The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is back with 228 hp and a six-speed stick

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2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 3/4 front mountain VW

When friends of mine ask me what the best all-around car is for someone looking for fun and practicality, I almost always tell them to get a Volkswagen GTI. The perennial hot-hatch favorite is quick, comfortable, well-built, and has a useful amount of space to load up a set of tires for the track or pack it full of gear for a weekend of camping. But not everyone wants a hatchback, and for those people Volkswagen has long offered the Jetta GLI. With the new 2019 model the Jetta GLI is back, once again with the same powertrain and performance technology as the GTI and, this time around, brakes from the top-spec Golf R.

As the top dog of the Jetta hierarchy, the GLI boasts more performance, equipment, and technology than the current Jetta R-Line. Under the hood will be the same 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine as in the GTI, packing 258 lb-ft of torque and your choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. For reference, that’s 18 more hp and 41 lb-ft than in the outgoing Jetta GLI. Other goodies cribbed from the GTI include a electronic limited-slip differential and available adaptive dampers. The Honda Civic Si sedan is probably the GLI’s closest competition, and the Si makes 205 hp from its 1.5-liter turbo-four engine, paired exclusively to a six-speed manual transmission. Adaptive dampers are also standard on the Si.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI grille detail
2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI VW
2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI driver interior
2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI VW

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI front end driving at speed
2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI VW

Like the standard Jetta, which this year joined the Golf on VW’s MQB platform, the GLI is noticeably larger than in the past. It is longer, wider, taller, and has a longer wheelbase with a wider track. But unlike the standard 2019 Jetta, the GLI model does not rely on a torsion-beam rear suspension—this hotted-up sedan uses and multilink rear suspension to with struts up front, as well as 18-inch aluminum wheels (1 inch larger than the R-Line’s 17s). The multilink setup is heavier than the twist-beam, and which is one reason for the GLI’s big brakes—13.4-inch vented front rotors courtesy of the Golf R. Curb weight for the base stick-shift GLI is 3217 pounds, which is nine pounds more than the outgoing GLI with its six-speed dual-clutch automatic, and 31 pounds heavier than a stick-shift GTI.

Safety tech—including forward-collision warning, autonomous front emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and post-collision braking—are all standard.

The 2019 Jetta GLI will come in two trims. Base models will get cloth seats with gray piping, as well as standard heated seats, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, keyless entry, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, and phone-mirroring tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Opt for the Autobahn trim for leather seating surfaces, while optional equipment includes Volkswagen Digital Cockpit (an LCD instrument panel), Beats audio system, a power-operated driver seat with memory and lumbar, ventilated seating surfaces, and remote start.

The new GLI will make its debut at the 2019 Chicago auto show and is bound for showrooms this spring. Pricing is not yet available, but if history is any indicator, it’ll be positioned right above the $27,795 SEL Premium. I’ll reserve judgement until I actually drive one, but the concept of a Jetta with a GTI engine, adaptive dampers, and a six-speed is tantalizing indeed. If my friends ask me what fun practical car they should buy, I might have to ask if they prefer a trunk.

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