I've always had respect for the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, probably because my first car was a 1989 Mark 2 Jetta GLI Helios edition. It had a dark blue exterior with color-matched fifteen-inch BBS wheels, a bright blue interior with Recaro seats, and a 1.8L 16V four-cylinder engine with 180,000 miles. An aftermarket exhaust and a lead foot resulted in the car's nickname "German Thunder" from my high-school buddies, but enough about me.
The fifth-generation GLI is a much more laidback car with far less in-your-face styling. It is completely opposite of the Mark 4 GLI that featured a factory body kit, lowering springs, and bright silver eighteen-inch BBS wheels. The current GLI shares many parts with its GTI blood relative, including the wheels, brakes, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and six-speed manual transmission or optional DSG dual-clutch automatic. A lot of praise has been given to this engine and rightfully so; it's an absolute workhorse. It provides great torque off the line and has enough high-end power to slice through traffic on the freeway, all while getting 31 mpg. Our test unit is equipped with the six-speed manual transmission and has very good clutch takeup, much heavier feel than our recently departed Four Seasons Jetta TDI. The interior is nicely situated and is very user-friendly.
The Jetta GLI is a great alternative for buyers who want GTI performance but don't want a hatchback.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator