Understanding Volkswagen Engine Names: What Does TDI Stand For?

Car Culture / 3 Comments

TDI is not the same as TSI or TFSI, so let's see what it does mean.

After the whole Volkswagen Dieselgate saga, a light was shone on the automaker's diesel engines, but there is still much that people don't know. Regardless, diesel-powered VWs are a scarce sight on our roads these days, although you may occasionally spot a three-letter badge on the back of one.

In some cases, a VW will have a TSI badge, while others have a TDI one. Automatically, one naturally assumes that the latter acronym stands, in part, for the word 'diesel.' But while TDI is used to refer to VW diesel engines, the three letters do not represent 'Turbocharged Diesel Injection.'

So what does VW TDI stand for, and is a TDI car always diesel-powered?


Volkswagen TDI Meaning

The TDI engine is the Volkswagen Group's range of common rail direct injection turbodiesel engines, and therein lies a clue. The VW TDI engine is a Turbocharged Direct Injection motor, but although this could imply that the term could be applied to gasoline-fed engines too, Volkswagen TDI is diesel only.

Volkswagen's TSI engine is also a direct injection unit, but the middle letter here refers to the word 'stratified.' That's another topic for another day, but the letter 'D' is often assumed to represent diesel. Hyundai's GDI engine is occasionally mislabeled, but this acronym means Gasoline Direct Injection.


Volkswagen no longer sells diesel-powered passenger cars in America, but they are still fairly popular, particularly overseas. The Dieselgate saga we mentioned at the outset effectively killed any chance the automaker had of keeping the engine type alive here, and Volkswagen has spent years and fortunes trying to clean up its act.

After shifting its focus to electric power, the brand has done practically everything it can to prove that it is committed to green mobility. This means Volkswagen TDI models will become scarcer as time goes by, and the subject of that acronym will probably never come up in conversation. But if your grandkids someday see a Volkswagen Jetta with an uncommon badge and ask, "What is a TDI?" you can answer them accurately.


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