW HID conversion. My husband really feels that it pulls the car's entire front fascia together."
Duran's choice of rolling stock is a set of 19-inch PIAA Super Rosa wheels mated to 235/35 Toyo Proxes and upgraded Baer brake rotors. Eibach coilovers front and rear help keep the rubber glued to the pavement. This is essential given that the Jetta now cruises effortlessly at 90 mph while turning just about 3000 rpm. The redline now sits at 5200, giving this silver missile a top speed of 130 mph (verified via GPS), a substantial improvement over the stock Jetta turbodiesel's ability to reach 110 mph.