Volkswagen held test drives and demonstrations of the 2013 Jetta Turbo Hybrid for the media last week. This newcomer to the Volkswagen fleet impressed reporters with easy handling as well as comfortable styling. Customers might be impressed by these features but Volkswagen’s efforts to bring down fuel consumption will be a much better selling point. Volkswagen anticipates the Jetta TDI Diesel and the Jetta Turbo Hybrid working in tandem among American consumers to boost market share. The 2013 Jetta Turbo Hybrid is expected to start from $24,995 with additional trim levels and options yet to be priced.
The Jetta Turbo Hybrid tweaks a hybrid drive train originally featured in the Touareg Hybrid produced in 2010. Volkswagen combined a 20 kW electric motor with a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine to provide some power for driving purists. This hybrid uses a 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack built with Sanyo cells. Representatives from Volkswagen noted that the Jetta Turbo Hybrid is the first hybrid in the fleet to use lithium-ion cells. An innovative seven-speed transmission points not only to the automaker’s traditional focus on handling but a subtle effort to boost fuel economy.
Drivers need not worry about losing fuel while idling as the Jetta Turbo Hybrid operates on all-electric power up to 37 miles per hour. Volkswagen did caution that all-electric power at low speeds was contingent on acceleration levels, road inclination and battery life. The engine actually disconnects from the drive system during electric mode, thus separating the Turbo Hybrid from traditional hybrids. Engineers at Volkswagen apparently found sufficient power to keep climate controls and electrical systems going strong at low speeds. The E-Mode option available from the central console allows the driver to hit 44 MPH using only electrical power. Volkswagen also included a passive boost mode where the electric motor controls all of the auxiliary system while the engine focuses on propulsion.
Performance estimates for the 2013 Jetta Turbo Hybrid show Volkswagen’s continued concern with balancing performance and economy. An estimated fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon keeps the Jetta Turbo Hybrid competitive with more established hybrids. Volkswagen will electronically limit the maximum speed at 125 MPH in North America to maximum fuel economy. Early testing showed that the Jetta Turbo Hybrid can hit 60 MPH from a full stop in 8.6 seconds. Target customers for the Jetta brand including young professionals and families will appreciate Volkswagen’s balancing act.
Volkswagen hopes that the 2013 Jetta Turbo Hybrid can achieve 5% of Jetta sales in the United States within the first year. The words green and Volkswagen are rarely found together as the automaker was among the slowest firms to move toward the next generation of drive systems. The simplest way to zip through years of R&D and marketing is to meld an existing model with hybrid components.
Volkswagen knows that the Jetta already has appeal in major American cities. The main variable for Volkswagen is convincing new customers to pay the premium price rather than opting for a brand with proven hybrid models.