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VW Tops Land Speed Record with 600-Horsepower Jetta

Salt Flats racer attains track speed of 210.16

Southern California Timing Association’s (SCTA) World of Speed is a smaller event than the famed Speed Week, but its smaller crowds gather in an intimate celebration of the fastest things on land. We joined Volkswagen as they endeavored to break the SCTA Blown Gas Coupe (G/BGC) class record of 208.472 mph with a 600-hp version of the new seventh-generation Jetta.

Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats served as the sublime backdrop for the attempt, the austere and beautiful expanse of white set a dramatic stage for the occasion. Driver and Bonneville expert Scott Goetz and his crew spent four days with the Jetta before the record was eventually broken.

We were on site for two days with the VW team as they initially set out to qualify in order to make a record run. SCTA requires a car to first break the record and then make a second attempt before taking the average of the two times. Only then can a new record be set.

Bonneville’s participants and spectators took a liking to the Jetta as its brand-new sheet metal was a welcome contrast to the field of classic American and German cars on the salt. “That thing hauls ass!” one onlooker exclaimed.

Goetz took the Bonneville Jetta down the five-mile straight for the first time on Friday, attaining a speed of 185 miles per hour during a shakedown run. The crew made some adjustments and attempted to qualify that same afternoon. Although the car topped out at 207.651 mph, it was just shy of the existing class record. On another attempt, deposit on the sparkplugs caused the engine to die. We found out from the race team that the fuel VW used to develop the Jetta was different than the race fuel at Bonneville.

The following day, Goetz and the team took the Jetta on another crack at a flat-out run, but what turned out to be a faulty crank case sensor caused another premature retreat to the pit lanes. What was already a frustrating situation was exasperated by the morning’s ideal conditions. “This is the best I’ve ever seen it,” Goetz remarked.

VW’s crew towed the Jetta back out to the start line to make another stab at qualifying, but high-speed crosswinds tore across the salt flats, bringing the day to an early end. Sounds of revving engines were replaced with howling winds, and although the mood throughout the pits was somber, VW still had two more days to both qualify and set the record.

It was only on Sunday that the Bonneville Jetta would run a little over 209 mph. The team reverted the car’s flash back to the same configuration when it topped 200 mph on Friday. The subsequent day, Goetz made the final run, securing track speed of 210.16 mph.

“It was a terrific experience to drive this car on the salt. The car inspired a lot of confidence at very high speeds,” Goetz said. “I have no doubt that we could go even faster by running some more boost, but we are very happy to have the record, knowing that there is more to come in the car if we need it.”

Volkswagen says this high-performance Jetta previews the upcoming GLI, which is bound for production. Like the Bonneville car, the next-generation sporty sedan will feature a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, though we doubt it will also come equipped with parachutes.

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2019 Volkswagen Jetta

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

MSRP $18,545 1.4T S (Manual) Sedan