Napa Valley, Calif. ? There may be lots of enchanted places in the world, but few can compare to the Napa Valley which is also home to some of the most magnificent resorts in the country. I think, I read something about wine, too.
Speaking of enchantment, a few weeks ago Volkswagen invited automotive journalists to the Napa Valley to one of those resorts to explain some innovative changes and to sample the enchanting 2014 Volkswagen line up.
Volkswagen?s big news centers around two items. The first is the new Generation 3 turbocharged and direct injection engine that replaces the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine in the Jetta and Passat. The other is Volkswagen?s Car-Net? system. Volkswagen also had their entire 2014 lineup available to drive, too, and I had a chance to spend some time in a few of my favorite new models.
Volkswagen 1.8-Liter EA888 Gen 3 Turbocharged TSI Engine
As far as I?m concerned, turbocharging is one of the elixirs of engine design. It always amazes me that a small little four-cylinder engine can go so fast and get good fuel economy too, when it?s turbocharged. Years ago, turbochargers were expensive and often didn?t hold up, but modern designs are even more efficient and much more dependable, my husband, Bill, reminds me. In fact, the four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged engine Volkswagen uses in many of their cars has been one of our favorite engines for several years.
A Jetta equipped with the new 1.8T engine and a six-speed automatic transmission now gets 36 mpg on the highway, up from 31 mpg for the 2.5-liter engine. City mileage improves from 24 to 25 mpg, and the overall EPA estimated combined fuel economy is now 29 mpg compared with 26 on the outgoing engine.
Zero to 60 mph acceleration times for the Jetta with manual transmission drop from 8.0 seconds with the five-cylinder down to 7.3 seconds for the 1.8T ? making the new engine truly a win/win.
VW Car-Net? In-Car Assistance
Volkswagen may be fashionably late to the in-car assistance party, but the extra primping they injected in to the VW Car-Net was worth the wait. General Motors first started offering the OnStar communication systems in 1995 and I have considered it one of the better safety features offered on a car. Since then, nearly every manufacturer has started offering variations of the service. The Volkswagen system brings new features and services to the table in an elegant easy to use package.
?Volkswagen Car-Net is a multifaceted connectivity system, seamlessly integrated into many of our cars,? said Frank Weith, General Manager, Connected Services. ?Not only does it offer our consumers an added sense of security with features like Automatic Crash Notification, but it also offers various convenience features for day-to-day use, such as Remote Vehicle Status and service appointment scheduling.?
VW Car-Net is a full-feature service with no options, which includes Automatic Crash Notification, Roadside Assistance, Agent Destination Assist, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Last Parked Location, Remote Vehicle Status and Service Appointment Scheduling.
Most of the Car-Net features can be accessed in the car through the buttons on the overhead console, on line at the VW Car-Net Portal or through an iPhone app (and Android app will be available soon).
New Volkswagen models equipped with VW Car-Net will receive a no-charge trial for six months after purchase. After the trial period, the service costs $17.99 monthly; 1 year, for $199; 2 years for $378; or 3 years for $540. The VW Car-Net is available on select trims levels of 2014 Jetta, Passat, Tiguan, CC, Beetle, Beetle Convertible, and Eos models.
The 2014 Volkswagen Models
There were 11 different models from the 2014 Volkswagen lineup available to drive, along with three European models, but time only allowed me to get into five cars; I have to confess they were already my favorites.
The Volkswagen Eos has unique features and a cute styling that have made it a car I would consider if I were in the market for a new personal car. I also would like to have a convertible. The retractable hardtop seems perfect for the rainy Northwest climate and more secure than the cloth top cars. There?s also a full-size built-in power sunroof to take quick advantage of the sun breaks we get here. Plus if the sun looks like it might stay for a few minutes, it takes the top only 25 seconds to cycle up or down. The Eos fits four adults comfortably and even has 10.5 cubic feet of trunk space, with the top down.
The Eos also has one of my favorite drivetrains, the 200-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the quick shifting DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The 2014 Eos model lineup has been cut back to three models, from four, is available in three trim levels: Komfort, Sport and Executive, with the well-equipped models priced from $36,060 to $42,560, including the destination charge. Navigation is standard on both the Komfort and Executive models. The Sport model is, well, sportier. Fuel economy is listed at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
Moving into its third year of the third generation the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle gets engine and suspension upgrades. The R-Line models get a boost with the updated 210-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The five-cylinder engine in the base models will be replaced by the new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder partway through the model year. The other engine option is the high mileage 2.0-liter turbocharged TDI diesel.
The Beetle is now available in nine configurations including the new limited-edition GSR? model, which is distinguished by its bold paint scheme and unique rear spoiler, dashboard, seating surfaces and markings.
The TDI is the Beetle mileage champ boasting 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway for the TDI engine. Pricing ranges from $20,815, including the destination charge, for the 2.5L up to $31,915 for the new GSR model and the Beetle R-Line with Sunroof, Fender audio and navigation system.
I would rate the Volkswagen CC as the sexiest and best-looking model in the Volkswagen lineup. The sweeping roofline and low sleek appearance make the CC easily the best value of all the four-door coupes available in North America.
The flagship of the Volkswagen sedans was redesigned in 2013 but gets a few more new features for 2014, including standard navigation and the available VW Car-Net? connectivity. A new convenience feature is the hands-free easy-open trunk that is activated by a foot movement.
The Sport, R-Line and Executive models are all front-wheel drive with the 200-hp version of the 2.0-lite turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The top model, the Executive, has a 280-hp V-6 engine and 4Motion? all-wheel drive.
This car would be at or near the top of my shopping list if they had all-wheel drive and the four-cylinder turbo or the TDI engine (which is not available in the CC.)
Pricing ranges from $32,660, including the destination charge for the Sport with six-speed manual transmission up to $43,310 for the Executive with a six-speed automatic, 4Motion and the V-6 engine. EPA fuel economy is 21 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with the manual transmission. The V-6 is rated at 17/25-mpg.
Volkswagen?s best-selling model, the Jetta, starts the model year with the new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine replacing the five-cylinder. The new engine is faster and fuel economy is improved by five mpg, with the automatic transmission. It also gets a precision electric-assist steering system and a new multilink rear suspension replacing the previous torsion-beam system.
Jetta has 14 trim configurations included in variations of the S, SE, SEL, TDI, GLI and Hybrid. Likewise, engine variations for the front-wheel drive sedan include a 115-hp 2.0-liter four cylinder, the new 1.8-liter turbo and the 2.0-liter TDI diesel, which boasts EPA fuel economy numbers of 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. The hybrid has the unusual configuration of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which gives it good acceleration and great fuel economy. The hybrid is rated at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.
Prices range from $17,540 for the Jetta S manual to $30,415 for the 2.0L TSI GLI Autobahn with Navigation and automatic transmission. As with most of the other VW models the Jetta is available with the new VW Car-Net? system.
The Jetta Hybrid SE is priced at $28,080 and the SEL Premium has a $32,265 sticker price.
Passat SEL Premium
The American built Passat has certainly been one of Volkswagen?s recent success stories. Most recently the Passat TDI? diesel set a new Guinness World Record for the ?lowest fuel consumption — 48 U.S. states for a non-hybrid car? category. The Passat recorded 77.99 mpg — more than 10 mpg better than the previous mark of 67.9 mpg. The achievement also beats the hybrid vehicle record of 64.6 mpg by more than 13 mpg.
For 2014, the Passat base engine is gradually being switched over during the model year from the in-line five-cylinder to the new turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder. It also gets the new electric assist steering system and the available VW Car-Net connectivity system. The new engine ups the fuel economy to 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
The Passat is also available with a 280-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine or the fuel sipping TDI 140-hp 2.0-liter diesel, which is rated at 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. The Passat TDI is the only diesel-powered car in the midsize category.
Available in 12 trim levels, Passat pricing ranges from $21,665, including the destination charge for the S model up to $34,715 for the V-6 SEL Premium. The TDI diesel pricing starts at $27,115.
With limited time, I didn?t get a chance to drive the Beetle Convertible, Jetta GLI, Jetta Hybrid, Tiguan, Touareg or any of the European models. My husband, Bill and I have driven some of these cars recently, and plan to review the others later in the model year.