Volkswagen Brings New Jetta GLI to Chicago with GTI Motor, Golf R Brakes

With their second new model in two consecutive auto shows, Volkswagen unveiled the new Jetta GLI today at the Chicago Auto Show. With new looks, new limited-slip diff, the GTI’s engine, and brakes from the Golf R, the new GLI looks like a stunner.

Oh, and there’s a 35th Anniversary edition that should be even quicker than the standard GLI.

An all-new Jetta arrived last year, with lots more interior space and new high-tech features. What was missing was the sporting version. The 1.4L turbo four wasn’t a slug, but it was certainly not a GLI. It starts with the EA888 TSI 2.0L turbo four. Variable valve timing on both sides of the cylinder and variable lift on the exhaust means 228 hp on premium gas and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s 18 more horses than the last GLI, and a whopping 41 more torques.

That power will be sent to the front wheels through a seven-speed DSG that also adds a start/stop feature to save fuel when you’re waiting impatiently for a green light. Don’t worry, that’s the optional box. A six-speed stick is standard–though it won’t get the start-stop.

Making sure both front wheels are spinning, the GLI gets the GTI’s VAQ Haldex-clutch limited-slip front differential. There’s a variable ratio steering rack fitted, too.

While the standard Jetta uses a torsion-beam rear suspension, the GLI adds a multi-link independent setup. The car is 0.6-inches lower than the standard Jetta, with what VW calls a sport suspension.

Look inside the 18-inch alloys and you’ll see some great big brakes. 13.4-inch rotors up front, snapped up from the Golf R parts bin (and yes, the GTI bin too, but that doesn’t sound as impressive).

There are four driving modes that adjust the steering, the throttle, and even the front differential. Custom lets you Goldilocks your Jetta to make it just right, or there’s Normal, Sport, and Eco modes.

Letting you know you’re looking at a GLI are standard LED headlights and a black honeycomb grille. And you had better believe there’s a red stripe on that nose. Out back there’s a new spoiler and a GLI-specific bumper with a finned diffuser and a pair of exhaust tips.

Inside, there’s lots of red trim to brighten up the black interior. Stitching on the wheel, shifter, armrests, and even the floor mats. There’s red stitching on the sport seats too, with the base cloth getting grey piping and the perforated leather of the Autobahn trim getting more red. There’s a 10-color wrap-around ambient lighting system too.

Other creature comforts include heated seats, auto headlights, Kessy keyless access with push-button start. And the App-Connect system supports CarPlay and Auto. Add-on features include the VW Digital Cockpit display with special GLI graphics, a 400-watt BeatsAudio stereo, Car-Net connected services, a second USB port, ventilated seats, and a remote start.

Standard safety bits include forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and post-collision braking.

Ok, now we’ve maybe saved the best for last. The 35th Anniversary model. And it’s definitely come a long way since the 90 hp 1.8L GLI of 1984.

The 35th special gets unique black wheels with a red stripe, a black roof and mirrors, plus special 35th badges. Inside, it has special seat tags, floor mats, and sill plates. Oh yeah, we said it’s probably quicker, too.

That’s because it gets DCC adaptive dampers. The electrically controlled dampers that can let the car adapt almost instantly to changing road conditions, but still improve the ride. It lets the driver control the dampers via the driving modes plus adds a Comfort mode to the selections.

The Jetta will arrive as a 2019 model this spring, available as base, Autobahn, and 35th Anniversary.

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