Remember when anything with a turbo was suddenly way cool? A turbo and some cool stickers could make a Chevy Sprint cool. But can it make a Volkswagen Beige Jetta cool? Hmmm...
This looks like the campaign VW is going with as it launches its newest Jetta variant, the captain of Beigekrieg. And the idea of a Jetta Hybrid is very simple: one-part Jetta 1.4-liter with an electric motor to somehow get VW the business that would've gone to Prius-shoppers who can't bear the thought of driving an oil-burner.
But VW wants hybrid buyers to think this Jetta is, in fact, special, because it has what no other hybrid on the market today seems to promote: it's a turbo! Turbo used to be synonymous with cool things and somehow make stuff more awesome. Not to overuse the Renault Fuego comparison, but a Renault Fuego is just some car. Renault Fuego Turbo? Now we're talking. "Sure it's a hybrid. But it's a turbo hybrid." That text just sounds like an excuse.
Jetta Turbo Hybrid? That doesn't sound quite right. I'm sure, though, that the Jetta Turbo Hybrid is more fun to drive than a Prius, but that isn't why people buy these kinds of cars. Where are the MPG figures in big bold letters? Performance hybrid? Lexus tries that on luxury cars and it doesn't work. Honda tries it with the CR-Z, although that likely fails because it's not good at being either a performance car or a hybrid.
BMW doesn't promote that its 3 and 5-series ActiveHybrids are turbocharged, using the 3-liter straight-six turbo from the 335i and 535i. I have a feeling they know that calling them Again, hybrid buyers care about the numbers more than anything else. Yes, a Jetta Turbo Hybrid gets more MPGs than a TDI, according to the EPA. But it also costs a whole lot more than a similar TDI, which costs noticeably more than a gas Jetta. That's not going to sit well with number crunchers.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see people strapping turbos to things, but that alone does not make a Beige hybrid cool. Call me old fashioned, but I remember great big turbos being used to make things with small engines excitingly fast. Fuel economy wasn't as important as adding a sudden rush of power. The bottom line is this: if you know about cars and want something that's very efficient, you're probably going to end up with a turbodiesel. If you're into hybrids for the fuel economy, you're probably going to buy a Prius. And the world will continue.