Saturday Road Test – VW Jetta SEL Premium

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                    Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium

                         Big Name – Nice Ride

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – A sharp looking, well-built, semi-luxury sedan with excellent power and economy and “The Price is Right.”

 That is the Saturday test car, a top-of-the-line VW Jetta SEL Premium.

 Two thumbs up for the turbocharged 1.8-liter four with 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Matched to a six speed automatic, the combo will take you to a mile a minute from a dead stop in 7.5 seconds, and that is not bad in the hotly contested compact sedan market.

 Opt for the Sport model, and you can choose a five speed manual shift, over the automatic. While there was more than enough power in the SEL to handle day to day operations, there were occasions when the automatic was slightly slow to react to foot to the floor acceleration demands and that had me wishing for a stick. Yet I realize that demand wise, stick shifters in a family oriented sedan are going the way of rumble seats.

 With recent rumblings from OPEC about reduced production that scared the wee out of Wall Street for a day, and drivers worried about potentially higher gas prices by the Super Bowl, the Jetta’s EPA estimated 36 mpg highway may take on increased relevance. Look for 25 in the city and a combined 29 mpg. By day two everyone relaxed when it appeared the OPEC action was a small one, yet it also was a wake-up wall that the cartel can still rock the world.

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 Owners can relax in a rather classy interior, in this case in beige and black, with clearly marked and easy to reach controls. I dislike all black interiors. Dual zone climate controls got a workout with the Maryland fall pattern of cool mornings with warm afternoons that allowed me to enjoy the sunroof.

 The power adjustable seats were comfortable with just one adjustment on a day long drive, but the manual lumbar adjustment was poorly located. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of room for two, and all four riders can store a lot of stuff in the 15.7 cubic foot trunk.

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 Out on the road the Jetta was a refined ride with excellent handling unless you are trailing someone in, say, an Audi TT. Even interstate bridge expansion joints that rattled through the interior of some rivals, were no big deal to the Jetta. I would say VW struck the perfect combination of ride and handling for the expected Jetta audience who are highly unlikely to race around cones on weekends on an abandoned landing strip. The Jetta has one of the most spacious interiors in its class.

 A $950 Driver Assist Package brought forth the following: Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist with Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert and upgraded multi-function display. A rearview camera was standard.

 The navi system did an excellent job of guiding me out of an unfamiliar area of downtown Baltimore to I-95 and it was very simple to program, something I wish could say about some rivals. It appears on a 6.3 inch multi-function display, that  among other things, played host to a Fender audio system, that was just a tad weak in the bass department. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Yes.

 Now let’s turn to the price. Okay, I see you twitching there in the front row. Try this. The top-of-the-line trim model with a fine equipment list carried an MSRP of $27,150 and that includes $820 for delivery.

 That gets you the audio system, leatherette upholstery, dual zone climate control, navigation and 17 inch wheels.

 And the Jetta earned a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a 5-star crash test rating from the feds.

 To my way to thinking the Jetta SEL Premium is a real deal in today’s market and your local VW dealer just might be dealing these days.

 Some facts:

 A five year, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty.

 New driver assistance features have been added to lower trim lines for 2017.

 In case you were wondering, the test car’s exterior was Moonrock Silver Metallic.

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