YOUNTVILLE, Calif. -- Steering a turbocharged Jetta GLI -- top trim for Volkswagen's best-selling compact 4-door sedan -- along the Silverado Trail in California's Napa Valley with a meager speed limit and ubiquitous radar patrols becomes an exercise of reining rather than throttling simply to maintain this powerful car's movements within legal bounds for a ticket-less drive test.
The problem is that the sporty Jetta GLI affords goosy-powered acceleration with the easy tap of your right foot -- and more juice comes with the 2014 issues.
Jetta GLI for 2014 scores a 10 horsepower boost to a gasoline-sipping 4-in-line turbo engine, which displaces 2.0 liters with DOHC (double-overhead cam) and 16 valves. Power numbers tally now to 210 hp at 5300 rpm with the torque rising to 236 lb-ft at only 1750 rpm.
A notchy 6-speed manual transmission rigged with hill-hold feature works well with the turbo-4, but also available for $1,100 extra on the bottom line is a 6-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), Volkswagen's remarkable electronic automated manual transmission.
EPA-estimated fuel economy figures for the GLI powertrain climb to 23-mpg city and 33-mpg highway using the manual shifter and 24/32-mpg (city/highway) with the DSG.
Jetta GLI for 2014 comes in base and Autobahn trims.
Standard gear on Jetta GLI base edition ranges from 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels capped by 225/45/R17 tires and foglamps plus heated exterior mirrors to a keyless entry device, air conditioning, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, power-reclining front sport seats with adjustable driver lumbar support, cloth fabric seat upholstery, a leather-bound tilting-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6-speaker audio kit with touchscreen interface, CD deck and satellite radio.
Also on-board is VW's new Car-Net telematics system which brings security and convenience features such as remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location assistance and automatic crash notification.
Jetta GLI Autobahn edition goes further by adding 18-inch wheels with 225/40/R18H tires, heated windshield-washer nozzles, a tilt/slide sunroof, 6-way power driver seat, automatic climate controls, leatherette vinyl upholstery, glovebox cooling plus a 9-speaker Fender audio package.
Jetta GLI employs a suspension system consisting of front independent MacPherson struts with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers, and a rear multi-link arrangement with coil springs and telescopic gas-pressurized shocks, plus anti-roll stabilizer bar posted front and rear.
The power-assisted brakes employ vented discs in front and solid discs in the rear.
Active safety equipment includes an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic braking assist (EBA), plus VW's anti-slip regulation (ASR) throttle checker and electronic differential locking (EDL) that modulates engine torque on front wheels to maximize tire grip. And all of these acronyms are control components of the standard electronic stabilization program (ESP).
The list of passive safety gear includes dual-stage frontal air bags plus side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags mounted in the roof above front and rear outboard seats, front seat safety belts with pretensioners and load limiters, three-point seat belts for three positions on the rear bench, and five head restraints with active whiplash protection on the front pair.
Climb aboard a Jetta GLI and you'll find a 5-seat passenger compartment with more room than a car in the compact class should contain and more fine materials and fancy appointments than a car with affordable price points usually provides.
The layout pits a pair of bucket seats with center console in front and a broad and flat bench with three seat positions and generous legroom. There's a fold-out center armrest with pass-through door to the trunk and rear seatbacks that fold to expand the cargo capacity.
The trunk is huge for the class -- 15.5 cubic feet of stow space above a flat floor.
Crisp styling for the exterior package of the GLI features a low nose and sloping hood with lines sweeping up to the canted windshield and over an arching roof. Side roof pillars go to black to blend with the tinted windows and create the impression of a sleek coupe.
The brash face sports a narrow crosshatch-filled grille sandwiched between corner headlamp clusters with yawning air intake vents cut into the deep fascia.
Flanks show subtle bulges from flares around wheels and side skirts.
Volkswagen sets MSRP figures at $24,255 for Jetta GLI/MT5, $25,355 for Jetta GLI/DSG and $26,495 for Jetta GLI-Autobahn/MT6.