I generally like ample ground clearance on my vehicles. Even my little Smart Fortwo sits three inches taller than stock so I can take it deep off-road. I used to make fun of the “stance” crowd because their cars couldn’t overcome everyday road obstacles. But, I recently bought a lowered Volkswagen Jetta TDI wagon. Just in time for winter!
Here’s how it happened: My Passat TDI wagon continues to make absolutely no oil pressure. In a last ditch effort to save it, I took the recommendation of a reader and TDI mechanic and contacted local VW specialists. I was planning to haul the wagon out for a professional diagnosis but it and my Passat W8 and a couple other cars were illegally towed. I still don’t have my cars back, but that’s a story for another day.
Without actually looking at the car, the best the specialists could do was warn me that opening the engine up will quickly result in a high bill. So, when the car returns the plan remains the same, use some parts for the W8 then pass it on.
Then I started looking for another car to replace it with. One option was a second W8, but with an automatic and a straight body.
But as much as two W8s sounded like great fun, an automatic transmission does not.
I also considered a newer Passat 4Motion wagon and an Audi A6 4.2 liter V8. But as interesting as those cars were, I wanted something weird and kinda stupid. I began branching out and looking at what few Mazda Miatas I could find that were both cheap and not a pothole away from splitting in half. But then I saw these pictures of a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta TDI wagon:
Whoa, is that a widebody? That color is amazing! It’s a low-mileage diesel wagon with a manual transmission, too? Look at those Rotiform wheels. My heart! I don’t even like cars like this, what’s wrong with me?
I remembered seeing this car listed for sale some six months ago, but I didn’t click on the ad because the ask at the time — around $5,000 — was too high for my cheapskate self. Several months later, it was posted again for a fraction of the price. I bought it.
I’m still confused why I like this car so much, but it does so much for me. It’s riding on an Airlift Performance 3P air suspension, has a tune, NRG seats and an Android stereo head unit. I was concerned that the air suspension might be broken or leaky, but that fear didn’t deter me. It works and can be set to give the car close to factory ground clearance. No scraping on every crack in the road.
The Jetta even drives better than expected. Despite a boost issue intermittently triggering limp mode, the car pulls hard. Even in limp mode the car will happily speed down the highway at 80 miles an hour.
Based on the dusty cobwebs all through the interior and the very expired license plate, I think the seller stopped driving the car when the intermittent limp issue started. He moved on to a lifted diesel Beetle and never looked back.
I’m used to rolling around with enough ground clearance that I can work on the vehicle while sitting under it. I mean, I can almost fit an entire sitting room under my bus! A slammed and heavily modded car like this is so outside the norm for me that it almost feels wrong.
I was skeptical of the car having only 148,000 miles, but the lack of rust and the clean interior would seem to back up what the odometer says.
One of the previous owners added four-inch wheel-opening flares in back and three-inch flares up front. The seller didn’t know for sure, but they, along with the angry hood, appear to be metal.
A set of 18-inch Rotiform SPF wheels fill the gap. Then the car was painted in a shade reminiscent of the Golf R32 of the same generation. I love it, including the dumb quick-release steering wheel (though the off-center sticker needs to go). I’m still discovering all the cool mods.
So what are my plans with this car? I want to fix a couple of cosmetic issues and figure out the intermittent underboost issue. Then I’ll enjoy the car as it is. This is my first foray into the world of bagged and stanced cars, and I plan on getting the full experience. So far, I can see why people love these kinds of cars.