In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall


There are always fun things to do in the city! This morning, Don and I went to Scotiabank Place and took part in the Ottawa stop of the Volkswagen Freedriving tour.


To use their own words,

The Volkswagen Freedriving Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover Autobahn-ready performance in conditions you’ll never get on the road.

It’s also a chance to be coached by a professional driver who’ll be with you in the passenger seat to help you show your Volkswagen a good time. And it’s free!

What’s not to like?

Even before we got to the driving, they had a mini-showroom in a tent. In addition to the cars we could drive, the new Beetle was there for us to look at. I think it’s a vast improvement over the previous Beetle. It shows a definite Audi influence, and it’s not so feminine as the previous version. The lower roof reminds me of the Audi TT and I really like the changes they’ve made to the back of the car. Well done, VW. Don liked it even more than I did.

We had registered to drive the Golf GTI. Why wouldn’t we? Fun isn’t the only criterion I consider when buying a car, but when offered the chance to drive a car, fun is a larger factor. Of course, the waiting line for the GTI was the longest. As we waited, a VW rep suggested to those in the line who haven’t driven another model that we do so, both because we were allowed a drive each model, and because if we familiarized ourselves with the course in another model, it would be more fun in the sportier car.

I didn’t realize that we could try more than one car. The registration required that we pick one, after all. I imagine that this is so they could plan the appropriate number of each car. So we shuffled over to wait for the Jetta TDI. Don suggested it, and I readily agreed because it would’ve been my next choice as well.

The test drive was a simple autocross course through the parking lot between painted lines and pylons. It started with tight corners, and opened up into faster corners, a pseudo-lane-change chicane, and ending with a long sweeper, a straight, and a line at which we were to stomp on the brakes as hard as we could. If anything, the driver who accompanied us encouraged us to go faster more than to slow down.


I was particularly interested in the new VW Jetta TDI because I have the 2006 model. Since I bought my car, they’ve upgraded the output from 100 hp and 170 lb/ft of torque to 140 hp and 236 lb/ft of torque. And despite this significant increase in performance, the fuel economy is comparable: 6.6 l/100 km city, 5.2 l/100 km highway for the 2006 model, and 6.7 l/100 km city, 4.6 l/100 km highway for the current Jetta TDI.

So how was it? I was impressed. I found the performance even better than the numbers had me expecting. The engine is much quieter than mine. I’ve read that the interior of the new model has suffered to allow VW to lower the purchase price, but I saw no sign of this. The inside of the new Jetta is a very nice place to be, though the car we drove had the highest trim level. I don’t think I’d opt for the Comfortline trim level, but based on my test drive, if I were to buy a new car tomorrow, the Jetta TDI would be at the top of the list of possibilities.


So what of the GTI? It was really nice, no doubt about it. It certainly out-performed the Jetta. And why wouldn’t it? It weighed some 60 kg less and had 60 more horsepower. The only thing is doesn’t have is the same amount of torque. The Jetta bests the GTI by 66 lb/ft. Still, when you put your foot down, the GTI goes and goes. It’s sportier looking and even the steering wheel looks like it belongs in a race car. The GTI is wicked fun.

Interestingly enough, Don and I both agreed that if we had to buy a new car, it would be the Jetta over the GTI. The Jetta is more comfortable, less expensive, far more fuel-efficient, and it has more room for people and cargo. It’s not as much fun as the GTI, but that’s an acceptable trade-off for all of its advantages.

I find the thought behind the Freedrive event interesting. I suspect it’ll help them sell more cars, but I wonder if those cars will cover the cost of the event. I suspect not. There were six instructors, eight cars to drive, four cars to look at, a gaggle of young people to hand out free bottled water and answer any questions we may have about the event or the cars, and the tents and a generator to power it all. And the whole circus is visiting at least six Canadian cities.

I suspect that a bit of buzz and goodwill are more the goal than pure sales. If that’s the case, the Freedrive event is an unqualified success with me.

Photos and Freedrive logo © 2011 Volkswagen Canada.




The future is here

1 Comment

  1. Shawn

    Damn it! I completely forgot about this until I saw Don’s post on FB. Glad you had fun.

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