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First automobiles are vital. Whether or not pristine, new and gleaming, or drained, previous and steaming, they’re amongst most individuals’s first tastes of maturity and freedom. These reminiscences — each optimistic and detrimental — keep on with us endlessly. By the point I acquired my first set of keys in highschool, I used to be already a giant automobile fanatic. My first automobile, a European-spec 1986 Volkswagen Jetta GLI with round 100,000 miles of, let’s name it “seasoning,” helped set me on trajectory that led me to my life’s work in automotive journalism.

In different phrases, the GLI is form of vital to Yours Really. Thus, it ought to come as no shock that climbing into this 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is freighted with nostalgia and that means for me, even when the brand new mannequin has nearly nothing in widespread with the square-rigged, high-trunked Mk2 I used to personal. 

That automobile supplied enjoyable, reasonably priced efficiency in a smooth (if considerably milquetoast) wrapper with shocking utility. One look at this new 2019 VW GLI tells a lot the identical story. Sure, this sixth-gen mannequin has a unique look from the Jetta it is primarily based on, however it’s delicate. There’s extra aggressive entrance and rear decrease fascias, delicate aspect sills and a modest rear spoiler, together with distinctive 18-inch alloys. There is no denying it is nonetheless buttoned-up stuff. 

The GLI’s most noticeable styling departure is arguably its blacked-out grille, and to my eyes, it is truly the mannequin’s least profitable design aspect. Like GLIs previous and its hatchback GTI kin, there is a distinguished crimson trim line that ties collectively the LED daytime operating lamps, however it’s the weirdly exaggerated open honeycomb remedy itself that appears a bit odd. 

Talking of its GTI brethren, this Jetta GLI inherits most of that glorious hatchback’s efficiency goodies. As you’d count on, there is a model of VW’s ubiquitous 2.Zero-liter turbocharged TSI four-cylinder engine, tuned right here to develop 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. For these conserving rating, these are will increase of 18 hp and 51 lb-ft over the outgoing GLI, they usually’re streets forward of the 1.Four-liter you get in at this time’s normal Jetta, an inline 4 that delivers a relatively paltry 147 hp buoyed by an honest 184 lb-ft.

Individuals drive torque, so be comfortable that this 2.0T has loads of it: 258 pound-feet of the stuff.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

My check automobile includes a six-speed guide (sure, it is again!) with straightforward and correct however long-feeling throws. A fast-shifting, seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox (just like the one seen in our man Antuan Goodwin’s evaluation video and pictures on this web page) can also be out there.

No matter which transmission you select, gas financial system is pegged at 25 miles per gallon metropolis, 32 mpg freeway and 28 mixed — affordable, if unremarkable stuff.

Because the aforementioned energy figures counsel, nonetheless, efficiency from this engine is gutsy, due to significantly robust low-end torque. Whereas the clutch uptake might be barely extra progressive to assist in fast, easy launches, the GLI’s driveline in any other case has no bother getting its energy to the bottom. Get used to the leftmost pedal’s motion and you will be rewarded with a Zero-to-60 mile-per-hour time of round 6 seconds. Sadly, you will not be rewarded with an fascinating accompanying soundtrack.

Even if you’re not in a straight line, this front-wheel driver has no bother placing its energy down. Thanks partially to the GLI’s stout MQB platform, VAQ limited-slip differential with XDS digital locking know-how and grippy 18-inch 225/45-series Hankook Ventus S1 Evo three rubber, the GLI hooks up and goes, whether or not ripping away from a stoplight, slingshotting out of a hairpin or deliberately pouring on an excessive amount of energy on an onramp only for a second’s amusement on a morning commute.  

Within the latter conditions, the GLI resorts to safety-first understeer — there’s little proof of a twitchy rear finish like my ’86. (Like its GTI sibling, my previous automobile would usually carry its inside wheel like a canine at a fireplace hydrant below arduous cornering.) It is maybe a bit much less dramatic, however the GLI receives a extra subtle multilink rear suspension as a substitute of the usual Jetta’s cost-savings torsion beam, aiding in each friendlier and extra succesful dealing with. The absolutely impartial setup is lifted wholesale from the GTI, proper all the way down to the springs and entrance sway bars, although the diameter of the rear anti-roll bar is up by a skosh to 21.7 millimeters. 

GLI is accessible with no-cost summer time rubber. On this case, 225/45-series Hankook Ventus S1 Evo three rubber.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The variable-ratio steering system can also be up to your favourite winding highway, with a fast 2.1-turns lock-to-lock and fairly good highway really feel. The GLI additionally will get 13.Four-inch vented entrance discs swiped from the Golf R, although the rear brakes are modest 11.Eight-inch stable items. Whereas I did not have a racetrack or a handy mountain roads to fling this automobile round throughout my week with the automobile, suffice it to say that this automobile had loads of constant and straightforward to modulate stopping energy.

On the upscale 35th Anniversary mannequin, the GLI is fitted with Volkswagen’s DCC adaptive dampers. Whereas my very fairly priced tester went with out this function, I did not miss it. The bottom passive system is effectively sorted — it does not beat you up on bumpy roads (significantly vital to me, as that is the one form of floor better Detroit presents), but it nonetheless handles keenly should you occur to luck upon a bit of spaghetti tarmac.

DCC-equipped GLIs additionally get an extra drive mode, Consolation, on prime of the 4 settings of my S mannequin: Regular, Sport, Eco and Customized, the latter of which permits the driving force to tune the steering, throttle, differential, engine sound and local weather management settings to go well with their desire. You possible will not really feel the necessity to monkey round with the settings a lot, and admittedly, even with the exhaust be aware turned up, the GLI nonetheless sounds a bit too reserved for its personal good.

My fairly priced, option-free, manual-transmission S check automobile rides on no-charge summer time tires and wears a $25,995 price ticket — $26,890 together with $895 vacation spot charge. Identical to my previous Mk2, that makes at this time’s GLI the most cost effective German sport sedan you should buy in America at this time by a rustic mile. In truth, adjusted for inflation, in at this time’s , my previous 1986 would value about $24,000 earlier than choices. It was additionally a lot smaller and solely had 100 horsepower — sufficient to hit 60 mph in about 11 seconds. And that is earlier than making an allowance for all the new Jetta’s superior security and comfort options.

VW’s value cutters have gotten their means a bit an excessive amount of within the cabin, which is lacking sport seats and richer plastics.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Even by VW’s personal (usually affordable) pricing requirements, the 2019 GLI looks like a suspiciously whole lot. That is very true if you notice that the GLI prices wherever between $1,600 and $7,000 (!) or so lower than its GTI hatchback counterpart, relying on choices and trim. That is a startling value delta, particularly when you think about that regardless of its age, at this time’s GTI nonetheless does not really feel like a foul deal in and of itself.

As you’d count on, although, there are vital downsides. Most of them happen within the cabin, which might solely be described as a sufferer of The Cheapening. Even the bottom GTI hatch is a delight, with its trademark plaid-insert sport seats, golf-ball shift knob and pleasingly textured plastics. By comparability, the GLI is a little bit of a penalty field, with noticeably poorer arduous polymer panels throughout and incremental cost-cutting measures that straight influence one’s consolation — specifically the substitution of the usual Jetta’s comparatively flat and featureless seats. Mixed with the shortage of a multi-angle armrest and a tinny-sounding stereo with a smallish 6.5-inch display, and the GLI’s inside does not simply really feel a lot much less particular, it truly feels low cost.

Sure, there’s a bigger Eight-inch show display with a 400-watt Beats audio system on the top-shelf Autobahn mannequin, however even it is not supplied with onboard navigation. No less than there’s normal Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility throughout the board. The Autobahn additionally will get a digital gauge cluster, panoramic moonroof and powered, ventilated seats with adjustable lumbar help. 

In fact, at a beginning worth of $29,195 (guide) and $29,995 (DSG) earlier than choices and supply, the range-topping Autobahn can also be much more costly, and it nonetheless does not handle to shake the cost-cutting vibe that blights the bottom S mannequin, owing primarily to these aforementioned nasty plastics and relatively unbolstered chairs. In gentle of all this, should you’re sport for modifications, it could be extra advisable to stay with the low-end mannequin and hunt round on-line for a deal on a pair of aftermarket sport seats. 

VW has mounted numerous what ailed the final GLI — this new one will get an impartial rear suspension and you may get a guide gearbox, too.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

On the optimistic aspect, the Jetta GLI’s cabin is roomier than ever. The brand new automobile stays categorised as a compact, however it rides on a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase and spans three inches longer total. It is barely wider and taller, too. Plus, VW’s engineers have managed all this with nearly no mass penalty in any respect — the 2019 weighs inside a giant bag of your pooch’s Blue Buffalo of its previous self.

With these bigger dimensions, there’s numerous elbow room inside, in addition to within the trunk, which presents 14.1 cubic ft of area. Plus, should you’re a fan of fundamental, old-school ’80s teutonic interiors with their robust driver-focused aesthetic and minimal switchgear distractions, you will really feel at dwelling right here, empty switchgear blanks and all. On the draw back, rivals just like the Honda Civic Si and Hyundai Elantra Sport merely have nicer cabins. Even the dated (however way more highly effective) Subaru WRX’s inside is not that a lot cheaper-feeling, and it is acquired a lot sportier seats.

On the protection entrance, the 2019 Jetta GLI comes with normal blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning with computerized emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, plus full LED lighting. Weirdly, adaptive cruise management will not be out there. 

All-in, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI actually does handle to really feel like a GTI at a reduction, for higher and for worse. It is a sport sedan that is each surprisingly sensible and enjoyable to drive, let down solely by a number of too many company fits enjoying hardball when it got here to signing off on the automobile’s cabin. If VW supplied up a GTI-spec premium inside choice bundle with the hatchback’s infinitely higher seats and premium plastics for an inexpensive surcharge, the GLI can be a top-to-bottom winner. As it’s, it tugs on the heartstrings of this former Mk2 GLI proprietor, however not sufficient to make me proclaim it the clear selection in its class.

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