Skip navigation

Confessions of a Flip Flopper

Judge Christie Schweinsberg says sayonara Prius, guten tag Jetta TDI.

Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Loyal Ward’s readers recall, during the summer, yours truly engaged in a battle royale with AutoWorld Executive Editor Tom Murphy.

On a trek to an annual auto conference in northern Michigan last August, Murphy and I decided it would be fun to stage a fuel-economy challenge: diesel vs. hybrid.

He selected a Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, the diesel fanboy’s favorite oil-burner. I got the keys to a shiny new ’10 Toyota Prius, the most-beloved hybrid-electric vehicle in the world.

Long story short: I smoked Murphy badly.

At best, the Jetta averaged 44 mpg (5.3 L/100 km), while the Prius hit an astonishing 60.1 mpg (3.9 L/100 km). I gloated afterward whenever possible.

But here in the United States of America, we have a right to change our minds and, well, without a race to win hanging over my head, I’ve seen the future and its name is diesel.

Ward’s 10 Best Engines judges tested the Prius and Jetta TDI in the same week in late November, and I found myself enamored with our VW tester and feeling lukewarm about the Prius.

The Prius’ fuel economy still was stellar, although hampered somewhat by the cold weather. But the overall driving experience was somewhat, uh, cold as well.

The Jetta TDI, on the other hand, oozed personality out of every vent when I drove it over Thanksgiving weekend. Sure, it had a moderate grumble, Ward’s editors all agreed.

But we overlooked the ruckus because, in the words of Associate Editor James Amend, the Jetta TDI has “lots and lots of lovely, delicious torque” – 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm) at 1,700-2,500 rpm to be exact.

That ample torque was always there as I dusted left-lane hogs while motoring north on Interstate-75 in the TDI.

Fuel economy for all judges averaged in the 30s, and one highway stretch in the TDI returned an astonishing 42.1 mpg (5.6 L/100 km).

While I still like the Prius (as well as another winner, the Ford Fusion Hybrid), VW’s 2.0L I-4 turbodiesel is my new favorite engine: power, personality and fuel economy all in one.

So, I proudly take my place alongside our nation’s best-known flip-floppers: George H.W. Bush, John Kerry and George W. Bush.

Move over, fellas!

[email protected]

Ward's 10 Best Engines is a copyright of Penton Media Inc. Commercial references to the program and/or awards are prohibited without prior permission of Ward's Automotive Group.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.