Christopher Little

Quick Spin: 2019 VW Jetta GLI

There’s just something so….Volkswagen about the all new Jetta. It feels familiar, predictable, and German. It’s an immensely appealing trait to many. Designs change, technology improves, but the core ethos of the brand can be felt through every steering wheel. After our first drive of the all-new 2019 Jetta SEL, we recognized it as a front-runner in its class. Now the performance-oriented GLI is here and we’re happy to report that it lives up to our expectations.

2019 VW Jetta GLI 1

What separates a GLI from the rest of the Jetta lineup? The 1.4L turbocharged engine is replaced with the 2.0L turbocharged engine from the VW Golf GTI that produces 228 hp and 258 lb-ft torque. With that engine change comes your choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG gearbox. The GLI is also fitted with the electronically-controlled, limited-slip front differential and larger front brakes of the GTI. Finally, the GLI its 0.6 inches lower on sport-tuned suspension and stiffer springs. Visually, a lower front spoiler, side skirts, rear bumper, and diffusor provide some added aggression. LED lighting all around and subtle red accents on the grille, badges, and brakes provide up-market appeal.

2019 VW Jetta GLI 7

In the course of a week with the GLI, I found myself taking subtly longer routes to my destination. For someone who enjoys the act of driving, I can give no greater compliment to a vehicle. The GLI is a proficient daily driver, but most of us don’t want to settle with something that’s great from Point A to Point B. This is where the GLI excels. Our tester, with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, only required a change in driving style to reap the benefits. Even in Normal, the revised suspension and more powerful engine respond well to being hurried along.

2019 VW Jetta GLI 5

Toggling the Driving Mode Selection to Sport tunes the throttle response, steering weight, and exhaust. The GLI 35th Anniversary Edition is the only trim level that includes VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control, which would add dynamic dampers from the GTI and Golf R into the mix. Our Autobahn tester made due without DCC. The car feels lively and connected, with a welcome increase in audible feedback. Should you find the exhaust too audible for long periods, the Custom mode can be configured to retain the sporty throttle and steering with a quieter exhaust.

The GLI Autobahn comes standard with all of the upscale features and technology of the Jetta SEL. A panoramic sunroof, heated seats, VW’s fantastic digital cockpit, responsive 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, adaptive cruse control, lane keep assist, and BeatsAudio system don’t leave you wanting for anything. It’s perfectly equipped for every day. The GLI specific sport seats don’t impinge on daily life either, but do come in handy on back roads. We covered 335 miles during our week and used less than a single tank of fuel. Despite our sporty driving, the GLI returned a rounding error shy of 30 mpg.

2019 VW Jetta GLI 6

When it comes to sporty front-wheel-drive sedans, the GLI bests the Civic Si and Elantra Sport in our opinion. Though our top-trim Autobahn brings a higher as-tested price, the extra power and sharper handling lead us to our conclusion. The 2019 Volkwagen Jetta GLI remains the sport sedan you can drive every day without compromise. The sporty dynamics, upscale features, and available technology make it a standout in our book. Combine the joy behind the wheel with the efficiency and affordability and the GLI makes a strong case.

-Christopher Little

2019 VW Jetta GLI Autobahn
Destination Charges $895
As Tested MSRP $30,090

Quick Spin: 2016 VW Golf GTI
Quick Spin: 2019 VW Jetta
Hot: 2018 VW Golf R

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