It's my long-held professional opinion that the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI is the best all-around enthusiast transportation device. It does more things better than anything it competes with and embarrasses cars costing twice as much with its better overall refinement and build quality. That's great news for the 2019 Jetta GLI, since it's effectively a GTI with a trunk that comes standard with a 20 percent off coupon. That saves you a whopping $7,100, and since the Jetta and Golf are the same basic car, that makes the Jetta GLI the best all-around enthusiast transportation device with a trunk. Oops, I gave it all away too early in the review. Or did I? There's always fine print on those darn coupons, and the Jetta's reveals a few significant differences. First, the 20 percent discount applies only to the most expensive Autobahn DSG trim level, which is a screaming bargain at $30,890. The cheapest GLI you can buy, the S with a six-speed manual, is $26,890, and that's only $1,600 less expensive than the base Golf GTI. "Only." Amazingly, despite being cheaper than the GTI, VW's hot sedan comes standard with a bunch of very worthwhile features not present on the entry-level hatchback variant, including LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision monitoring with automatic emergency braking, and an automatic dimming rear-view mirror. It also has a wheelbase that's two inches longer than the Golf's, 1.8 inches of which goes directly to rear-seat legroom. That's a lot of free stuff, especially since the cars are mechanically identical except for the aforementioned wheelbase stretch and a few small details. According to VW, the Jetta weighs 29 pounds more, all of which is presumably at the rear, and it receives a slightly thicker anti-roll bar (up by 1.7 mm to 21.7 mm) to compensate. It shares the GTI's front brakes, but in place of vented 12.2-inch rotors in the rear, it makes do with solid 11.8-inch units. That's likely due to the Jetta's electric parking brake — using the Golf's mechanical handbrake would force a rework of the Jetta's center console. Finally, the Jetta GLI rides on slightly taller tires, 225/45-18 in place of the GTI's 225/40-18s. That's it. The Jetta gets the GTI's riotous 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, with identical 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It gets the same exact transmissions — VW's light-effort six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch DSG. It inherits the GTI's progressive steering rack that manages to combine just 2.1 turns of lock with zero on-center nervousness. And it gets Volkswagen's wonderful electronically locking front differential. Volkswagen wisely chose to debut the GLI on the famed Tail of the Dragon on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, known for its 4 million (or so) off-camber, decreasing radius hairpin turns over two hundred (or so) miles, with a thousand-or-two-foot drop on either side. (That's 11 miles and 318 curves, in actuality, but that doesn't sound as impressive. – Ed.) Too bad it was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, …
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|MPG||25 City / 32 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd man w/OD|
|Power||228 @ 5000 rpm|
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