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2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Sep 24, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

VW’S STEALTH ROCKET: THE JETTA GLI By Roy Nakano When it comes to sporty Volkswagens, one car gets the glory: The GTI. It was, after all, the original pocket rocket when it was introduced back in the 1970s. Today, the sixth generation GTI carries on the heritage and remains the class leader among hot hatches in the $25,000 range. There is an alternative, however. It’s cheaper, roomier, doesn’t look like a bullfrog—and it’s a Volkswagen. It’s the often overlooked Jetta GLI, and the latest version is the best bargain in the VW line. While the new Jetta has been receiving a thrashing from critics for going cheap on the interior and suspension hardware, this is not that Jetta. This Jetta, in fact, trumps the top-of-the-line SEL, with four-wheel independent suspension from the GTI parts bin, and soft touch interior pieces like the Volkswagens we all know and love. Available in three trim levels, the Jetta GLI has a starting price of $23,495. Our test model, the GLI Autobahn, has an MSRP of $25,545, and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, dual zone climate control, heated V-Tex Leatherette seats and an excellent Fender® Premium Audio System. The top of the line Jetta GLI Autobahn with Navigation adds the RNS-315 navigation system and keyless access with push-button start technology for an MSRP of $26,445. The new GLI also features the XDS® cross differential system from the GTI that helps prevent inside wheel spin during cornering.


Most importantly, the new Jetta GLI is equipped with the highly regarded 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine from the GTI, generating 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque at 1,700 rpm. The GLI comes standard with a six speed manual transmission, but we recommend the optional, lightening-quick six-speed DSG automatic with Tiptronic and Sport modes. This new model is significantly lighter than the previous Jetta GLI, notwithstanding the increased room in the cabin. Our test vehicle came with the Fender® Premium Audio System, which is embedded in the vehicle design and features proprietary Panasonic® speaker technology. Fender says the sound system features lower inter-modulation distortion and smooth mid-range response to eliminate harshness. We think it’s a fantastic sounding system, no matter that Fender has never been known as a maker of mobile audio systems. The interior of the Jetta GLI features sport bucket seats with red stitching and a sport flat-bottom steering wheel with red stitching, the GLI logo, aluminum accents, and alloy pedals, shifter, dash and door trim. Both the manual and DSG-fitted GLI controls are designed to allow drivers to enjoy an ergonomically designed gear shift grip. The console is also slightly inclined toward the driver to heighten comfort behind the wheel. Last, but not least, the soft-touch interior pieces return on the GLI version of the Jetta.


With the new Jetta, Volkswagen set out to design a car that speaks a language that Americans can get behind: Spacious, fuel efficient, and a great bottom line. All of the new Jettas have the space (the rear leg room and trunk space are class leading). With the GLI, however, there’s a level of performance that harkens back to American muscle. And the language that this car speaks? It's rock and roll. The Jetta GLI is damn quick. Power is courtesy of the one and only GTI 2.0 turbo, which provides a level of performance that is unmatched among sedans in its class. And it’s not just straight line performance. This car handles the twisties like a sedan version of the GTI (which it more or less is). The fact that the GLI is both slightly lighter and less expensive than the GTI makes it the best performance bargain among compact sedans hovering in the $25,000 range. And to top it off, the GLI returns an EPA highly rating that’s amply north of 30 miles per gallon—not bad for an American style hot rod. SUMMARY JUDGMENT It’s the best kept secret in the VW line, and the best performance bargain in the bunch. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle” 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn with Navigation Price: $23,495 (base) $27,795 (Autobahn with Navigation and DSG automatic transmission) EPA fuel economy ratings (miles per gallon): 22 city / 33 highway (manual) 24 city / 32 highway (auto) Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged and intercooled direct injection DOHC four-in-line Horsepower: 200 at 5100 rpm Torque: 207 pound-feet at 1700 rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual standard 6-speed DSG automatic with Tiptronic and Sport modes and steering-wheel mounted shift paddles optional (as tested) Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Electric power assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Four-wheel independent with MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension; front and rear stabilizer bars Brakes: Front: Vented discs, vacuum assist, 11.9-inch diameter, red painted calipers Rear: Solid discs, vacuum assist, 11.6-inch diameter, red painted calipers Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), anti-lock braking system (ABS), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Wheels and tires: 17 x 7.0 in. wheels and 225/45R H all-season tires Dimensions Width: 70.0 inches Length: 182.2 inches Height: 57.2 inches Curb weight: 3124 pounds

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