Let’s face it: The compact sedan segment is hardly the most exciting space in the automotive industry. Volkswagen wants to make it more alluring with the 2019 Jetta GLI, a hot-rodded sedan decked out with looks, tech, and power. The model made its debut during the 2019 Chicago Auto Show.
Volkswagen boasts that the GLI has the heart and soul of a Golf GTI. We’ll reserve our judgment on its soul until we drive it, but the heart is certainly there. Power for the GLI comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder plucked directly from the GTI’s engine bay. It delivers 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through an electronic limited-slip differential and either an enthusiast-approved six-speed manual transmission, or a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The GLI rides lower than the standard Jetta thanks to a sport suspension made firmer and more advanced to improve handling on twisty roads. Volkswagen upgraded the brakes by pulling the discs and the calipers from the parts bin labeled “Golf R.” On paper, all of the ingredients needed to make an engaging sport sedan are accounted for.
It’s not a stripped-out track special, though. The list of standard features includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, automatic headlights, and rain-sensing wipers. Volkswagen’s touchscreen-based infotainment system — which is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — also comes standard. Buyers who want an extra serving of tech can order the GLI with a digital, driver-configurable instrument cluster, while those who want to rock out can select the 400-watt BeatsAudio sound system.
Right away, the Jetta GLI catches the eye with a muscular-looking design characterized by black trim and red accents. It rides on model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, and it wears a body kit that adds a rear spoiler and an air diffuser flanked by a pair of round exhaust tips. It stays true to the GTI/GLI lineage; these models have always taken a low-key approach to performance. You’ll need to shop elsewhere if you want a massive wing.
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI will reach American showrooms in the spring of 2019. Pricing information hasn’t been released yet. When it goes on sale, the lineup will include two trim levels called base and Autobahn, respectively, and a limited-edition model released to commemorate the GLI nameplate’s 35th anniversary. The Jetta GLI will compete directly against the Honda Civic Si.