Just As I Thought

Smells like Volkswagen

In a few short days I went from a two-seater convertible roadster to a four-door clean-burning sedan.

It seems like so long ago now, but it was only 2 weeks ago that my car got wrecked — although “wrecked” seems like the wrong word, considering that it didn’t have a scratch in the paint and the only obvious damage was the blown tire and deployed air bags.

While I was still under the impression that I’d be back in my little TT within a month, I heard a quiet “frame damage” whisper early on so I started laying the groundwork in case I needed a new car. Only 4 days ago I got the official word from the insurance company that my car had been totaled. Luckily, I’d been looking at cars last weekend and already secured a loan just in case.

I started by looking at a Prius (I’ve already owned two different models since 2000), a VW Beetle and Jetta, Honda’s Element and Scion’s Xb. I finally settled on the Jetta, but the mileage on that car is pretty bad — 21 to 29, with the majority of drivers reporting results nearer the 21 mark. Hell, my TT averaged 27! Then, it was pointed out to me that the new diesel version was getting EPA estimates of 40 and some people were reporting mileage in the 50s. That clinched it for me. While I did like my Priuses, I decided to go this different route. Bonus: the Jetta TDI qualifies for a nice tax credit.

Hitch: no dealer had the one I wanted. I didn’t want much, just metallic gray with navigation and automatic. But car manufacturers are like cable companies: you want a certain channel, you have to take all the ones you don’t want.

If you know someone who is insanely type-A, loves bullying and pushing salespeople around, then by all means let them find your car and negotiate the price. Thanks, Jann.

After pitting dealer against dealer, searching all of northern California, it looked like I was not only going to miss out on the gray car, but any car that was available wouldn’t arrive for weeks. And my rental car was running out fast. Then, some kind of miracle — a dealer in Sunnyvale had a car that, while not exactly what I wanted, was a close enough fit that I pounced.

And so, exactly two weeks after my TT was wrecked, I picked up a 2009 Jetta TDI Loyal Edition, silver with all the options.

I am literally woozy from the new car fumes. I don’t remember that new car smell being so noxious, the plastic outgassing is giving me a huge headache. But some of the other features are putting a smile on my face after a few weeks of stress and uncertainty.

Like the stereo. Because it has a navigation system, it includes a hard drive. Once the maps are loaded on the hard drive the left over space (17gb!) is available for anything you want to store on it. So, I burned a DVD-R of MP3 files from iTunes, and the system copied the files to the drive. It’s basically like having an iPod built in to the car — no more swapping CDs, all my music is already stored in the car itself. Very cool.

The TDI gets high mileage and is very clean. It’s kind of anal-retentive, in the classic sense: it traps and holds the usual diesel pollution, and burns it off within the engine eliminating those noxious emissions. It is so clean that it is exempt from smog testing, like the Prius. it doesn’t have that characteristically loud diesel noise and knocking, and the ride — while not as smooth as American land yachts or Japanese sedans — is far less rough than my Audi was.

Still to be seen is how fuel efficient it turns out to be, but in the one day I’ve had it it’s already bested my TT by about 10mpg. Right there, it’s already saved me about 4¢ per mile. And this is just the first 20 miles… over time I’m told the mileage will improve significantly.

And that’s the story. In a few short days I went from a two-seater convertible roadster to a four-door clean-burning sedan.

And a car payment for the first time in nearly a decade.

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