*Post Corrected-Thanks Joe and Chris!* After my criticism of bloated luxury trucks and SUVs, and my endorsement of the new Cadillac Sportwagon concept, one reader lashed out at me that there was NOTHING else for him to drive his kids around in than a Escalade-sized SUV. Actually my comment was directed at the gas complainers who drive the more ridiculous SUVs with DVD players in the bumpers and gold encrusted floor mats. Without knowing how many children this reader has, I’m guessing he has never heard of this thing called a Van. Sometimes also referred to as a Minivan. Chrysler has only been making them for 25 years. At any rate, while Americans with space-needs and common sense continue to move away from SUV’s and back towards wagon-type vehicles there are actually only a few choices presently to choose from. Unfortunately,most of the wagons currently offered in the U.S. are of the more expensive foreign variety: Audi, Volvo, BMW and Subaru. Gone is the diminutive but useful Ford Focus or Suzuki Forenza wagons. The lone entry remaining is from VW, who has steadfastly offered a wagon for many years while SUVs dominated the market. For at least the short-term, the 2009 VW Jetta Sportwagon stands alone.
Volkswagen’s embracing of the wagon is a refreshing contrast to all of the crossovers and various SUV-posers that have been and continue to be cranked out. Consumers have gravitated towards Vehicles that are neither as stable or efficient on the highway, roomy as car or even capable of driving off of anything more treacherous than a gravel road in far more numbers than is logical. The reason being that in the U.S. there is stigma and adversion to driving anything called a wagon. (Much like the angry reader who bristled at the suggestion) I guess to do so would mean you are either branded a hippie or Mike Brady. In Europe a station wagon is viewed as an upscale version of the sedan and are created as such. The Jetta wagon is no different.
Even in wagon form the ride is tight and more oriented towards aggressive handling than on pillowy, coma-inducing comfort. The new Jetta is not large at an inch less than 15 feet long, but has a nice size 33-cubic-foot cargo area that is more than enough for most drivers. Three engines choices are available, with either five-speed manual gearboxes or six-speed automatic transmissions. The base engine, on the 2.5L S and SE models, has five cylinders and delivers 170 horsepower. The 2.0T SEL is powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 200 horsepower, and there’s also a TDI four-cylinder diesel engine with 140 horsepower. The new Jetta’s diesel is compliant with emissions for sale in all 50 states and is predicted to account for half of all the Jetta Sportwagens sold in the U.S. To begin with though, the Jetta wagon is only available with the 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter motor. With only 3,285 pounds of vehicle to move, the engine is more than capable. Testers have remarked positively about its acceleration and smooth transmission and clutch. Unlike many crossovers, its highway manners are good and handled the duties with a minimum of wind, road and mechanical noise.
Standard equipment includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes, side-curtain air bags, electronic brake-pressure distribution, active front-seat headrests, air conditioning, cruise control, remote central locking, AM/FM audio system with six-disc CD changer, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and power windows and outside mirrors. Other available options include a navigation system, upgraded sound system, automatic climate control, panoramic sun roof and Sirius satellite radio. The base price of the Sport is $18,999 and estimated at 29 mpg on the highway using regular gas.