A few weeks ago I get a letter from VW about my leased Passat. Seems they were offering me a chance to get out of my lease nine months early, if I leased another VW. I asked my father – who’s worked in the car business for over twenty years now (and given it’s been in either management or finance, he’s the de-facto resource for car purchase questions) – if this was really possible. I figured that they would take my remaining payments and roll them into the new lease or something. He told me that a number of car companies do this occasionally, to clear out the remnants of a model year, and since October starts the car year, it made sense. I now have a 2003 Jetta, but it meant a number of trade offs that I was more than willing to make…
First some background on my 2001 Passat. I got into a 39-mo lease with 15,000 miles per year for the Passat. Because I picked that up as a “left over” – the 2001.5’s were already on the lot with a new body design – I got a great deal on it. It was a GLX, with only two missing options: the automatic transmission and the 4-motion AWD which required an automatic transmission. When I turned it in today, it had a total of 19K miles, so the dealership did well on the extra mileage, and aside from a couple of dings, the car is in great condition.
Now some background on me: I’m pretty loose with my cash and have no problem buying what I call toys. However, I do have one general trend where I am “cheap” and that’s with my car lease payments. I have a cap and I will not go over it, regardless of how great a car is. My cap is $400/month. Hardly cheap but when a BMW 5-series can go for $599/month, it’s not that cheap. My biggest problem is that I like nice cars. If given a choice right now, I would be shopping for a 3-series BMW, an Infiniti G35 Coupe, a Passat GLX, an Audi A4, or even a Mini Cooper-S. The problem is that none of these cars could be picked up for less than $400/month. Not even the Mini because when you add the AWD, 6-speed based turbo, you have a $26K car and frankly, while the Mini is cool it is not worth $26K. Even a Passat at $32K is too much to me – I’d rather have an Audi which comes with two years of free service and other stuff. Thankfully I’m required to lease a VW, if I want out of the Passat early.
So, when I went to my VW dealer I told them that I might be interested in turning in the Passat and pick up a new car, but I had some issues. I wanted something cheaper, if I could, and I wanted the ’03 for the whole turn in special. As the special had been out for a while and the ’03 car year is almost over, my dealer told me “We’re running low on cars.” No problem there, really. I was interested in the Passat because I had enjoyed mine a lot. I liked the GTI because it had a 6-speed/VR6 option. The Jetta – that’s a Bora to the rest of the world; I don’t know why it was renamed in the US – was good because it seemed to be a like a mini-Passat and cheaper than it’s big brother. And even the Beetle because it either came with an iPod or as a convertable.
It’s at this point that I became aware of the Jetta GLI. I knew a lot about the GLX trim version, which is equipped the same as my Passat GLX. What I didn’t know is that the GLX is not available in a manual transmission for the 03 model. They made this new GLI version for the GLX-manual transmission combo, and it was now a 6-speed/VR6 option. Well hot damn! The GTI’s VR6 engine and tranny in a sedan? Perfect!
Er, almost perfect! This is where I’ve had to made some trade offs. I gained a 6-speed transmission, a 200hp VR6 engine, a lighter maintenance schedule, and a sportier ride. I also got away with an eight month block of lease payments being waived with the turn-in and a month car payment that is now 25% lower than I had before. Yay! What I lost was the Passat’s wood trim, softer ride, the sunroof, the rain-sensing wipers, the auto-dimming rear mirror, the power seats, the climate control system, and the premium sound system.
No worries from me on this stuff, actually… I gave up the sound system and sunroof willingly: they were available on the GLI but it was cheaper without them (like $20/month cheaper) and the best available colour didn’t have them. The sportier ride is a great change of pace, too. My Passat and Acura 2.3CL before that, were a bit… well, stuffy – the Jetta is not. The power seats? No one else is allowed to drive my car, so no loss there either. The climate control never worked well, so pfft to that – after an hour in the car it only blew out cold air unless it was set to “Hi”. The only two things I’ll really miss are the auto-dimming mirror and the rain-sensing wipers and if those are the only two things…
Yeah, I’m a Jetta owner now, and I’m lovin’ it!