VW storms SEMA 2022 with 350-hp GLI show car

VW | Andrew Trahan

Rather than tout the electric reboot of its beloved Minibus at the industry’s biggest aftermarket show, SEMA, VW is jazzing up an internal-combustion model that’s rather long in the tooth.

The GLI is essentially the GTI’s powertrain dropped into the long-running Jetta sedan, based on the same MQB architecture as the outgoing Mk. 7 Golf. The first such “GTI with a trunk” appeared in 1984, and this current version in 2019; three years into its sixth generation, this hot-rodded SEMA “GLI Performance Concept” of VW’s own hot-rod Jetta is a product of the company’s California design center .

In good ol’ SEMA fashion, VW dipped into aftermarket kit for the GLI Performance Concept: Though the new valances, flared fenders, and vinyl wrap are in-house, the powertrain has a heavy dose of RacingLine’s tuning mojo.

2022 VW SEMA GLI rear three-quarter
VW | Andrew Trahan

(The shop was originally Volkswagen Motorsport UK, founded in 1997 as a fully owned subsidiary of VW Group AG. It won the British Rally Championship with a 285-hp Golf that year, and handles VW factory racing efforts to this day. It also supports a VW performance parts catalog as a tier-1 partner of the Group.)

A cold-air intake and an intercooler bump output of the EA888 turbo-four from 228 hp and 258 lb-ft above Golf R levels: 350 hp and 372 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is the factory-offered six speed manual, fitted with an upgraded performance clutch. Brakes are also via RacingLine: six-piston calipers clamping exotic (in the world of entry-level VWs) carbon-ceramic discs. A set of coilovers was practically guaranteed, VW choosing RacingLine’s TrackSport setup with fully adjustable solid top mounts and a “slammed” setup. A set of 20-inch Rotiform Aerodiscs—a common sight among the late-model, “drop it low” crowd on Instagram—complete the look.

2022 VW SEMA GLI side
VW | Andrew Trahan

The interior features two Recaro’s Pole Position ABE buckets, its most race-oriented street seat, and a custom shift knob. (Don’t get your hopes up for actual buttons on the steering wheel, though. Those aren’t due until 2024.)

2022 VW SEMA GLI interior
VW | Andrew Trahan

VW’s attending SEMA 2022 with an admirable blend of retro and modern, and we aren’t only looking at this GLI when we say that: an Oettinger-fettled Mk8 GTI will in attendance, alongside a 2004 R32 and a fascinating ’90s rally prototype (the A59) built to satisfy homologation for the 1994 FIA World Rally Championship. (Sadly, it never entered the series.) A pair of overlanding builds based on current models—an Atlas and a Tiguan, its volume-selling SUVs—acknowledge VW’s present, and trio of ID.4s in various off-road gear nod to the future of the brand.

It’s the mix of heritage and disciplines we love to see at SEMA … hopefully GM and Ford, who each skipped the show this year, get inspired.

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    I just want an electric GTI, with real buttons from the MKVII, and no design changes that try to make it look futuristic. Only need 250 miles of range. Is this too much to ask?

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