Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the German Labor Front, a Nazi trade union. The venture included production of an inexpensive car for the common man along with state-sponsored financing (“five marks a week you must put aside, if in your own car you want to ride”). Previously, Germans could typically only afford a motorcycle, but with the advent of this new Wolfsburg factory, hundreds of thousands could afford this new “Beetle”, designed by Ferdinand Porsche. World War II cut off civilian automobile production, but not before Adolf Hitler received a Cabriolet model for his 49th birthday (1938).
Fast forward to 2014, and we find that Volkswagen (People’s Car) has enjoyed over 60 years of success in the United States, with sales peaking in 1970 at over a half million cars (7% of the U. S. market). Current market share has been cut roughly to half of that, but the company has a long-range U. S. target of a million cars and trucks, counting Audis, by 2018. Audi is the premium automobile brand of Volkswagen AG.
The number one selling Volkswagen is the Jetta, produced since 1979. It is currently in its sixth generation form, this new model having been introduced in June of 2010. A Toffee Brown metallic 2014 Jetta SE four-door sedan was brought to my home on a recent Monday morning, and I immediately got inside to check out the amenities. Heated leatherette seats, heated mirrors, and Sirius satellite radio: check. Power lumbar “V-tech” Cornsilk (tan) leatherette bolstered buckets and leather wheel: check. Touchscreen radio/CD changer and Bluetooth and IPod connection: check. Pushbutton start (on the console along with the emergency brake) and six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission: check. Although most of the buzz with Volkswagen has recently been about the new masculine (supposedly) Beetle introduction, this Jetta is almost the newest VW in the lineup and, as mentioned earlier, the most popular. It’s easy to see and feel why, because this is a real nice car.
I jumped in and took off for Ft. Collins for a test drive and a chance to grab some lunch. A real firm ride is in store for the operator; a feeling of quality (and quietness). The steering wheel is rather thick with lots of buttons, and the transmission is a treat. One complaint I had is that it travels up to top gear rather hurriedly, but two solutions exist for that problem – the sports mode and the Tiptronic (manual) selection. Operating this car manually is a snap; one of the best I have driven. Speaking of snap, the turbocharged four cylinder, 1.8 liter, 170 hp engine provides an ample amount. More, in fact, than would seem available with that horsepower rating. Torque is 184 lb. ft.
Guiding the little Jetta up the Interstate is pleasurable. Once again, the ride is a little firm with our beat up Interstate along the Front Range. I had plenty of punch for changing lanes and running by service trucks and seniors. At the Applebees parking lot I stepped outside to view the styling of the VW. It’s good, if not spectacular, and looks particularly nice from the front. The mirrors have lighting stripes on them and up front are good-looking fog lights. The new Jetta is longer than its predecessor, resulting in an enlarged back seating area. Indeed, there is legroom for a big human being. Plus the trunk is the biggest in its class, at 15.5 cubic feet. Also in the center of the back seat is a flop-down armrest/cup holder, and this VW had a power moonroof.
After lunch, I drove to the Greeley Country Club area and took photos of the Jetta. This is the best-looking Jetta to date, and has 16”, ten-spoke alloy wheels to dress it up. Tires mounted on them are Bridgestone Turanza EL400, 205/55R 16” mud and snow radials. The back windows do not roll out of sight, as do those of many models that compete against it. But bottom line; I’d own a car like this, perhaps in a more exciting color than brown.