Volkswagen GLI adds spice to Jetta mix

The 2012 Volkswagen GLI
2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Volkswagen revised the Jetta in 2011 to mixed reviews. Cost cutting measures left some journalists wanting more. So the company stirred the mix a bit in 2012 by reviving the GLI.

The Volkswagen GLI has always been the top dog Jetta, generally having more power, more luxury and, of course, a higher sticker price. For 2012 check all the above.

I haven’t driven the more pedestrian Jetta but I can tell you this GLI is a goodie. It gets a four wheel independent suspension which isn’t found on other Jettas. The 200 horsepower 2.0 turbo is similar to the one Audi uses which alone is enough to make me smile.

More on that later.

The GLI has a pleasant, roomy interior. The black cloth interior is fine, so long as you don’t want leather. VW does offer a leather-like interior, but not the real thing. Nor will it offer the familiar plaid seats with red piping found in past GLIs. The dash is simple but, pleasing. There is a touch screen audio system with sound provided by Fender. Yes, that Fender. The system’s clarity at high volumes is impressive.

You can get cozy in the Jetta easily. The front seats are either Recaro or Recaro-like, with multiple settings. The steering wheel has a solid feel and the has duplicate radio controls.

If you’re looking to carry a group of groceries, golf clubs or bodies, the Jetta’s 15.5 cubic-foot trunk will oblige. You also get a roomy rear seat.

Now for that engine. At 200 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque, the GLI if fairly quick, or at least quicker than the base Jetta. It makes power smoothly and effortlessly as you accelerate.I was modestly surprised by the smoothness of the engine and the throaty exhaust note mix. You can easily spin the wheels on takeoff without trying. The six-speed manual is a smooth shifter, with a hint of becoming notchy near sixth gear.

The GLI’s handling is excellent. The independent rear and McPherson strut front allow for tight cornering. Grip is good as well, though all-season tires should be replaced if you want a sportier ride.

The ride is comfortable, but taut, as German sedans go. Some may prefer something a bit more cushy so I’d suggest a non GLI. This is no BMW, but Volkswagen prides itself on offering that Teutonic feel at near bargain prices.

There are a few problems. I like the styling, but not enough was done to differentiate the GLI from other models. There is an optional GLI appearance package, but I’m not sure what it includes. My test car didn’t come with navigation (an extra grand) and the turbo engine requires premium gas.

All that aside, I could live with this new Jetta GLI comfortably. It’s got enough zip, is handsome and has that German feel (as best you can get from being built in Mexico). If this is what you want, expect to pay $25,545 before you start to haggle.

W. Cross

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