Driving the New Jetta
The new Jetta with its five-cylinder is no rocket. It has a 0-to-60-mph time of 9.1 sec. and a top speed of 129 mph. In most driving situations, coupled with the six-speed automatic, it does fine. Passing up a hill or merging onto a high-speed freeway requires a bit of pre-thought as there isn't an excess amount of power readily available. It isn't that the Jetta is slow, its just that so many other cars are so fast these days. Despite Dr. Bockelmann's claim of superior vibrational acoustic properties, the engine makes the sort of moan that is characteristic to other five-cylinder engines, and some exhaust tuning might have at least made it more sporty sounding.

The good news is the car's handling is impeccable, so it is possible and downright fun to post high-average travel speeds, even over twisty roads. This is in large part due to the new independent rear suspension that keeps the rear firmly planted. The excellent feedback through the electro-mechanical power steering also makes a healthy contribution. The feel on center of the steering is among the best in the business and the assist off-center draws no attention to itself, aside from its excellence. Road isolation is adequate, rough pavement still intrudes, but is more heard than it is felt.

There is a lot of wind-noise, especially around the A-pillars at higher speeds. The seats are supportive yet comfortable and adapt easily to every driving position. The adjustable steering column makes seeing the chrome-ringed gauges a simple matter. The brakes are powerful and easy to modulate under hard stops without the anti-lock system intruding.

Visibility in every direction is good, despite a strangely prominent strip along the bottom of the windshield. The Jetta is a car that gives back more than it takes, one you could live with and enjoy every day.

Day to Day
When you drive the new Jetta with its 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, you have to remind yourself this is just the base car. It comes with a load of standard features and its refinement belies its under-$19,000 pricetag (under $18,000 for the manual version.) The 2005 Jetta is pretty much a car for everyone, but one that allows a good amount of Volkswagen's driver bias to come shining through. It has loads of personality, is fun to drive and is a worthy successor to the Jetta line. After 25 years of building the Jetta, the latest one is the best yet.

What's Coming
The 2005 Jetta with its 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine is just the starting point for the new Jetta line. It's good, but for those who want something more, Volkswagen has big plans. Later this year the company will offer a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder direct-injection engine with turbocharging and an intercooler in the new Jetta. This 200-bhp engine will drive through a six-speed twin-clutch automatic (DSG), which promises to enhance both performance and fuel economy.

A six-speed manual will also be available. This engine and its transmissions will be offered as part of the Jetta GLI model and with every imaginable option, Volkswagen officials say a Jetta GLI would still be not much more than $27,000.

Volkswagen will also offer the new Jetta with its 1.9-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine. This 100-bhp engine makes 170 lb-ft of torque. It includes a variable-vane turbocharger, intercooler and pump-jet direct injection. The 1.9 TDI-PD engine will be available with a five-speed manual or a six-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic.

2005 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA 2.5 SPECS

Engine
Type: 2.5-liter, five-cylinder, inline
Power Output (bhp): 150 @ 5000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 170 @ 3750 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic/five-speed manual
Dimensions
L/W/H (in.): 179.3/69.3/57.5
Curb weight (lb): 3,285 (automatic)3,230 manual
Chassis
Brakes: Vented front and sold readdisc brakes with ABS
Wheels: 6Jx15
Tires: 195/65R15 H-speed rate, all-season

Performance
0 to 60 mph (sec.): 9.1 (automatic)
Top speed (mph): 129 (automatic)

Likes:
Interior appointments, exterior styling, new rear suspension

Dislikes:
Not very fast with the base 2.5-liter engine

Wow Factor:
The beige interior with the gray dashboard works surprisingly well and looks sophisticated. The electro-mechanical steering is transparent in operation but provides excellent feel.

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