The 2019 VW Jetta GLI is a sportier, more athletic version of the Jetta sedan.
Styling upgrades include 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and dual chrome exhaust
Performance upgrades include a limited-slip differential and multi-link rear suspension.
The sixth generation of Volkswagen’s Jetta GLI just rolled off the show stand in Chicago, and if you’ve got a thing for sporty sedans that won’t break your bank account, then this one is worth paying attention to. No, it’s not a BMW or an Alfa Giulia, but it’s almost as fast and costs significantly less. In a way, you could call the 2019 VW Jetta GLI the poor man’s Audi S4 (minus the all-wheel drive). It’s German, it’s screwed together right, it’s modern, and efficient.
On top of all that, VW has warrantied this thing up the wazoo: six-years/72,000-miles bumper-to-bumper.
Obviously, VW is serious here when it comes to the competition.
The 2019 VW Jetta GLI features a coupe-like profile, oversized grille, and sporty styling cues to make it more noticeable. There are LED projector headlights and LED daytime running lights flanking the black honeycomb grille, which features a red accent line. Outback, you’ll see standard LED taillights, a unique rear bumper, finned diffusor, dual chrome exhaust tips, and a special spoiler on the decklid.
The interior is dripping with tech and safety and multimedia trinkets. Styling-wise, it’s mainly black with red accents all over the place. The sport seats feature red stitching and are available in either cloth or Autobahn-perforated leather. Heated seats and dual-zone automatic climate control are there to keep you comfortable. Standard convenience features include automatic headlights, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
There’s ambient lighting and a 400-watt BeatsAudio system, which should blow your ears off.
On the tech front, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink are standard. The Jetta GLI includes VW’s Car-Net connected services and Digital Cockpit as well. And oh yeah, the safety stuff: Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. All standard.
Power & Performance
Did I mention the word sport? I did, yes! To reinforce that notion, the 2019 VW Jetta GLI comes with a 2.0-liter turbo engine (EA888 TSI) with direct injection that cranks out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. That is a lot for a sedan this size. To increase efficiency, the engine features VW’s variable valve timing and variable exhaust valve lift systems. Power gets to the front wheels through a standard, six-speed manual transmission, although a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic is on offer.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the GLI is 25/32/28 mpg (city/highway/combined) regardless of transmission choice. A standard start/stop feature comes on the slush-boxes to further improve efficiency.
Suspension & Drive Modes
The 2019 VW Jetta GLI is suspended by an independent setup on all four corners. The strut-type configuration at the front and a multi-link arrangement out back combine for a ride height 0.6 inches lower than normal. The brakes are nabbed from the Golf GTI and Golf R, meaning 13.4-inch vented front discs strong enough to stop a freight train.
The new Jetta GLI is standard with VW’s VAQ electronically-controlled, torque-sensing limited-slip differential to reduce understeer.
You can even have fun with all the computer whatzits. There’s a Driving Mode Selection that allows you to customize the Jetta GLI’s behavior. You can choose from “Normal,” “Sport,” “Eco,” and “Custom.” Normal gives you a balanced driving experience while Sport is more dynamic with regard to the throttle and transmission. Sport also provides tighter steering and more spirited exhaust notes. Eco optimizes everything for fuel economy.
Custom allows you to monkey with the steering, throttle, front differential, engine notes, and climate control settings.
The 2019 VW Jetta GLI will arrive at dealers this spring with a starting MSRP of $25,995. There’s also a 35th Anniversary model on tap that comes with red-striped black wheels, a black roof and spoiler, and an adaptive damping system.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.