2011 Volkswagen Jetta GLI / 2.0 TSI – First Drive Review
Although the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta will be launched this October with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 2.5-liter five, and a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel, our favorite version will not be far behind. The GLI, which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter and a far sportier suspension setup, will be at dealers early next year. We drove a prototype of the Euro-market Jetta 2.0 TSI, which is identical to the forthcoming GLI except for its cosmetics.
As in its other applications, the turbocharged 2.0 serves up 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, the latter from 1700 to 5000 rpm. Turbo lag is kept to a minimum, and there is instant throttle response throughout the power band. The TSI engine produces a muted snarl that should become far more prominent in production cars than in the preproduction model we drove, thanks to a sound generator that will spice up the soundtrack.
Despite a body slightly larger than its predecessor’s, the 2011 Jetta is about 100 pounds lighter. For the GLI, VW promises a 0-to-60-mph times of 6.7 seconds with the six-speed manual transmission and 6.8 seconds with the wet-clutch DSG, but we think it’ll be quicker. We got 6.4 seconds out of a previous-gen car with a manual, and expect the 2011 car to match that sprint. Top speed is governed at 130 mph. Although performance is more than adequate, it doesn’t exactly rip the car forward. VW has a 2.0-liter engine that makes 265 hp in the Audi TTS. Can’t we get some of that in the GLI?
A Worthy GTI Companion
In any case, the GLI will far outpace the 2.5-liter Jetta in a straight line—and in corners, too. Although regular Jettas are equipped with a torsion-beam rear suspension, the GLI comes with a multilink rear axle. At low speeds, the GLI just feels stiff, and the electric power steering requires a lot of effort. Push it to the limit, however, and it comes alive. The steering is ultra-precise and nicely weighted for fast cornering, and although the standard Jetta’s rear suspension does a fine job, the GLI’s rear feels significantly more planted and better connected. The entire suspension setup inspires confidence, and the car seems to get more agile the faster you go. See that 328i over there? The GLI tempts you to catch up and play; the regular Jetta, not so much.
On the exterior, the GLI will differ from this 2.0 TSI and its lesser U.S. siblings by having black trim instead of chrome, red stripes in the honeycomb front grille—as on the GTI—red brake calipers, and GLI-specific wheels. Inside, the GLI is the only U.S. Jetta with a soft-touch dashboard, and its interior gets aluminum trim and unique seat upholstery. The GLI1, priced just below $24,000, comes with 17-inch aluminum wheels. The GLI2 adds perforated vinyl seats, a sunroof, and 18-inch wheels. The GLI3 adds a navigation system and will cost about $26,000. At that price, it’s not only competitive; it’s also the cheapest way to get into an honest-to-goodness German performance sedan.