High Country Test Drive of VW Jetta Turbo Hybrid
Santa Fe, N.M. — At 2,134 metres above sea level, Santa Fe’s elevation is not kind to most vehicles, primarily those of a non-turbocharged/supercharged persuasion. At this nosebleed level, normally aspirated engines are suffering a 22% loss of power, which has a rather negative effect on both acceleration and fuel economy.
In other words, the capital of New Mexico, lovely and historical as it is, is not the first place most auto companies would choose to preview a new model, especially one that will be marketed on the strength of its parsimony at the gas pumps. Thus, it is my sneaking suspicion that Volkswagen’s decision to debut its new Jetta Turbo Hybrid in this area of the Old West has less to do with the 220-volt 1.1-kilowatt/hour lithiu -ion battery integrated behind the compact sedan’s rear bench seat as it is the compact yet peppy turbocharged 1.4-litre gasoline engine under the hood. Weighing a trim 98 kilograms, this brand new four-cylinder punches well above its weight with a stout 150 horsepower plus 184 pound-feet of torque from just 1,400 rpm up to 3,500 rpm. Combined with the 27-hp electric motor, the combined powertrain system will generate a total of 170 hp, ensuring that the 2013 Jetta Turbo Hybrid has got game — no matter what the elevation. Travelling the twisty uphill roads to the town of Taos, any serious prod of the gas pedal brought a push back in the seat as the turbo kicked in. It would be a stretch to call the car sporty, but its driving attributes are certainly livelier than the usual hybrid suspects. It also transitioned from gas to electric modes fairly seamlessly.
But fuel economy is the Hybrid’s raison d’être, even though VW has that pretty well covered with the TDI Clean Diesel model. According to the company’s product planners, though, the Hybrid gives those seeking maximum fuel efficiency another option — one that “doesn’t compromise” — thanks to its fun-to-drive nature.
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