Volkswagon For 1997
By Carey Russ
Volkswagen built its reputation on a small, economical car with offbeat character. Its current offerings may be closer to the automotive mainstream in design than the Beetle, but that does not makes them clones of all the other front-engine, front-wheel drive cars on the market. From the basic-but-well-appointed Golf GL to the quick and luxurious Passat GLX, VWs are still unique.
New this year is an ultra-economical turbodiesel version of the Passat. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine used in many Golf and Jetta models has mechanical refinements for smoother operation. The 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission optional in all of VW's cars has upgraded software with adaptive shift logic for automatic adjustment to individual driving styles.
The Passat is a very German car. Stylistically unique and surprisingly spacious, it is offered in sedan or wagon form. New this year is the Passat TDI, powered by a clean, efficient direct-injection turbodiesel engine. Very German, considering German gasoline prices. And a long, long way from a diesel Rabbit in refinement and performance.
The Passat GLX features the 172-horsepower VR6 narrow- angle V6. It offers German performance and luxury at a reasonable price.
The Golf is a roomy, practical hatchback. Or, for the sport- minded, it's the basis for the original "pocket rocket" GTI. Golfs may look much the same this year, but there are plenty of enhancements under the skin. The 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder Golf GL continues to have a very high level of standard equipment.
Two versions of the sporty Golf GTI are offered. The base GTI uses the engine of the Golf GL, but as its own appearance and suspension tuning. The GTI VR6 has the 172-horsepower 2.8-liter narrow-angle VR6 V6 engine. It has new suspension calibration for 1997, and new wheels and tires.
Volkswagen convertibles have been around since the days of the Beetle and Karmann-Ghia. Indeed, the old VW convertibles are serious collectors items today, fetching high prices.
High price is not a concern with the current VW Cabriolet. For 1997, VW value pricing comes to the base-model Cabrio. A new Highline premium model has been introduced. Both versions of the Cabrio are based on the Golf GL platform and feature a fully-lined top with a glass backlight with integral defogger.
Combining the practicality of a 4-door sedan with a huge trunk and the verve of the Golf, the Jetta has been Volkswagen's best-seller for over a decade. A new GT model is introduced for 1997. The Jetta GT, like the 4-cylinder Golf GTI, is sportier than the other 4-cylinder models - the GL and GLS - but not quite as sporty as the Jetta GLX. The VR6-powered GLX combines family-car room with sports car performance.