By Mauricio Lezcano / carsntravel.com / Photos VW US Media Newsroom
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Volkswagen’s Jetta GLI, a performance version of VW’s best-selling sedan. Over the past three decades, multiple generations of the Jetta GLI have delivered an affordable, family-friendly package to automotive enthusiasts.
While the 2019 GLI features the MQB architecture, coupe-like profile of the redesigned Jetta, it adds sporty styling cues that hint at its beefed-up powertrain. Featuring a sport suspension, the GLI sits 0.6 inches lower than a regular Jetta, giving it a more planted look.
The front bumper features a lower front spoiler and larger air intake than the regular Jetta. A standard compliment of full-LED lighting, including front LED projector headlights, LED DRLs and side mirror-mounted turn signals, as well as LED taillights, sets the GLI apart from its competition. Featuring a red accent stripe, the wide grille on the Jetta GLI is filled with a honeycomb pattern that gives a subtle nod to previous GLI variants, unique lower side skirts carry the line to a more aggressive rear bumper, which features LED taillights, a finned diffusor and dual chrome exhaust tips.
Above the beltline, the GLI receives black window trim, a spoiler, and the 35th Anniversary Edition receives GLI 35 badging, and takes the sporting character further still, with a black roof, black mirror caps, and a black tail spoiler.
Befitting the aggressive appeal, wide 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a diamond-turned surface are mated to low-profile 225/45 R18 all-season tires. The 35th Anniversary Edition GLI features unique dark grey 18-inch wheels featuring a red stripe around the outer rim. Any GLI can be optioned with 225/45 R18 summer tires in lieu of the standard all-season fitment. Golf R front brakes, with red-painted calipers, are standard equipment on every GLI.
The driver focused cockpit is an ideal jumping off point for the sporty GLI variant. The instruments and infotainment system are arranged in an easy to read horizontal orientation, and the center console is angled toward the driver. Meanwhile, trapezoidal design elements from the exterior are repeated in the cabin for a touch of sportiness, and premium soft-touch materials are used throughout.
A black interior sets the stage for sporty details to pop throughout. Red stitching is used on the steering wheel, shifter, armrest and floormats. Comfort sport seats feature red stitching no matter the material. Diamond flag décor trim, black headliner, stainless steel pedal caps and a leather-wrapped sport multifunction steering wheel are standard on every model. DSG-equipped cars gain paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel. The 35th Anniversary Edition model has unique GLI 35 interior décor, seat tags, floormats, and sill kickplates.
Jetta GLI offers several premium features as standard equipment. KESSY keyless entry and push-button start, automatic on/off headlights, rain sensing wipers, an automatically dimming rearview mirror and dual-zone Climatronic automatic climate control are standard. GLI 35th Anniversary Edition feature 6-way adjustable drivers’ seats.
The GLI features a 10-color LED ambient lighting system. Coordinated with the Jetta Driving Mode Selection feature, the system provides white light in the Normal profile, red light in the Sport profile and blue light in the Eco profile. The driver can set any of the 10 colors using Manual or Custom mode. In addition, the doorsills feature backlit red GLI inserts GLI 35 on that version.
All 2019 Jetta GLI models feature the innovative Volkswagen MIB II touchscreen infotainment system. The display utilizes a capacitive touch sensor rather than the more common resistive touchscreens that require pressure, enabling gesture controls like swiping and even pinch-zooming.
The GLI S and 35th Anniversary Edition models are equipped with the Composition Color unit, which features a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display and six speakers. The infotainment system also offers SD card and USB multimedia interfaces, as well as standard Bluetooth technology for compatible devices.
The Jetta GLI is powered by a Volkswagen 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI 4-cylinder engine, making 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, 18 more horsepower and 51 lb-ft more than the previous GLI model. This engine features variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust sides, as well as variable exhaust valve lift.
The power is taken to the front wheels via a standard 6-speed manual transmission, with an available 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Automatic transmission models come standard with a Start/Stop system designed to help improve fuel efficiency. This technology stops the engine during idle when the brake pedal is held. When the brake pedal is released, the engine restarts. EPA estimated fuel economy for the GLI is 25/32/28 mpg (city/highway/combined) regardless of transmission choice.
The Driving Mode Selection feature is standard equipment. This system has four modes: Normal, Sport, Eco, and Custom. Normal mode gives a balanced drive experience, while Sport is tuned for a more dynamic throttle and shift response, tighter steering, and a more spirited exhaust note. Eco mode optimizes shift points, throttle response and climate control settings to help fuel economy. Custom allows a driver to tailor the steering, throttle, differential, engine note, and climate control settings. The 35th Anniversary Edition model with DCC allows the driver to adjust damping settings and adds a fifth Comfort mode.
When it first debuted in 1984, the Volkswagen GLI was dubbed a GTI with a trunk and its mission was simple, to deliver an accessible German performance sedan. The car had to be undeniably fun to drive without sacrificing any of the usability and efficiency that drivers expected from the brand. While technology, efficiency, safety, and of course performance have come leaps and bounds in 35 years, the mission of the Volkswagen sixth-generation hot sedan remains the same.
MSRP for the 2019 VW Jetta GLI 2.0T 35th Anniversary Edition is $27,795.00, the one I drove included at no charge the Tornado Red with Black Roof Exterior Color, Titan Black Cloth Interior, and the 7-Speed DSG Automatic with Triptronic Transmission.