By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Eagle, Idaho – The clerk in the convenience store looked out the front window admiring the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35 we were driving and asked us what a GLI was. We responded, ‘it’s the upper-level Jetta with more performance features and the 35 means it a special model for the 35th anniversary.’
Distinctive Red Trim
The GLI 35 was striking with its Pure Gray non-metallic paint, black roof and red trim accenting the dark gray 18-inch wheels and the black grille. It certainly caught the young clerk’s eye and we noticed other heads turning along our route.
Our New Test Route
Having moved to Idaho from Washington state a few months ago we had to find a replacement drive route for our test cars, and Hwy 55 north from Boise, ID to the McCall resort area seemed to be a good choice especially the 35 mile section from just north of Smith’s Ferry south to Horseshoe Bend. The road winds dramatically as it parallels the white waters of the Payette River offering us a chance to get a good feel for the GLI’s handling.
Turbocharged four-cylinder engine
The Jetta GLI 35 has features and performance levels that surprised us. It has the same 228-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine used in VW’s popular GTI model. It will make a 0 to 60 mph run in just 5.6 seconds. Our test car was paired with VW’s quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted shift paddles. A six-speed manual, which had been dropped from Jetta availability the last generation, is again offered for 2019 for drivers who still prefer a clutch. The GLI stops quickly thanks to the 13.4-inch vented front disk brakes and 11.8-inch solid rear disks which were sourced from the VW Golf R performance model.
Quick Turbo Response
Turbo lag is nearly imperceptible at highway speeds, so passing power is excellent for a four-cylinder engine. There was a slight hesitation from an idle, but we think that only adds to the character of a turbocharged engine. If that’s a problem the driver can skirt the lag by using the launch control.
Good Fuel Economy
The EPA rates fuel economy at 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We averaged 29.1 mpg on our drive. The engine has an auto stop system to save fuel while you wait for long lights or construction delays. The auto stop can be deactivated by pushing a button on the center console.
Driving Mode Selector
A sophisticated standard feature is the Driving Mode Selector on the rear of the center console. The driver can toggle between: “Normal,” “Sport,” “Eco,” and “Custom” settings to set up the car to best fit the driving conditions and driver’s style. Normal mode gives
a balanced drive experience, while Sport is tuned for a more dynamic throttle and shift response, tighter steering, and a more spirited exhaust note. Eco mode optimizes shift points, throttle response and climate control settings to help fuel economy. Custom allows a driver to tailor the steering, throttle, differential, engine note, and climate control settings. We noticed at lower speeds the engine was noisier than we like in the sport mode with the extra exhaust sounds.
Built on VW’s new award winning MQB chassis, the GLI has MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link rear suspension which combined with the DCC® adaptive damping system to produce very good handling and balance through the corners. For better traction the GLI has a VAQ electronically controlled front limited-slip differential.
High Level of Standard Equipment
The well-equipped GLI 35 edition has standard front and rear LED lighting, 10-color ambient lighting, KESSY® keyless access and push-button start, dual-zone Climatronic®, Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert. We’d have liked to have active cruise control too, but it’s not available on the GLI models.
Pricing Starts at $26,890
The 2019 Jetta GLI pricing starts at $26,890 including the destination charge. The GLI 35 is $1,000 more or if you want the works the Autobahn edition is priced at $30,090. Available premium features include Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front leather seating surfaces, and BeatsAudio® sound system.
“America’s Best Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty”
The Jetta has an outstanding warranty which VW says is “America’s Best Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty” with 6-years/72,000-miles (whichever occurs first) of transferable coverage.
For extra security, Volkswagen offers a Car-Net Security & Service system which includes Automatic Crash Notification, Manual Emergency Call, Roadside Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, remote door lock and unlock, remote honk, and a remote status check of the doors and windows.
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI was enjoyable on our short road trip to McCall and back. Handling is very good without compromising ride quality. The car is spacious with a comfortable seating for four adults, or five less comfortably. The specs say the trunk is 14 cubic feet, but it looks much larger and still larger when the split rear seat backs are folded. With its crisp styling and attractive comfortable interior, we think the Jetta GLI is a car owners will look forward to driving.