2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI – First Drive Review
VOLKSWAGEN JETTA GLI:Specifications
VEHICLE TYPE:front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
BASE PRICE: $24,265
ENGINE TYPE:turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 121 cu in, 1984 cc
Power (SAE net): 200 hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque (SAE net):207 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
TRANSMISSION:6-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 104.4 in Length: 182.2 in
Width: 70.0 in Height: 56.6 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 3250–3300 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 6.7 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.2 sec
Top speed: 130 mph
EPA city/highway driving: 22–24/32–33 mpg
For starters, the GLI is not just a Jetta with more motor. It dumps the standard car’s torsion-beam rear axle for a more-capable multilink rear suspension, giving the GLI a truly independent suspension that does an excellent job of managing body wobbles and transitions. Plus, the GLI is 0.6 inch lower than other Jettas, giving it a sportier stance and lowering the center of gravity.
Oh, It’s You Again. Well, Good
Like the last-generation GLI, the new car is propelled by the GTI’s turbocharged four-banger mated to a manual or dual-clutch automatic, both with six speeds. With lots of low-end torque—at 1700 rpm, the 207-lb-ft peak is just above idle—this is one of our favorite engines on the market today. It’s called upon by every Volkswagen model save the Touareg and Chrysler-built Routan, and appears in a bunch of Audis, too. As it does in the GTI, the iron-block 2.0-liter makes 200 hp. One thing the GLI has that the GTI doesn’t is a throaty, rumbly, and enticing exhaust note. Mash the throttle and you’ll swear the sounds have to be coming from something other than such a small turbo engine.
Unfortunately for throttle mashers like us, the GLI lacks an off button for the stability control, although VW says it is looking into making the system defeatable. This is probably the car’s biggest fault. It wasn’t a problem on our short drive of the car, but we know it will hurt acceleration. That button is how the driver engages launch control, and unlike most other VW products with the DSG dual-clutch automatic (an $1100 option), the GLI lacks this max-acceleration feature. With the slick six-speed manual, the GLI should reach 60 mph in about 6.7 seconds, versus 6.4 for the last-gen car. We did not have the chance to drive a GLI with the dual-clutch, but it should come close to the manual-trans car’s 0–60 time, and we predict both will pass the quarter-mile mark in 15.2 seconds.
Even with stability control imposing strict limits, the GLI is plenty of fun. Two hundred horsepower might sound like too little, but it’s actually perfect. Sure, more power could be handy at times, but overloading the front wheels would kill the GLI’s smoothness. As it is, this output is a great balance between power and comfort. The car never exhibits a hint of torque steer and has just enough punch to keep things interesting.
As with most electric power-steering setups, the GLI lacks decent feedback. But weighting is excellent and it builds naturally through the GTI-like flat-bottom wheel, without the clearly delineated and unwelcome steps in resistance that we’ve found in other electrically assisted racks.
Like a Soap Bar, but now with Pizzazz
All the usual exterior appointments are here: a new grille with GLI badge, a new front air dam, red brake calipers, and dual exhaust tips. More-heavily bolstered seats and some red stitching set this model’s cabin apart from those of lesser Jettas. A navigation system will run you $900, but is only available after you’ve spec’d the $2050 Autobahn package (sunroof, faux-leather seats, 18-inch wheels, and a premium audio system).
With a base price of $24,265, the GLI is actually $200 less than a GTI and just barely pricier than the $23,175 Honda Civic Si sedan. The GLI and Si line up on paper in almost every regard but weight. We have yet to weigh an Si sedan, but it should come in at less than 3000 pounds, while the GLI should tip the scales around 3250 with a stick. (With DSG, the GLI will weigh slightly more.)
Volkswagen may have hit a home run in blending so much of the GTI’s greatness into the newest Jetta’s roomy formula. And the appealing price should land it on many shoppers’ lists. Jetta redeemed, indeed.
For more information on the soon to be released 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Sedan, contact our Internet Specialists at (801) 285-0334
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