2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

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Up to now, Volkswagen has not been in the forefront of hybrid technology for its production cars. Diesels, definitely. hybrid versions of its Touareg SUV, yes. But battery/gasoline have not been high on the vehicles-to-come list from the German automaker.

That shortfall is being remedied at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where Volkswagen is launching what it calls the "No Compromise, Compact Hybrid." As described by the automaker, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid marries "performance and engaging handling with miserly combined fuel economy." Specifically, Volkswagen estimates combined (city/highway) gas mileage at 45 miles per gallon.

Capable of operating in battery-only mode for up to 1.2 miles (depending on conditions), at as much as 44 mph, the Jetta Hybrid will be the world's first hybrid with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, Volkswagen advises. Working cooperatively with an electric motor is a turbocharged 1.4-liter gasoline engine–the first time this engine has been offered in the U.S. market. The turbo four develops 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, combined with a 27-horsepower (20-kilowatt) electric motor. Weighing less than 80 pounds, the lithium-ion battery is integrated behind the rear bench seat.

As for performance, Volkswagen calls this Jetta the fastest hybrid in its class, with an estimated 0-60 mph acceleration time of less than 9 seconds. A clutch decouples the gasoline engine when the car is in pure electric drive or coasting mode. Unlike conventional hybrid systems, when the gasoline engine stops, it's disengaged from the system. So, when the car starts off again, it's in pure electric drive (provided that the battery is sufficiently charged).

An E-mode button for brief battery-only operation sits to the right of the gearshift lever. During "spirited" driving or when battery capacity is low, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid runs on the gasoline engine alone.

Aerodynamic modifications to the Jetta Hybrid include a new front air dam, a rear diffuser, and an integrated rear spoiler. Special 15-inch tires promise low rolling resistance. An information display can show an energy flow diagram, direction of energy flow, and battery charge state. A Power meter replaces the customary tachometer, and an ePower meter indicates the relative power of the electric motor. Premium features include LED taillights and daytime running lights, along with bi-xenon headlights.

With the addition of a hybrid setup, VW Jettas will be available with a choice of five different powertrains. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid sales begin late in 2012, as a 2013 model.

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