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December 10, 2012

The 2013 Jetta Hybrid Adds Miles with Smiles

IMG_01232013 Jetta Hybrid: By Sue Mead Santa Fe, New Mexico: Introduced at the 2012 North American Auto Show, the updated four-door Jetta Hybrid is Volkswagen’s second hybrid offering, following the Touareg SUV, and it both looks and drives like a success. We recently drove the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta hybrid in the trendy high country of New Mexico and parked overnight at Santa Fe’s luxury-appointed Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. The new Jetta Hybrid is most fuel-efficient car in this German automaker’s U.S. lineup, and gets up to 45 mpg. It will travel at speeds of up to 37/44 mph on electric power alone. The SE model starts at $27,785, including a $795 destination charge, while the SEL has a sticker price of $30,120; a base hybrid model, which is only available by special order, stickers at $25,790.

The Jetta Hybrid has modernized and sporty-practical styling as the other models in the Jetta lineup, has a narrow front grille and, by today’s big-badge standards, relatively modest “VW” logo in the center. The sedan’s overall profile looks lower, sleeker and coupe-ier than past Jettas, which have tended toward the boxy. A low front air dam, side skirts and an integrated spoiler help to lower the car’s drag to 0.28 – lower than a standard Jetta by 0.02. Fifteen-inch steel wheels, featuring a windmill-like design unique to the hybrid, are standard, with 16-inch and 17-inch alloys available on higher end models. Up-market Jetta hybrids also come with standard fog lights. Inside, Jetta hybrid is comfortable and somewhat spartanly-dressed.

There are thoughtful, technology-forward touches like a charging station for your iPhone in the locking glovebox and a hybrid-specific “Power Meter” in the center cluster to help you keep track of power levels for the electric motor, as well as gas consumption. Standard interior features include automatic dual-zone air conditioning; the cabin’s cooled air is subsequently fed into the hybrid battery pack for cooling. Bluetooth connectivity and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel also are standard, and higher end models have a navigation /infotainment touchscreen in the center stack.

The star of the Jetta Hybrid show is unquestionably a powertrain that’s unique in the compact hybrid segment. Combining a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 27-horsepower electric motor, the Jetta Hybrid is able to achieve a perfect balance of power, efficiency, and cleanliness and posts a 0-to-60-mph time of close to nine seconds. Under the hood, the gasoline engine is a 1.4-liter TSI with direct fuel injection and turbocharging to produce 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Electric power comes from a unique integrate clutch-electric motor that can add 27 horsepower as well as a constant 114 lb.-ft. of torque. The 60-cell system produces a total voltage of 220 V, rated energy of 1.1 kWh, and pulse power of 32 kW. The powerplant is matched to a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox, which can be operated as an automatic or shifted manually; there is also a sport setting.

Here is how it works: in “Electric” drive mode, the Jetta Hybrid starts up as an electric vehicle and will remain like this up to speeds of 37 mph; the car can remain in this mode for more than a mile, given the right circumstances. By pressing the “E-mode” button, the driver keeps the car in this mode up to 44 mph. Above 37mph (44 mph in E-Mode), when the battery level is low, or there’s a demand for additional power, the gas motor kicks in. And when in manual or Sport mode, the system “Boosts,” using both motors to achieve the total system output of 170 hp. While the gasoline engine charges the battery during non-boost states, regenerative braking is the key to charging the car’s batteries on the move, so depressing the brakes helps send kinetic energy to the system.

IMG_0115All in all, the estimated gas consumption is 45 mpg, but Jetta Hybrid is also rated with a top track speed of 125 mph – though a modified racing version topped out at sizzling 187.607 mph at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats, in October-- the fastest ever for a hybrid. Our drive day took us from Santa Fe to the artsy town of Taos, known for its Native American culture, rich collection of art museums, kitschy shops, and winter skiing that draws enthusiasts to the snow-capped peaks situated above the town. Motoring along a route of some 150 miles, we traveled on byways where communities grew to provide goods, services, food, water and shelter to the wagon trains of a different era. Today, it’s a land of fascinating history with small towns, state parks and the remnants of a noteworthy by-gone era, set in a landscape beset with the fragrance of desert grasses, juniper, ponderosa and pinion pine.

The most notable feature of the new Jetta is how un-hybrid-like it is compared to all other models we have driven recently that come from Toyota, Lexus, Honda and Ford, among others; it’s quiet and instantly responsive, with no stop/start shutdown feel; no electric motor whine; and a throttle impression that is decidedly sport. Driving the base model with smaller, low-rolling resistance tires, we found carving corners a more laborious task, while the bigger tire and wheel packages of uplevel trims brought crisper handling. Front damper struts and an independent rear multi-link suspension keep things smooth and responsive on the road.

Good stopping power comes from the four-wheel discs with ABS, with electronic brakeforce distribution; both are standard, as is stability control. The Jetta Hybrid lineup begins at with a base model, priced at $24,995 that comes with Bluetooth connectivity, Climatronic dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system. Next up the ladder is the SE ($26,990), with LED taillights and keyless access, and push-button start, in addition to a premium touchscreen audio system with a color energy flow display in the center console. A charging station with iPod cable and Sirius XM Satellite Radio also are included. Moving uplevel is the Jetta Hybrid SEL ($29,325), which adds 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a power tilt and slide sunroof, a touchscreen navigation system and heated seats with power adjustment on the driver’s side. Top-of-the-line SEL Premium models ($31,180) also include Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED DRLs and the Active Front-Lighting System (AFS), foglights with cornering lights, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a rearview camera and a Fender Premium Audio System.

IMG_0118If you Go: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Located 10 miles north of Santa Fe in the serene foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Encantado is situated on 57 acres. The 65-room resort is a modern-day interpretation of traditional Santa Fe design, with stucco exteriors, adobe-style casitas best with wooden beams, a central courtyard and indoor and outdoor fireplaces.

198 State Road 592
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506
Tel. 1 (505) 946-5700
Fax. 1 (505) 946-5888

If you Go: Santa Fe is the third-oldest city in the U.S., established in 1608 and is called “The City Different”, as all buildings in the downtown city conform to the Spanish Pueblo Revival look. The Palace of Governors in the central square of Santa Fe Plaza and is the oldest continuously occupied building in the country and is adobe. It is a mecca for artists, known especially for Georgia O’Keefe, who lived here and nearby for much of her life; there are numerous museums; one is devoted to the life and work of O’Keefe.

If you Go: Taos means “Red Willow” and is an artist’s community and located 70 miles northeast of Santa Fe, with art galleries, art museums and charming gift shops. Nearby is the ancient Taos Pueblo that belongs to a Northern Tiwa-speaking Native American Tribe. The approximately 1,000 year-old site has a multi-storied residential complex that has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site. A 95, 000-acre reservation adjoins the pueblo, where nearly 2,000 people live.


Sue Mead


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