Sometimes, things work out for the best. I’ve been happy as a clam this week, test driving a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen. I had initially hoped to test drive the Jetta TDI last summer when the model was first reintroduced to America, but circumstances being what they’ve been, the opportunity did not present itself until now.
And that’s a nice turn of fate.
At the peak of last summer’s gas price madness, diesel fuel was a dollar or so more expensive than regular gasoline, with prices dancing around five dollars a gallon. As gas prices crashed last fall, diesel fuel prices fell, but a large price differential remained between gasoline and diesel. At some point, that gap began to narrow. Now I’m not going to be a complete cynic and attribute the narrowing gap to the departure of the oil men from Our Nation’s Capitol, but it does seem odd. Perhaps what we’re seeing right now is a result of the switch in refinery production from heating oil to diesel fuel. Or not. I was just glad to have not paid five bucks a gallon testing a car that I was drooling to drive … for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles (for your benefit, of course).
This morning, with the Jetta TDI’s tank just under half full, I decided to head up the road a few miles to the next town to fill up the tank. Now some folks still cling to the thought that diesel fuel is hard to come buy.
To that I gladly and wholeheartedly say hogwash.
Six of the seven service stations I passed on the highway this morning had diesel fuel, with prices ranging from $2.29 to $2.35 per gallon. I balked at paying that much, knowing I always find less expensive fuel on the other side of the river (where gas prices are always cheaper). I swung the Jetta hard to starboard and headed fifteen minutes east. Boy was I shocked to find the first station – a Seven Eleven/Valero monstrosity – selling diesel for a whopping $2.59 on the two-lane highway. I drove another five minutes to US Route One and immediately hit pay dirt: two service stations, side-by-side, with diesel at just $2.07.
And the kicker? One of them was a Valero station.
That’s right … a fifty+ cent per gallon variation between two of the very same company’s service stations, within a five minute drive. If someone can explain that anomaly, I’m all ears.
For the most part, diesel fuel was roughly twenty cents higher than premium fuel at most of the stations I passed, and approximately fifty cents higher than regular. For a driver accustomed to buying premium gasoline, and paying a premium, for a high-compression engine, another twenty cents per gallon for diesel fuel is money well spent, considering the substantial fuel economy benefits.
So what’s it like to drive the new Jetta TDI?
Without spoiling the fun, I’ll just share that the Jetta TDI’s 2.0 clean diesel engine has been an absolutely wonderful, delivering plenty of torque with excellent fuel economy.
You’ll just have to wait until I finish up the Jetta TDI Sportwagen’s review …