Apr 292017
 

Over the decades, the convertible has stood the test of time, sustained by an over-the-top fun factor. Volkswagen continues to grow its convertible offerings with more topless versions of the Beetle. Latino Traffic Report recently embarked on a windy adventure in the 2017 Beetle 1.8T Dune Convertible.

The Dune’s peppy 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI engine hails from Silao, Mexico. It produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.–ft. of torque, and should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 35.6 mpg on the test drive. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, no manual transmission is available.

The test model came in the most striking of three available shades, Sandstorm Yellow, but subtle design cues also differentiate the Dune from its siblings. It has new front and rear fascias and black wheel arches, plus it rides a little higher and sits a little wider. The bumper adds s a large central air intake and on either side, two black honeycomb vents contain the foglights. It sits on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and has “Dune” graphics displayed on both doors. At the back, the Dune sports a large rear spoiler, standard LED taillights, and a new bumper design. In other words, it’s a head turner.

It’s most distinctive feature, however, is the black canvas top that drops with the push of a button and while at a speed of up to 31 miles per hour. According to VW, it should take 9.5 seconds but on my count, it took seven.

Inside, the attention to detail continues with contrasting “Curry” yellow stitching on the sport seats and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, unique to the Sandstorm Yellow exterior color. Additionally, the test model featured body color upper door trims and dashpads, The Pure White and Deep Black Pearl vehicles will have piano black door and dashpad trim.

Standard entertainment features include the Composition Media infotainment system with a 6.3-inch screen and a capacitive touch sensor and a proximity sensor that detects when a hand is nearby and automatically switches its display. Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect, USB and Bluetooth connectivity for compatible devices and an AM/FM/HD radio with SiriusXM Satellite radio, and a CD player are included

Safety features take on a unique focus due to the convertible’s body style. On the Dune, its reinforced front roof crossmember, strengthened A-pillar, and the Automatic Rollover Support System should add confidence. In the event of a crash, two rollover bars, concealed behind the rear bench seat back, will deploy. Additional standard safety features on the test model included a rearview camera and the Park Distance Control (ParkPilot) system, Automatic Post-Collision Braking system, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System. A blind spot monitor was not available.

Pricing for the 2017 VW Dune starts at $30,215. With no added packages on the test model, the as-tested pricing matched the starting price.

Sí: The Dune stands out in a crowd and fulfills the thrills of topless driving.

No: At this price point, a blind-spot monitor or navigation should be included, much less available.

Nov 222016
 

img_0849

The auto industry has predicted the demise of manual transmissions for decades so when one gets delivered to Latino Traffic Report for a review, I’m thrilled. It’s even more exciting when the manual comes on a trim level that allows for more bells and whistles. That was the case with the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI SEL that I drove.

Manual transmissions just make driving more fun, that’s why most sports cars still offer them. On economy cars, manual transmissions serve a different purpose. Reserved for entry-level models that can’t be upgraded and are basically sold as-is, they help lower the base price. Still, they do add oomph to little four-cylinder engines so it’s unfortunate that they really can’t compete with their siblings and are easily passed over.img_0852

Not surprisingly, the base model Jetta comes with a manual transmission, but so does the GLI SEL that sits just below the top-of-the-line Jetta hybrid. As such, it comes with advanced technology, particularly on the safety side, like a blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, parking sensors, and a rearview camera.

Redesigned for 2015, the 2016 model adds a 1.4-liter turbocharged, direct-injection engine four-cylinder. I drove the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder matched to a six–speed manual transmission. It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. I averaged 24.9 mpg. A six-speed automatic is also available as well as a 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine.

The GLI SEL also gets a bold new look for 2016, highlighted by an aggressive front fascia that incorporates a honeycomb grille and foglights, along with a new rear bumper design that has a diffuser and a pair of chrome-tipped exhausts, plus 18-inch Mallory design aluminum-alloy wheels.

img_0855On the inside, the GLI SEL continues to add features like dual-zone climate control, a 6.3-inch touchscreen for radio controls and navigation (it was a little clunky to operate), heated black leatherette front seats with red accent stitching, a power sunroof, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a Fender premium audio system developed through a collaboration between Fender and Panasonic. It includes 400 watts of power, nine speakers, a trunk-mounted subwoofer, and my favorite low-tech feature, a CD player.

Convenience features include a split rear seat with pass through to the trunk, a 60/40-split rear seatback offering 15.5 cubic feet of usable trunk space, a tilting and telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, keyless access with push button start and a cooled glovebox.jetta-rear

Volkswagen’s most popular model, the Jetta has a starting price of $18,500. The as-tested price topped out at $30,100.

 

Sí: Always great to find manual transmissions on up-level trims and the Jetta GLI SEL includes nice bells and whistles.

No: The audio system was less intuitive than most, especially when programming preset stations.

Mar 272015
 

2014-11-25 10.passat

What defines an American car? Is it where it’s made or who profits from the sale of it? Made at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, part of a $7 billion investment by the company in the North American market, the Volkswagen Passat sedan still maintains a decidedly European DNA.

On a recent test drive of the 2015 Passat V6 SEL Premium in Austin for Latino Traffic Report, I found the sedan to be elegant and nimble.

The largest Passat built to date, it measures 191.6 inches with a stretched 110.4-inch wheelbase and 72.2-inch width, offering plenty of space for five adults. It’s easy to get in and out too, with large, wide-opening doors.

The test model sits at the top of the model lineup that includes five trim levels, but even the base model, 1.8T S, includes a driver’s seat that adjusts eight ways, including lumbar. The SEL test model included heated front seats with suede inserts.

A powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine with 280 horses powers the SEL. Matched to a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, it has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. During the weeklong test drive, I averaged 27.4 mpg.

2014-11-25 passat.licThere are two, more fuel-efficient engines offered, a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four cylinder, and the new 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel as well as five- and six-speed manual transmissions.

The new electro-mechanical power steering gives the Passat responsive handling, perfectly weighted to provide a balance between highway speeds, and parking speeds.

Every 2015 Passat comes with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist, a tire pressure monitor, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that automatically unlocks the doors, shuts off the fuel pump, and even turns on the hazard warning lights in the event of a collision. Unfortunately, a blind spot monitor is unavailable, even on the SEL.

Standard features on the base model include air-conditioning, hill hold control for the five-speed manual transmission version, steering wheel controls, AM/FM stereo with a CD player and six speakers, Bluetooth technology, and a 60/40 split rear seat.

The SEL adds foglights, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, partial leather seating surfaces (not sure why Volkswagen didn’t go with all-leather), keyless access with push-button start, navigation, the Fender Premium Audio System, wood grain interior, interior chrome accents, and chrome dual exhaust tips.

It also comes with an iPod cable and interestingly, it recognized my iPod Nano unlike other models and brands that no longer do.

Pricing for this American-made German sedan starts at $22,160. The as-tested price for the Passat SEL came to $36,480.