2008 Volkswagen Jetta


$2,518 - $3,452

2008 Volkswagen Jetta Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta was new.


Performance: 8.0

The majority of experts agree that the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta offers solid performance for its class, and particularly good handling. Motor Week calls the Jetta "light and nimble in corners," while MSN chimes in that "it's nimble and fun to drive."

Cars.com writes, "With wholly predictable handling, it's simply masterful through curves." They note that it is "fairly quiet," too. The Jetta has a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine capable of 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic is available for all trims.

Acceleration and Power

Most reviewers find the Jetta's engine adequate. Edmunds writes, "It's not the smoothest engine in the world, but it provides adequate acceleration in any situation, making it a big step up from previous base Jetta engines." MSN notes its "get-up-and-go" capabilities when merging and passing saying, "The sedan added a little something more, too: The extra ′oomph′ when I passed cars on two-lane roads was noticeable." Autobytel says that with the new engine, the Jetta "feels adequately powered instead of underpowered."

Still, not every review is positive. Automobile Magazine finds the 2.5-liter engine to be "a touch anemic," and says "its noise is intrusive when you're running it hard. It's no surprise this engine must work hard in the new Jetta, since the car not only weighs more than a like-sized Corolla, but also slightly more than the midsize Toyota Camry." While the Detroit News generally likes the engine, they also feel the odd number of cylinders on the 2.5 might be a determent to some buyers: "Unfortunately, too many competitors in this price segment, including the Pontiac G6 and the Mazda6, offer six-cylinder engines. The Jetta's lack of one will likely cost VW some sales."

According to the EPA, the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta gets an estimated 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway using either a manual or automatic transmission. Experts find that to be adequate, but say the car's size doesn't help. Autobytel feels the overall fuel economy is "disappointing," whereas The Auto Channel says the new sedan gets "as much as my old air-cooled Beetle ever got, and the Jetta is considerably quicker, quieter, and more comfortable."

Overall, VW wins praise for the Jetta's transmission. Automobile Magazine says, "Both the manual and automatic transmissions are slick and fun to use." Cars.com reports, "the automatic transmission operates effortlessly."

The Triptonic mode on the automatic also receives good reviews. It's activated when the shift lever is moved into a gate to the right of main gear track. Shifting the lever forward chooses a higher gear; lower gears are selected by pulling back on the lever. This mechanism allows the driver to choose the gear without having to use a clutch. After noting that the Triptonic transmission is "unusual in this class of car,"Automotive.com writes, "As much as we like to shift gears manually, this is a peach of a transmission and will satisfy even the sport-minded with its response and precision." And, CNET says it "makes life easy for the commuter but provides manual control when wanted."

Handling and Braking

Many critics were pleased with the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta's steering and handling. Car and Driver notes that "its everyday responses are reasonably brisk." Edmunds feels the 2008 is not as edgy as the previous model, but says that "the current VW Jetta has a rock-solid feel with a surprisingly quiet ride." They also write the Jetta "manages to provide both comfortable ride quality and agile handling."

The Jetta features a new electro-mechanical steering system that receives mostly positive reviews. MSN feels that "the new electro-mechanical power steering is responsive, although a little heavy," whereas Autobytel says that the steering is "a model of perfection."

Experts feel that the suspension is one of the stand-out features. Auto Mall USA writes, "This is the best-handling front-wheel-drive car Volkswagen has produced." The Detroit News says, "In terms of vehicle dynamics, the Jetta's ride and handling have improved significantly, reflecting the vehicle's larger size and some serious enhancements to the chassis and driveline," adding, "VW has fitted an independent multilink rear suspension for the first time to the Jetta, and has upgraded the strut/coil front suspension. The ride is well-damped and controlled, and is impressive for a car in this class."

All 2008 Volkswagen Jetta's stop with antilock disc brakes featuring Electronic Brake Force Distribution. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive on this system, with the Sacramento Bee saying that the brakes will "stop you on a dime." Automobile Magazine reports, "The anti-lock braking system works really well -- with exemplary straight-line stability." MSN also makes note of the braking system, writing, "The new Jetta has larger brakes than its predecessor – good to have as the base engine power has increased."

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