Volkswagen turned the humble Jetta into a 200-mph land-speed missile

When we drove the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta earlier this year, we were impressed by the compact sedan’s upscale feel and array of tech, but the Jetta didn’t strike us as particularly fast. It’s certainly not the car we’d expect to set a land-speed record. Yet that’s exactly what VW is planning to do with the Jetta.

Fresh off achieving a record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with the all-electric I.D. R, a modified 2019 VW Jetta will hit the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah, and attempt to set the record for the Southern California Timing Association’s (SCTA) BGC/G class. The SCTA oversees most record breaking at the Salt Flats, and the record Volkswagen wants to beat currently stands at 208.472 mph. Not surprisingly, VW needed to make some modifications for the Jetta to have a chance of beating that supercar-rivaling speed.

The land-speed record Jetta gets a new engine, but it’s not an exotic racing unit. It’s a modified version of 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder EA888 engine used in the Golf and other VW models. More importantly, this engine will soon fight its way under the hood of the Jetta GLI performance model. The current non-GLI Jetta makes due with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

The land-speed record Jetta has over 493 hp, according to VW, but don’t expect the production Jetta GLI to be quite as powerful. Output will probably be closer to the 220 hp and 258 lb-ft the EA888 engine makes in the current Golf GTI.

In addition to the 2.0-liter engine, Volkswagen lowered the Jetta’s suspension, fitted special Salt Flats wheels and tires, and added a limited-slip differential to improve the front-wheel drive car’s traction. VW was quick to note that the Jetta’s fairly low drag coefficient of 0.27 should provide an aerodynamic advantage at Bonneville.

As is standard procedure for race cars, the Jetta’s interior was stripped and fitted with extra safety equipment, including a roll cage, racing seat with harness, and a fire suppression system. VW also fitted a pair of parachutes to help stop the car.

Volkswagen will make its record attempt during Bonneville Speed Week August 11-17. Expect the Jetta GLI to turn up in showrooms sometime over the next few months. It won’t be as fast as the land-speed record car, but the GLI could add some much-needed excitement to the Jetta.

Updated on August 8: Added power output

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