2018 VW Jetta GLI – Practically A Sports Sedan
It was a day at the Willow Springs Race Track on a crisp fall morning in the high desert of California, when I walked past the row of sporty sedans and coupes lined up in the paddock. There sat the new (revised) 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI with a manual gearbox amongst the likes of BMW M40i, Lexus LC500, and FCA’s new Track Hawk Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had been a few years since I drove the big track at Willow Springs and I decided that my first few laps should be in a safe and mid-range performance sedan. It took only Turn 1 and Turn two before I realized that this bright red VW Jetta was ready for the rest of the track.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI drivetrain was willing to rev freely and provided plenty of torque for climbing the hill into Turns 3 and 4. The 210 horsepower is sufficient but the 207 torque was coming on at 1,700 rpm is better. Then there was a need for good brakes down the hill into Turn 5, and the GLI handled the controlled slow down, turn-in, and acceleration across the “launch pad” entering the back straightaway at 100 plus mile-per-hour. The Jetta GLI is a very balanced sedan, especially considering the majority of the weight is over a front-wheel-drive configuration.
This VW is not a track car, but it is a sporty sedan that can handle the track. It has all the entry-level luxury features one can expect for a starting price just under $30K. The 2018 Jetta GLI will remain the same, but will, unfortunately, come with the 6-speed automatic only. There will be six trim levels which include a base S, SE, SE Sport, Wolfsburg Edition, SEL and my track ride- GLI. The GLI gets its improved grip from performance tires wrapped around (new for 2018) 18-inch “Bathhurst” aluminum-alloy wheels. The sports-tuned suspension and stiffer shocks and struts increase flat cornering but do not make this sedan uncomfortable on the open road.
The new Wolfsburg Edition gets badges, leather, and heated seats and washer nozzles. The new Jetta SE Sport adds a standard sunroof, gloss black interior trim, and 17-inch wheels with a black-out theme on the radiator grille, window trim, and rear spoiler. The GLI gets all this, a better engine, 6-speed transmission, 18-inch shoes, and a fun driving characteristic.
In 2011 the Jetta was, and reportedly there is an entirely new model coming in 2019. Jetta is not the most flashy sedan offered in the 2018 model year. Even, the 2018 Jetta does not come standard with all the newest safety gear like auto braking and auto lane correction but are optional. The simple driving machine is what I love about the Jetta. The Jetta is a sleeper sporty sedan, especially with the 2017 Jetta’s manual transmission. It has excellent driving dynamics for a front-wheel drive. The 2018 Jetta GLI with an automatic dual-clutch sequential gearbox transmission and paddle shifters will be almost as much fun.
This car is a roomy, comfortable, and competent sedan that handles very well on canyon roads and freeways. The controls are simple, and the interior is reasonably quiet. The seats are comfortable, and yet the bolsters hug the driver enough to keep one from sliding around on a sharp corner. The driving position is good for short and tall drivers alike, and there is room for five real people. The GLI is a midsize German sedan with reserved looks and autobahn capabilities.
The Jetta GLI comes with a power tilting/sliding sunroof, parking sensors (Park Pilot), a sport suspension, rain-sensing windshield wipers, halogen headlights, front LED fog lights, and then some LED taillights and LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL).
Safety equipment includes Audi’s Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS) which senses impending collisions and prepares the car and passengers for impact. An accident that deploys the airbag triggers the ICRS to turn off the fuel pump, unlock the doors, and activate the hazard lights. There is also a standard XDS® Cross Differential System for improved traction on slippery surfaces and a host of braking assist features to help avoid the collision in the first place.
Volkswagen has a lot of ground to cover to regain the trust of the American public after a series of quality control issues, not to mention issues with emissions in their diesel vehicles in recent years. I recognize that the VW companies like Audi, Porsche, etc. are producing some very intriguing vehicles, not to mention some great SUVs like Atlas and the all-new Tiguan. VW is also offering a new six-year or 72,000-mile “bumper-to-bumper” limited warranty across the model lineup to entice some new buyers with this no-cost extended warranty. We will see how forgiving the US market will be!
Gas mileage in the 2018 GLI is 24 city/33 highway/27 combined with the six-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission with their Tiptronic™ manual override. I was aggressively driving on the Willow Springs Raceway and still using the manual transmission, so there were no mileage figures to compare to on that day. For higher mileage, buyers should opt for the 1.4-liter turbo or the 1.8-liter turbo engine in the other Jetta models. A nice compromise could be the new 2018 Jetta SE Sport which adds a sunroof, sport-trimmed interior, and blacked out exterior elements.
I did climb into some faster cars that day at Willow Springs with huge amounts of horsepower and torque, costing three times the dollars of the Jetta GLI. However, I walked away from the track thinking about what would I own. The Jetta is still a favorite for my everyday driver.
Writers Note: A race track is the place for ultra-high speeds, with professional instructors, and safety gear. We have too many boy-racers who drive the backroads and freeways at high speeds and almost to the edge. Too often these irresponsible drivers end up injuring someone else, killing someone else, or they die. Please do not race on public streets.