Volkswagen's GLI was reintroduced in 2012, based on the all-new Jetta platform. Underneath the familiar Jetta body, the GLI has been tuned for performance, with a specialized sport suspension system as well as some tech items lifted from the popular GTI. Volkswagen says the GLI is the most differentiated Jetta model ever made by the company, offering aggressive performance in an easy-to-live-with package.
A turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder is the only engine offered on the GLI for 2013. It makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque at just 1,700 rpm, which helps maximize response and drivability. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, but Volkswagen also offers an optional 6-speed DSG automatic, which features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Volkswagen says the powertrain should be good for 31 mpg highway with the manual and 32 mpg highway with that automatic.
The GLI features a track-tuned 4-wheel independent suspension system, much like what's used on the GTI. Also carried over is the GTI's XDS differential system, which helps limit inside wheelspin under hard cornering. Four-wheel disc brakes with red calipers are standard across the line, all of which add up to much sharper handling and road feel than what's offered on other Jetta models.
Standard safety equipment includes driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers. Other features include electronic stability control, tire pressure monitors, and Volkswagen's Intelligent Crash Response System, which automatically cuts power to the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and turns on the 4-way hazard lights in certain types of accidents.
Three GLI trims are available: the GLI, GLI Autobahn and GLI Autobahn with Navigation. The GLI starts at $23,945, and features cloth sport seats with red stitching, a flat-bottom steering wheel, a 6.5-inch touchscreen stereo with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity and one-touch power windows on all four doors. The GLI Autobahn is priced at $26,195 and takes the package one step further, offering 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, a Fender sound system, dual-zone climate control and heated V-Tex leatherette seats. The premium-level GLI Autobahn with Navigation is offered at $28,200, featuring in-dash navigation, a backup camera, bi-xenon headlights and keyless entry with push-button start.
First cars are important. Whether pristine, new and gleaming, or tired, old and steaming, they're among most people's first tastes of adulthood and freedom. Those memories -- both positive and negative -- stick with us forever. By the time I got my first set of keys in high school, I was already a big car enthusiast. My first car, a European-spec 1986 Volkswagen Jetta GLI with around 100,000 miles of, let's call it "seasoning," helped set me on trajectory that led me to my life's work in automotive journalism.
In other words, the GLI is kind of important to Yours Truly. Thus, it should come as no surprise that climbing into this 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is freighted with nostalgia and meaning for me, even if the new model has almost nothing in common with the square-rigged, high-trunked Mk2 I used to own.
That car offered fun, affordable performance in a sleek (if somewhat milquetoast) wrapper with surprising utility. One glance at this new 2019 VW GLI tells much the same story. Yes, this sixth-gen model has a different look from the Jetta it's based on, but it's subtle. There's more aggressive front and rear lower fascias, subtle side sills and a modest rear spoiler, along with unique 18-inch alloys. There's no denying it's still buttoned-up stuff.
The Good With a torquey powertrain and athletic moves, VW's Jetta GLI delivers fun in an affordable package.
The Bad VW's accountants have clearly pinched too many pennies in the cabin, plus a couple of common options aren't available.
The Bottom Line The 2019 Jetta GLI is a few small tweaks away from being a no-compromises sport sedan bargain. As it is, it's still good fun for short money.
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