Car Review: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE

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The Jetta is Volkswagen’s number one selling car in North America, so there is always pressure on the Jetta to rack up sales for VW. The 2014 VW Jetta SE we tested sported a reflex silver metallic paint that was as clean as any paint we’ve seen. First impressions are important and the Jetta came out of the gate strong.

EXTERIOR

Volkswagens in general have a distinct look, and the Jetta is no different with a sleek design that looks smart and sporty. At the front, the coupe-like incline of the windscreen and the consistent use of horizontal lines define the Jetta’s design. The horizontal blades in the grille, together with the blades in the lower intake, are designed to make the Jetta appear wider and more dynamic. Volkswagen completely redesigned the Jetta a few years back and crafted a bigger car, with a longer wheelbase and 2.9 inches added to the overall length. The increased dimensions allowed designers to incorporate clear, precise lines and muscular surfaces to impart a timeless elegance, giving the impression that this is a car from a higher class. The 16-inch alloy wheels looked sweet and also came with all-season tires.

INTERIOR

The Jetta gets right to the point inside and out, and the cabin space is no nonsense. A key benefit of the Jetta’s extended wheelbase—it stretches an incredible 104.4 inches—is a truly spacious interior, with impressive rear-seat legroom of 38.1 inches. Long legs can rejoice. The gently arcing roofline also means more than ample headroom of 37.1 inches for rear-seat passengers. And stretch-out legroom in the back isn’t achieved by a cramped front seat either. Being tailored for an American audience, there is no shortage of legroom and headroom up front.

Just open any of the Jetta’s wide-angled doors and the quality of materials – the fit and finish, and the clean, simple, refined elegance of the cabin – is clearly visible. And in true German tradition, the layout of the fascia, the positioning of the switches and controls, and the clarity of the oversized, round instruments is designed to be ergonomic and intuitive. Trunk space also borders on the cavernous. The Jetta offers a class-leading 15.5 cubic feet of usable trunk space, and can be increased significantly by folding forward the 60/40-split rear seatback. The rear seatback is also offered with a pass-through to accommodate longer items, like skis. Move up to the SE (as tested) and additional standard features include: heatable front seats; cruise control; standard V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces; an adjustable center armrest with storage compartment; a six-speaker sound system; and a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod adapter.

Premium features that are available on the Jetta include: a six-way power driver’s seat; a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel; a soft-touch dashboard; two-tone V-Tex leatherette sport seats; the RNS 315 navigation system; the acclaimed Fender Premium Audio System; keyless access with push-button start; VW Car-Net connected services; Bluetooth connectivity; and a rearview camera. Exterior enhancements include a chrome radiator grille and chrome window trim.

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Car Review: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

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There is no question that Volkswagen has been on a sales tear in North America, and with new offerings like the Jetta TDI, one can see a bright future indeed. We had the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of a 2014 VW Jetta TDI to see just how far clean diesel has come in the past few years.

EXTERIOR

The Jetta remains Volkswagen’s best-selling car three years after the sixth-generation car was introduced to the U.S. market as a 2011 model. When you take a look at this Volkswagen, it’s clear that they never rest on success and are continuously striving to make its vehicles even better. The platinum gray metallic with 17-inch alloy wheels on the 2014 VW Jetta TDI we tested looks very modern with a clean and upscale look. Marketing experts call it “class-up appeal.” It’s the offering of more, for less. Which is why, when Volkswagen completely redesigned the Jetta, it crafted a bigger car, with a longer wheelbase and 2.9 inches added to the overall length.

The increased dimensions allowed designers to incorporate clear, precise lines and muscular surfaces to impart a timeless elegance, giving the impression that this is a car from a higher class. At the front, the coupe-like incline of the windscreen and the consistent use of horizontal lines define the Jetta’s design. The horizontal blades in the grille, together with the blades in the lower intake, are designed to make the Jetta appear wider and more dynamic. To give visual weight to the lower part of the Jetta and impart a sense of the car being ‘planted’ to the road, the base of the doors is eased outwards. The pronounced wheel arches also add visual width and weight to the car.

INTERIOR

The overall theme of a clean and modern design carries over into the cabin of the 2014 VW Jetta TDI appearance. Just open any of the Jetta’s wide-angled doors and the quality of materials, the fit and finish, and the clean, simple, refined elegance of the cabin is clearly visible. And in true German tradition, the layout of the fascia, the positioning of the switches and controls, and the clarity of the oversized, round instruments is designed to be ergonomic and intuitive.

Trunk space also borders on the cavernous. The Jetta offers a class-leading 15.5 cubic feet of usable trunk space, and can be increased significantly by folding forward the 60/40-split rear seatback. The rear seatback is also offered with a pass-through to accommodate longer items, like golf clubs and skis.

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Car Review: 2014 Volkswagen Passat Sport

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The built-in-America 2014 Volkswagen Passat is pushing her way into the heart of U.S. auto sales with striking good looks and top-of-the-line quality. We drove one for a week and now understand why there is so much momentum behind the 2014 Volkswagen Passat Sport.

EXTERIOR

Volkswagen knows how to design and build cars, so it comes as no surprise that the 2014 Passat is one of the best looking cars on the road regardless of price. The Passat’s balanced proportions give it elegant and timeless styling, reflecting the new Volkswagen Design DNA. The clean design, with a predominance of horizontal body elements, reinforces the Passat’s position as the sophisticated choice in the mid-size segment. The key identifying feature of a strong brand is the styling of its front end. Here, the Passat displays the horizontal brand face, with the three-blade grille and headlights forming a single unit. The Passat’s grille is sculpted in a three-dimensional shape and makes a distinctive and elegant impression because of its strict geometry. Beneath the front bumper is a large, lower intake with a striking honeycomb surface and available fog lights housed at each end.

From the side profile, the muscular ridge in the sill area creates a lively interplay of light reflections. Powerfully sculpted wheel arches emphasize the dynamic properties of the Passat. To emphasize the aerodynamic styling of the Passat, the roof lines flow toward the back with a nearly coupe-like cut of the rear window. Three side windows create luxury-class style with a long, extended glass surface. The rear section is also dominated by horizontal lines. The lines of the large taillights rise toward the sides, underscoring the dynamics of the elegant rear styling. Another unique feature here is the design of the two-part taillights that are integrated in the rear fender and trunk lid. This is a generously proportioned four-door sedan and the largest Passat ever. Nose to tail it measures 191.6 inches and features a stretched 110.4-inch wheelbase and 72.2-inch width, which allows such exceptional rear seat space.

INTERIOR

The first thing that stands out when entering the cabin of the 2014 VW Passat Sport is the extraordinary amount of space available. There’s room for five adults to really stretch out in comfort, and with four large, wide-opening doors, getting in and out is a breeze. There’s also a true elegance and simplicity about the layout. Nothing here is trendy or over-done. The lines flow in a style that’s easy on the eye, complimented by high-quality materials applied with attention to detail. Available chrome-trimmed gauges surround a digital multifunction display. A high-end chrome look is also applied to the air vents in the cockpit, and to the surrounds of the radio, navigation system and the climate control panels. The rotary light switch and parking brake handle button are also treated in chrome.

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Car Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

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Classics will always have a place in our hearts, but to find a place in our driveway, they need to reignite that passion. VW has done exactly that with the venerable 2013 VW Beetle Convertible. Ever since the type 15 Convertible from 1949, the Beetle has been one of the most popular open-top cars built. After driving this fun mobile for a week, we totally get why all ages love this car!

EXTERIOR

The Beetle Convertible retains the bold, purposeful stance of the Coupe, thanks to wider tracks and a longer wheelbase than the previous New Beetle Convertible. Compared with the 2006 version of the older car, the latest Beetle Convertible is 3.3 inches wider at 71.2 inches, 1.1 inches lower at 58.0 inches tall, and 6.0 inches longer at 168.4 inches overall. There is no doubt that this redesigned Beetle has more of an edge than past models.

A convertible bodyshell is less rigid than a coupe’s because the upper part of the structure is open, so the Beetle Convertible’s body needed reinforcements. This included the use of partial body reinforcements and sheet metal with greater strength such as:

• The A-pillar’s interior bar is 0.5 mm thicker and made from ultra-high-strength hot-formed steel instead of cold-formed metal. There is also a reinforcement in the “bend area”
• The front roof crossmember has an additional central plate
• Additional tubing made of ultra-high-strength (hot formed) steel between the B-pillars as well as a stronger heel plate
• More sheet metal in the lower body side members
• An extra rear panel that integrates the Automatic Rollover Support System is made of high-strength steel

Due to the targeted use of materials and laser welding of selected parts, the body stiffness was increased by 20 percent over that of the New Beetle Convertible; the torsional rigidity is now 17.8 Hz.

Top up, the Beetle Convertible has an even lower roofline than the Coupe’s. The top lies flat when it’s lowered, giving good visibility; the flexible leatherette top boot tidies up the appearance and is also a nice retro touch. Volkswagen decided to stick with a traditional softtop because it allows for a roofline that’s more like the original 1949 type 15s. Also, a softtop takes up less space than a folding hardtop, thus giving more trunk space. The heatable rear window is made of tempered safety glass.

The softtop’s outer shell is made from three layers: an outer one of polyacrylic woven fabric; a middle layer of synthetic rubber; and an inner lining of polyester. Underneath, there’s a three-layer design for the insulation, made from polyester nonwoven fabric, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) insulating fleece, and polyester spunboard. The headliner is made from foam-laminated fabric. The result is a snug top that yields remarkably low levels of wind noise.

The top is powered by two electric motors and latches and unlatches automatically at the touch of a button, which is located on the upper rail of the windshield surround. The top takes just 9.5 seconds to stow and 11.0 seconds to be raised. The difference is in the time it takes to latch the roof’s header to the windshield. The top can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 31 mph, unusually high for a convertible. Pressing and holding the button opens the top, while pulling and holding closes it. The side windows automatically drop when the top is opened and are raised when it closes. There is an indicator light located in the instrument panel. Trunk space remains the same whether the top is open or closed.

An integrated wind blocking system is available on the Beetle Convertible as a Volkswagen Genuine Accessory. It is housed in the trunk under the convertible top area and can be safely and neatly stowed when folded and not in use. The storage compartment for the wind blocker is designed to allow full use of the trunk area.

Our test model was an eye catcher with a tornado red paint job and black softtop that really popped alongside the 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires.

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Weekly Web Series Review: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

There may have never been a more self-explanatory title for a web series than Jerry Seinfeld‘s latest project, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The format is simplicity itself: for each episode, Seinfeld picks a different car, picks up a different comedian friend, and they go and get coffee and, often, a meal. Throughout the drive and the meal, they talk about various things, all improvised and frequently very funny. The main charm of the series, though, is watching the comedians make each other laugh. At best, it is almost like actually hanging out with a couple of very talented people for a little while. At worst, it is rather lazy and inconsequential, and Seinfeld sometimes seems to be exaggerating his reactions to the jokes told by his guests.

The series begins with Seinfeld’s most obvious guest, Larry David, with whom he co-created one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, “Seinfeld.” There seems to be some effort on Seinfeld’s part to pick a car that reflects his guest’s personality, as in this first episode, in which he chooses a 1952 VW bug as a symbol of David’s humble, unassuming nature. David, along with his other dietary idiosyncrasies, slightly messes up the premise right off the bat by ordering tea, but he offers one of the series more interesting insights. Discussing the difference between cigars and cigarettes, he suggests that a cigar imbues the smoker with an air of wisdom because of the time it takes to smoke, which lends itself to a “contemplative” posture.

Another very intelligent guest is “Mystery Science Theater 3000” creator Joel Hodgson in episode 5, who offers some interesting insights about nostalgia and economics. On the former, he says that the reason people love to look back at the past is that “You know what you’re going to say … you know what to say about the past, and you don’t know what to say about the future.” When Seinfeld brings up the mysterious economics of a restaurant, Hodgson offers a musical analogy: “The guy who sells the guitars makes the money, and not the guy in the band … How many guitars have you bought over the years … I’ve bought … six, and I don’t play the guitar.”

One of the series’ most enjoyable episodes is the third, in which Seinfeld’s guest is the great stand-up comic Brian Regan. The reason it works so well is that their conversation throughout feels like a joke-writing session, as if the two comedians are co-writing a sitcom or a stand-up set, often finishing each other’s sentences and collectively brainstorming jokes on each topic that comes up. Another especially good one features Alec Baldwin, whose overall attitude toward Seinfeld is playfully hostile, though he shows great humility when he credits the cast and writers of “30 Rock” for teaching him how to be funny. His story of a Rip Torn bar fight is not be missed, and this is where “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” excels: it presents very funny, interesting people just being naturally funny and interesting.

  

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