The automotive landscape has always been in a continual state of change, and the pace seems to have increased exponentially in the last decade. Perhaps it was Toyota’s well-known and much-loved bread and butter Prius that got the movement started towards environmental awareness. But in 2012, there are many eco-friendly hybrid choices from which to choose. Or possibly something slightly offbeat such as Nissan’s Leaf, GM’s Volt, or Ford’s Focus Electric potentially offers a charge for the modern driver.
Consumers are continually looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, but at the same time still want some performance and excitement in their driving experience. The positive news is that some of the more conventional options are still extremely viable, and there are companies working to ensure their technology has kept pace with the more stringent emission and economy standards.
The Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection) is no newcomer to the high efficiency, low environmental impact scene. All modern diesel engines use a turbocharger to increase the intake charge pressure, with the end result being higher combustion pressures. Subsequently, power output is increased with the potential for better fuel economy.
The Volkswagen TDI continues to be a great choice for some motorists as the powertrain is ideally suited for piling on the highway miles. While a small diesel engine will pull itself around town, the open road is where the engine is happiest, and the fuel efficiency potential is fully realized.
I recently had the opportunity to test drive a creatively modified VW Jetta TDI at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit, Michigan.
But this is no ordinary Jetta. At the prompting of The Robert Bosch Corporation, supplier of the direct injection common rail system for the 2.0 liter engine, this Jetta made its way to Gale Banks Engineering facility in Azusa, California. Banks’ operation is known for solid engineering practices and quality aftermarket tuning parts.
May I introduce the Bosch-Banks Sidewinder Jetta TDI.
The car got a boost in performance from a ram-air intake – an enclosed cold air intake system that streamlines components, eliminates stock restrictions and supplies cooler, denser air for greater power and economy. At the other end of the equation the high flow exhaust system uncorked a restrictive stock system. Worth noting is all the emission control devices have been left intact!
The Six Gun Tuner is the device that makes engine performance enhancement possible. The Banks engineers write dyno-proven, safe engine computer program calibrations that take advantage of modern common-rail diesel systems and control injection timing and duration.
The tuner module monitors the car’s vital signs and adjusts power levels to protect the powertrain from damage through Banks’ AutoRate and ActiveSafety systems. The system is designed to enhance performance, not kill the engine or the environment. Rounding off the engine package is the Banks IQ, a visual interface that provides direct driver control over the Six Gun’s power-enhancing magic. The car also received sport springs on all four corners, 25mm front & rear tubular anti-sway bars, 19″ alloy wheels, and sticky low profile summer tires.
Many years ago, I figured out the hard way that there are many ways to mess up good engineering. Fortunately, Banks Engineering continues to practice great engineering, and their products deliver as promised.
My test drive started with some boring low speed stop and go traffic. Next a quick blast on the freeway was in order, which included some handling affirmation on the off ramps. The suspension was firm, but not to the point of punishing the occupants or driver. The engine produces lots of low end torque, which makes for a very drivable package. I absolutely loved the performance of the engine. The engine modifications and suspension tweaks to this car have been well thought out and executed.
Driven in a sane fashion, I’m told the Jetta obtains excellent fuel economy. But given the extra power, I had a hard time not using it, and subsequently I’m sure the fuel economy suffered. Restraint is the operative word for maximum frugality.
This car addresses the hard questions in the automotive world. Can a person have an environmental conscience, drive clean, and still have an eye towards performance modifications? Absolutely. The Sidewinder Jetta proves that it can be done, and done well.