Wagon Week: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

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When I think roadtrip vehicle, my mind immediately goes to the frugal and capable Jetta TDI. When driven carefully, they can far exceed their standard MPG ratings while swallowing tons of gear. All this with class-leading comfort and style in the interior. My main gripe is the unattractive front end, but in my dreams I just throw a TDI Cup front end on it, creating a seriously good-looking wagon. This 2009 Sportwagen has a lot of positives – low mileage, 6-speed manual, panoramic roof and premium sound are all boxes I’d want ticked. The glaring downside is the rebuilt title, which we know is always a big liability. A full inspection could suss out if the driver’s-side collision really was minor and if everything is good to go. Rebuilt titles mean low resale values – maybe not ideal if you sell it in the future, but if everything checks out it creates an insane deal on an ultimate roadtrip machine.

Click for details: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI on eBay

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Wagon Week: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant

There are plenty of popular Volkswagens that demand premiums, sometimes inexplicably. These special models have a draw and demand money that makes people laugh. Sure, in the car world, it’s become accepted that vehicles like the 21 window Samba are now $100,000 plus fully restored; however, tell that to my father-in-law, who grew up driving them, and you’ll get nothing but boisterous laughs. Other Volkswagens exhibit charm or were class leaders; the GTi, the Vanagon Westy, the Corrado – stylish in their own ways, with charm to match. Then there’s the Passat. Despite the serious popularity of the B5 and B5.5 chassis, I still feel like I need to explain to people that they’re really quite nice cars. Do you know why? Mostly it’s because of the reputation of the B3 and B4 Passats. Poor build quality coupled with an unerring tendency of early 90s Volkswagens to rust heavily meant they’re an odd choice for the Volkswagen fan. And when I consider the B4 Passat, all I can think is that it’s arguably the most vanilla Volkswagen ever produced. I praised Volkswagen when they launched the B3; smooth, aerodynamic with a distinctive wedge shape, it looked very different than any other sedan on sale at the time. Most of that distinction came down to the grill-less front end, but regardless it was cool. It was so cool, in fact, that no one got it. Of course, it didn’t help that it was pretty expensive and not particularly reliable in the best trend of early 90s VWs. So it probably came as no surprise when the revised B4 Passat in 1995 when more mainstream. New wheels, mostly new body panels and some minor interior changes signaled its introduction, but that’s not what people sought. No, the big news was under the hood; Volkswagen moved the 1Z 1.9 TDi into the Passat – and behind the headlines of the Vans, Corrados and GTis, it’s probably the most sought 1990s Volkswagen – especially in 5-speed Variant form.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant on eBay

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup TDI

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Today we have a sweet Rabbit Pickup that has gone through a complete restoration and updated to a rebuilt 1997 TDI motor from a Passat. These were efficient little buggers in the first place, but now it’s got a little more power while maintaining the best gas mileage of any truck out there. It may not be the most attractive Caddy we’ve seen, as the emblemless grille and tacked-on hood scoop scar the front while the innocuous grey has that slightly dull finish marking a budget repaint. But the interior is quite nice with Recaros and a nice wood wheel-and-knob combo, underscoring the fact that this little pickup is built for comfort and utility. With just 15k miles on the renewed package, the seller is looking for top-Caddy dollar, asking $11,400.

Click for details: 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup TDI

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1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI

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The Volkswagen B3/4 Passat has always been a rather anonymous sedan, not as sporty as the Jetta that it stood above nor sharp compared to the other blocky European sedans of the day. Anonymity is valued by many, however, and in the world of commuter cars, it can pay to fly under the radar. This black on tan 1996 Passat just does that, and has the 1.9-liter diesel to make it a great commuter choice. Bland looks and personality aside, this is one of the cleanest B4s I’ve ever seen, looking nearly showroom-fresh inside and out. Roughly 130k miles on a TDI is similarly “good as new,” making this a unique chance at a model that would otherwise be completely unremarkable.

Click for details: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI on eBay

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

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It is with a slight bit of envy that I’ve noticed that each Jetta Sportwagen I pass in the Bay Area has the little TDI emblem on the back. It is the mark of the modern young suburban professional family that is environmentally friendly but doesn’t quite have the cash or ostentatiousness to buy a Tesla. When the Sportwagen TDI first came out, there were waitlists here and even today they hold their value remarkably well, with low-mileage examples demanding anywhere from the high teens to the mid-$20ks. To find one for cheaper than that, you’re usually looking at high-mileage commuters or dealing with rebuilt titles, but every once in a while you can find a middle-grounder like today’s 2009 model that won’t break the bank.

With 80k miles, DSG, and a 4-year warranty this silver Sportwagen is a great all-around commuter or roadtripper for a nice price.

Click for details: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen on eBay

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10K Friday: Practical Performance Edition – S4 Avant v. 944 Turbo v. S600 v. Passat TDi Variant v. M5

One of the things I love most about these 10K posts is the breadth of selections and ideas that I dream up to try to pull together. Today’s thought was about practical performance – what’s the most your can buy for $10,000? As a result, we have quite a diverse selection to make it through today, ranging from a 2.0 TDi gas sipper through a 5.5 liter, twin-turbocharged V12 torque monster. In their respective ways, each is a great car (at least, in premise) and probably defines its category. What’s your favorite of this group?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi S4 quattro Avant on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI

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Before the Touareg’s efficiency-minded V6 diesel, Volkswagen put their bonkers 5.0 liter V10 TDI in the family jellybean, a move that garnered little fanfare other than a brief internet stardom at the expense of a Chevy 2500 HD’s pride. With 313hp and 553lb-ft of torque, a small V10 TDI badge was the only indication that a monster lurked within. Today’s example comes in a quiet grey on grey, all the better to surprise the stump when you rip it out of the ground, or pull an unsuspecting 747 like the one a V10 TDI towed in 2006. I miss the gorgeous saddle brown leather of the last Touareg I wrote up , but this one is priced exactly where that one ended and has 30k fewer miles. It’s still well above Blue Book, but clearly there are diesel enthusiasts out there ready to pay for MOAR POWAH.

Click for details: 2004 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI for sale on Richmond, Virginia’s Craigslist

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1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX/TDi Variant

Yesterday, the blog Daily Turismo wrote up a 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 Variant 6-speed, the very car I wrote up about 10 months ago here. In looking back at my original article, I suggested that at under $8,000 I’d be interested, but that part of that interest was going to be setting aside enough money to do a TDI motor swap when the inevitable problems popped up with the W8 mill. I find the idea of a performance oriented chassis with a fuel-sipping TDi swap intriguing; the exterior of the W8 just looks that little bit better than the normal Passat with a few small details that make a big difference, but the complexity and inability to use the power of the engine means day-to-day, and for the long run, the TDi would probably be a better engine choice for me. I’m not alone in thinking this, apparently – though the VR6 isn’t known as being as finicky as the W8, here’s a 1995 Passat GLX VR6 Variant that’s undergone the swap I propose:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX/TDi Variant on eBay

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Motorsport Mondays: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup

Not that long ago, if you were at a gathering of automobile enthusiasts and said you had a diesel race car, you would likely have been laughed out of the group. And if I’m completely honest, I probably would have been one of those laughing. The term “diesel” coupled with “performance” just were two words at opposite ends of the spectrum to me even as recently as the mid 1990s. I recall that I had a friend who was very excited about the then relatively new TDi Golf and Jetta, reciting from carefully memorized brochures the fuel economy figures in any given situation. But then, something strange happened. I grew up and got a job where I had to drive – a lot – and was footing my own gas bill. Suddenly, the concept of 50 m.p.g. and having something a little different than the typical performance cars made sense to me. I was contemplating all sorts of weird permutations, generally into the cars I owned. For example, I thought the concept of swapping a diesel motor into the V8 quattro chassis was an interesting one, or for that matter an Audi S6 – the look of performance, but the mileage and run-for-eternity longevity of a diesel motor. Then Volkswagen did us all a favor and started bringing over performance versions of their TDi cars, starting with the Jetta TDi Cup Edition. An effective homologation of their one-make race series, the TDi Cups were essentially a GLi with the TDi powerplant – and offer performance in corners to make things fun coupled to fuel economy that makes life more practical:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup on eBay

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1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant

In the realm of desirable German cars, the Volkswagen Passat scores remarkably low – undermining what a great car it truly is. There have been a few generations now, some based upon Audis and some based upon modified Golf platforms. Each platform has it’s own stars; the B2 saw the Audi Quattro-based GL5 Synro. For B3 fans, the 16V G60 Syncro Variant turned things up a notch, even if it wasn’t available in the U.S.. And the B5.5 saw the development version of the “W” engine platform, with one of the most highly sought after Passats in the form of the W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed manual. But while the B4 had no such enthusiast notables, there were two very competent versions of the mid-90s Passats available. First was the sporty VR6 model, especially desirable in Variant form since we didn’t receive the 4-door GTi or Golf Variant on these shores. But for the budget-minded mega-milers, one of the true hidden gems of the water-cooled community was produced – the TDi Variant. Available only for a short time and in limited numbers, these cars are easily capable of a Prius-crushing 50 m.p.g. and have room for the family. Like many of the Audi/Volkswagen products, they have a loyal community that follows them and enthusiastically cares for them, no matter how many miles pop up. Recently we saw one of these TDi Variants top $13,000 in similar condition – about as strong as money gets for any of the pre-2000 watercooled Volkswagen products outside of the camper vans:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant on eBay

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