The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI is all-new this year, known as Golf VII or the seventh-generation. It’s available in both a five-door hatch as our SEL is here as well as the SportWagen model.
Built on the all new MQB architecture from Volkswagen, the new Golf is a bit larger than before, yet lighter in weight. It’s also safer than ever with top ratings from both the IIHS and the Federal Government in their crash testing.
Under the hood of our tester is the all-new for 2015 2.0 liter turbo-diesel engine. It has 150 horsepower, and 236 pound-feet of torque. In this model it’s rated by the EPA at 31 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 36 mpg combined.
The Golf is available with several power sources in addition to the TDI which include turbocharged gasoline engines, the 1.8 TSI and the 2.0 TSI’s which are found in the high-performance GTI and Golf R. It’s also available as an electric car, the e-Golf.
In test driving the 2015 VW Golf TDI this week we really came to wonder what some buyers must go through when looking at all the options. Many diesel car owners are also evangelists and enthusiasts who wouldn’t think twice about driving away with a new TDI.
Most average car buyers however would look at this palette of choices with a genuine battle of mind, trying to decide which to choose based not on their love and trust to an ideal, but what pencils for their budget. Trying a diesel for the first time can be a leap of faith for some.
Given that, we decided to take this test drive as an opportunity to use the 2015 Golf TDI as a poster-child for expressing all the pros and cons to choosing and owning a diesel car. Perhaps if we can help just one struggling buyer in this world, it will be worth it all. Noble correct?
As stated our tester is rated at rated EPA at 31 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 36 mpg combined by the EPA’s testing regime. This testing is a prescribed methodology that all cars are subjected to in a laboratory style setting, which takes into account driving at various speeds, conditions and loads.
Our experience testing a lot of these diesel cars is that more often than not you can easily exceed these EPA estimates, where in gasoline cars that is harder to do. We suspect the testing methods the EPA prescribes is less friendly to diesel engines. But that is only our gut instinct, no science backs that up.
The end result for our test this week in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf is however a factual matter which is a 46 mpg combined average on a tank of fuel. This was achieved without really trying hard on the highway, in town and including some mountainous driving as seen in our video here.
How much diesel fuel costs has been a huge deciding factor in the last decade for diesel car owners as it has been costing up to 30-40% more than gasoline. Traditionally however diesel fuel has been less expensive than gasoline. As this is written, diesel is now at parity or slightly lower than regular gasoline in price across most of the U.S.
Diesel Car Price Difference
Diesel cars cost more than their gasoline counterparts. This is because the engines are more complex, built to a higher engineering and quality standard, and the level of research and development required for them is far more comprehensive.
Most manufacturers selling diesel cars in the U.S. tend to mask the extra cost of a diesel engine by only offering it in higher trim levels where the profit margin can absorb some hard cost. Volkswagen has done this in the past, but at current offers the 2015 Golf in a full model range both in gas and diesel.
The price difference between a gasoline 2015 Golf 4-door 1.8 TSI (gasoline) and a TDI is about $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the model. Note that the 1.8 TSI comes with an automatic transmission standard where the TDI is offered both with a manual and an automatic.
Golf 4-Door TSI S Automatic = $20,995
Golf TDI S Manual = $22,345 + 1,350
Golf TDI S Automatic = $23,445 + 2,450
Golf 4-Door TSI SEL Automatic = $27,395
Golf TDI SEL Manual = $28,395 + 1,000
Golf TDI SEL Automatic =$29,495 + 2,100
What many often forget to factor in when penciling out the diesel car is resale value. This is very important because diesel cars most often have significantly higher used-car values than their gasoline counterparts.
We invite you to simply look on Ebay, Cars.com, AutoTrader,com or any other source ofr used cars for sale and you will see diesel car prices for vehicles with 100k, 200k and even 300k miles showing extremely strong pricing.
We took as a more scientific example a five-year old Volkswagen Golf and compared both a gasoline and TDI model on Kelly Blue Book’s website KBB.com. Looking at book values for identically equipped 2010 Golf models with 100,000 miles we found what bolsters the argument.
You can get your money spent optioning the diesel back, and often more. The more miles, the higher the price spread for resale value.
2010 Golf 2.5 (gasoline) 4-Door Automatic with 100k miles = $8,147
2010 Golf TDI 4-Door Automatic with 100k miles = $10,929 + 2,782
One of the most prevalent diesel myths is that they are slow and noisy. Most people saying this might also point to a hybrid car as the alternative. Let’s be honest, most hybrid cars are not only slow and noisy, but as fun to drive as a bus.
Most hybrids have a constantly variable transmission which makes the gas engine sound like a leaf blower under power. The engine is constantly shutting off and starting up while on the go, causing shuddering and roughness. Power delivery is often science experiment like at best.
Diesel cars on the other hand offer oodles of torque on demand delivered through traditional transmissions. The result is power you can feel in your backside when you ask for it, coming through wheels in a way you would expect.
And to the Golf TDI, with its 50 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, it delivers impressive acceleration right off the line. Hill pulling requires little mashing of the throttle as its turbocharged power curve keeps the torque going even at low rpm.
When it comes to noise, they are really no more noisy at at idle and under acceleration than many of their modern gasoline engined counterparts with direct fuel-injection. At speed cruising, you cannot tell the difference in noise levels between diesel and gasoline engines.
There was a time when diesel cars smoked, and a time when they smelled. There was also a time when gasoline cars had exhaust that made your eyes water and gave you headaches if you were stuck in commute gridlock. In both cases that time is gone.
The 2015 Golf TDI’s EA288 engine as well as most contemporary diesel cars have extensive exhaust after-treatment systems which filter the particulates and soot, catalyze the chemical mixture, and with urea injection actually neutralize the worst of the pollutants.
In the end, the actual measurable pollutants from today’s diesel cars is at a level which is sometimes cleaner than many gasoline powered vehicles. They meet 50-state emissions as well as the toughest of European standards. And no, they don’t smoke.
There is a dirty word for diesel cars however, and it’s maintenance. Diesel cars cost more to maintain over their lifetimes. This is because things like oil and filter changes are more expensive due to the higher quality specification for it. Most diesel cars require synthetic oils for example.
The other reason for increased cost is that the service intervals and schedule must be followed to the letter. If you don’t do everything it says, on time, it will cost you even more in the end when the engine develops nasty little problems as a result.
For buyers who lease a diesel car for a term of a few years or those who typically trade ever three to four years this is less an issue as most of the expensive maintenance intervals are at high miles. And with many cars, the maintenance for initial years is included in the price.
Given the diesel car is maintained to the letter, the end result is that they last much longer than gasoline powered cars. It’s not uncommon to see used diesel cars with 200,000 plus miles for sale which run and operate well, commanding strong pricing.
Because of the high-compression nature of diesel engines, their blocks, heads, internal parts and fuel systems are designed and engineered to a higher standard just to keep them together.
Higher quality parts are used, which have a side effect of not wearing out nearly as fast as the lesser bits found in most gasoline engines.
Diesel cars aren’t for everyone. They are however becoming increasingly a sensible and attractive option for buyers who look to keep a car for a long period of time for all the reasons listed here.
Volkswagen just happens to be the brand in the U.S. who offers the widest range of them in the showroom, followed by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW. American brands Jeep and Chevrolet offer crossovers and cars, but in much smaller numbers.
The 2015 Golf TDI represents the middle ground of it all in our estimation, being one of the least expensive, the most popular, and the most versatile in terms of model offerings.