Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen is killing the Jetta and Passat’s five-cylinder engine. Upon learning this news, exactly no one in our office observed a moment of silence or shot off a gun in a salute to VW’s five. Why not? Well, the engine’s heavy iron block, lackluster power, unimpressive fuel economy, and odd thrum didn’t win any admirers. In exchange for the five, VW is offering a new turbocharged 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder that, according to Volks­wagen, is related to the GTI’s turbo four.

Learning that an engine is related to the GTI’s is like hearing that your blind date is with Kate Upton’s sister. Expectations rise. At 170 horsepower, the new turbo makes the same peak output as the 2.5, but does so at lower rpm. Torque is up seven pound-feet to 184, and the maximum arrives at 1500 rpm, or 2750 rpm lower than in the larger five. Acceleration to 60 mph in the five-speed-manual version takes 7.2 seconds, which is a full second quicker than the five could muster with a stick.

Quiet and brimming with torque, the new engine lacks the revvy nature of its GTI cousin. Nor does it have a charismatic sound, just a subdued hum. But it’s the tall gearing, presumably chosen for fuel economy, that really relieves the engine of most of its charm. Second gear is good for 71 mph in the long five-speed, which keeps the revs low and the fervor lower.  A shorter final-drive ratio would go a long way toward waking up this engine.

It now has an independent rear suspension and swaps its five for a four, but don’t worry: The Jetta SE remains stubbornly stoic.

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