SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,200 Price As Tested $ 23,575 Engine Type DOHC 20-valve 1.8 Liter Turbo I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 108 cid/1781 cc Horsepower 150 @ 5700 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 155 @ 4500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 98.9"/68.3"/172.3" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3180 pounds Fuel Capacity 14.5 gallons Tires (F/R) 195/65R15 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content Ten percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.30 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 23/29/26 0-60 MPH 7.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.0 @ 86.5 mph Top-speed 130 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
BRENDAN - Volkswagen is always the first company I think of when I think German cars. The old Bug and the Microbus were the epitome of automotive practicality, but now styling and performance play a big part in VW's corporate mindset. The Jetta GLS we tested this week wasn't much different from last year's model, but this one sports a turbocharger. Its a hot 1.8-liter engine that pumps out 150 horses and really gets cooking when the turbo kicks in. I had a blast driving it, but I would have liked it ten-fold more if our car had the five-speed stick-shift transmission VW offers instead of an optional four-speed automatic gearbox. Still, it held its own and felt great when I jumped on it.
MIKELE - I have been a VW fan for years, Bren, and I loved my cousin Dana's Beetle that we cruised around in when we were teens. Dana is still partial to Volkswagens, so much that she bought a new Jetta last year. I loved zipping around in our test Jetta, and it held the road like a champ. The independent front suspension and track-correcting independent torsion beam rear suspension work in conjunction with Volkswagen's Electronic Differential Lock and its Anti-Slip Regulation system to give the Jetta a safe and nimble ride. I read up on the systems in the press kit and I'm finally beginning to understand how all of these computer-controlled systems work. They transfer power to the wheel that has traction as well as applying the brake on the wheel that has lost traction and is spinning.
BRENDAN - The interior is typically German, which means that the front seats are firm, but form-fitting and grip the driver and front-seat passenger tightly during heavy cornering. I like a comfortable interior and although the Jetta is utilitarian compared to some of the luxury cars we've had, it's still pleasing to the eyes. The blue and red gauges provided a nice visual cue during night driving, and the basic center console area is a welcome break from all these carriage-trade luxury cars with acres of polished wood and aluminum. The interior doesn't add too much fancy stuff, but does includes some things I've grown to expect from a heads-up car company. A self-dimming rear view mirror and a gray shade band on the front upper windshield were nice features, a so was the power windows with "pinch" protection. I've always had a dread of getting a finger caught in one on its way up.
MIKELE - There were a couple of other things I also liked. We've come to expect air-conditioning and tinted glass in everything but the lowest-end models, and most have a satisfactory sound system. But the unit in our Jetta is VW's famous Monsoon system with eight speakers and an AM/FM radio with a cassette player. The Jetta option list shows a six-disc changer available, but I was somewhat taken aback by the fact that the standard system didn't provide CD capacity which is now pretty well the standard recorded music medium. I'm now spoiled by CDs.
BRENDAN - The VW emblem is one of the most universally recognized logos in the world and the front grille of the Jetta carries a huge one. Its body parts are mostly color-keyed, and its shell is fully galvanized anti-corrosion sheet metal. We don't have to worry much about rust-out here in California, but for our readers around the country, good rust protection is a real selling point. The outside mirrors are heated too, and that makes winter driving easier. Our Jetta had halogen headlamps, which a lot of oncoming drivers curse, but they sure make night driving easier. The fuel cap has a cable attached to it so you won't leave it at the gas station. That's a small detail, but it's one that drivers wish for the first time they leave the cap behind at a self-service filling station.
MIKELE - Safety features include driver and front passenger side airbags, anti-intrusion side door beams, and energy absorbing side impact door padding as standard equipment.
BRENDAN - I've always had a soft spot for VWs since I got my old '76 Microbus many years ago.
MIKELE - I've blocked that revolting, garage-band, "tour wagon" out of my mind, Brendan, and I'd like it to stay there.