2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Review and Fun Drive by Larry Nutson +VIDEO
SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyers Guide
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By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel
Yes. Fun-to-drive; lots of fun. With 200 horsepower at my command, for me every Stop sign was a temptation for a full-throttle blast.
Back nearly thirty years ago the Volkswagen brand “owned” the fun-to-drive characteristic or purchase reason. The venerable Beetle was fun to drive, but it all really kicked in with the introduction in the US market of the Mk1-based GTI in 1983. A year later the first Jetta GLI followed.
Fast-forward to today and there are now many other brands on the market that offer fun-to-drive models. It’s no longer a VW exclusive. But that’s ok.
The Jetta was all-new in 2011 and has been selling very well. It’s VW’s top selling model. Capping the Jetta lineup for 2012 is the GLI. The 2.0L TSI turbocharged four-cylinder generates 200 horsepower…double that of the original…and 207 lb-ft of torque. Drive is through the front wheels. The standard 6-speed manual is smooth to shift. Gone is the sloppy-shifter of the old days. Optional is the DSG dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters. I love hearing the quickness of the shifts with the DSG transmission…and perhaps a better choice if you live in a heavy traffic city like Chicago.
Watch the VW Jetta GLI promo video
Premium fuel is recommended…not required. EPA fuel economy estimates are 22 city mpg and 33 highway mpg for the 6-speed and 24 city mpg and 32 highway for the DSG. With the 14.5 gallon fuel tank you’re good for all-day driving on Route 66 or your favorite interstate for 460-480 miles. I did a couple highway runs not for fuel economy measurements but to observe wind and tire noise. VW has done a nice job of keeping the interior quiet and comfortable for conversation or listening to your favorite sounds from the Fender Audio System.
On the outside the GLI has a few unique design elements. Noticeable is the lack of a Jetta badge. A GLI badge is mounted to the front grille and the lower left of the trunk lid. The black honeycomb grille is much to my liking…actually, I’m not a fan of the standard Jetta multi-bar grille. The front spoiler is deeper with GTI-style vertical fog lamps at the outer corners. At the rear, there are smoked taillights and dual exhaust outlets.
Brakes are four-wheel discs with ABS of course, and the calipers are painted red on the GLI.
The GLI comes in three trim levels starting at $23,495. The GLI Autobahn is $25,545 and with Navigation is $26,445. The DSG trans is $1100 extra.
I’ve mentioned that VW did a nice job in managing wind and tire noise. Engine noise at highway speeds is low, too. When I first started the GLI engine I was surprised by the sound. It wasn’t that of the usual 4-cylinder but more substantial and affirmative…if an engine can be! I had to ask myself if this was a 5-cylinder. Acceleration from stop to 60 is in the mid-6 second range, according to published reports and my seat-of-the-pants.
If the GLI doesn’t fit your pocket book, image, or needs, Volkswagen offers 12 unique Jetta models with prices starting at $16,495 for the Jetta S powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder. An SE model is powered by the 2.5L 5-cylinder and starts at $18,495. And then, if you are a high mileage driver and the 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel fits the bill one can be had priced at $22,525 and will deliver 42 highway mpg.
Noteworthy in the Warranty is Volkswagen’s Carefree Maintenance Program that covers all scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 mile at no additional charge.
VW has approximately 600 dealers throughout the US, so the purchase experience AND the ownership experience should be relatively convenient and help in keeping the GLI not only fun-to-drive but also fun-to-own.
Woohoo! © Larry Nutson