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2008 Volkswagen GLI Review

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Pay Attention to ME!

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

A hilarious sitcom comes to mind as I think about this week’s ride, the hot-shot sports sedan from VW called Jetta GLI Fahrenheit. It’s been about a dozen years since the show was on the air but one classic line jumps out at me. The star, a cute, bubbly, vivacious little blonde, in bed with her young man (marital status eludes me), is telling him about something important that happened at her job that day. He appears distracted by whatever is on TV, probably sports if the stereotype holds. In frustration she throws one leg over his, turns right into his face and demands, “Pay attention to me!”

It’s hard not to pay attention to this sexy VW built in Puebla, Mexico – an eye catcher for sure. Folks used to joke about the bright red color used by Porsche being called Arrest-Me Red. Well, we might call this color Arrest-Me Yellow. It couldn’t get much brighter, VW calls it Imola Yellow.

The Fahrenheit edition is one of four special limited edition models of Golf, Jetta and Beetle used by the fun folks at VW this year to stimulate sales: a Wolfsburg Edition Jetta, Fahernheit GTI and GLI and a Triple-White Beetle Convertible. Each is a limited edition with special badging and a bit of extra content. Our test Fahrenheit GLI is number 197 of 1200 verified by the imprint on the steering wheel.

I was fortunate enough to attend the product launch of the GLI just over a year ago in Santa Fe and you may recall I loved the car. At the time I thought it – along with sibling GTI - has one of the sweetest power trains in the business. Whether you have the stick or automatic, both just sing with the willing and smooth 2-liter, turbo.

Distinguishing the Fahrenheit GLI from the run-of-the-mill GLI (a misnomer, I assure you) is European sport tuned suspension, special steering wheel with the above mentioned number badge, 18-inch “Charleston” 10-spoke alloy wheels shod with 225/40 Dunlop SP Sport tires, heated seats, sunroof, and color matched stitching on the steering wheel, shift boot and hand brake boot. All in all, I think it’s pretty cool, and well worth a few extra bucks.

The above mentioned sweet little turbocharged 2-liter engine revs past redline effortlessly. The tach shows redline to be 6,500 rpm and the rev limiter kicks in gently at 7-grand. This might be the most fun you can have with just 2-liters and a modest 200 horsepower. We can feel virtually no turbo-lag with thrust just pouring on. Between being a beautifully balanced engine and having some amazing acoustical engineering the sound and feel could not be more sophisticated. And, the six-speed manual transmission’s shifter is as smooth as a baby’s freshly powdered butt. Can you tell I liked driving this one?

Handling is amazingly tight and controlled on dry surfaces. Unfortunately we had no ill weather to test its competence on slippery surfaces. I’m guessing it would be a handful in ice and snow with all that power and front-wheel-drive. Perhaps I can score one for a February test here in Michigan.

Fuel economy is officially rated at 23-city and 32-highway. We ran it hard and fast this week and our onboard mpg measuring devise, which resets itself with every trip, consistently read between 24.5 mpg and 27.5 mpg. We were using mid-grade fuel.

Price of the Fahrenheit GLI is $27,880. That price includes all we’ve talked about here plus 18-inch wheels and summer performance tires, lots of chassis dynamic controls, electro-mechanical steering, an in-dash 6-CD changer with MP3 capability and auxiliary input jack, lots of airbags, xenon headlights, trip computer, red painted brake calipers, leather seating, and all the power stuff we now expect. The only extra cost item listed is the Sirius Satellite radio at $375. With the $640 destination charge the bottom line shows $28,895.

Basic warranty coverage is 4-years/50,000-miles with 5-years/60,000-miles on the powertrain.

The Teutonic tricksters at VW have done an admirable job of taking the “pocket rocket” genre, which they created with the original GTI, from crude little economy car with hot performance to a sophisticated, modern performance sport sedan at a price that puts them in most buyers’ ball parks.

I could easily live with this one.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved