Join Date: Mar 2001
Test Drive: 2007 Volkswagen Jetta GLI (CanadianDriver.com)
Test Drive: 2007 Volkswagen Jetta GLI (CanadianDriver.com)
Starting at $31,995, the Jetta GLI is the top dog in the 2007 Jetta line-up which now includes the base Jetta 2.5 with a 150-hp 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine, and the Jetta 2.0T with a turbocharged 200-hp four-cylinder engine (the same engine offered in the GLI). There's also the diesel-powered 2006 Jetta TDI sedan and 2006 Jetta TDI wagon (the latter with the previous generation body style) which are still being sold since there won't be any 2007 TDIs.
The Jetta GLI is essentially the sedan equivalent of the VW GTI hatchback with the much-praised turbocharged 200-hp 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine mated to a slick six-speed manual transmission, or optional six-speed automatic DSG (direct-shift gearbox) Tiptronic transmission. With dual clutches that pre-engage the next gear, the DSG transmission provides almost instant automatic shifts, and offers lightning fast manual sequential shifts with the Tiptronic floor shifter or twin paddles behind the steering wheel.
Features that distinguish the Jetta GLI ($31,995) from the Jetta 2.0T ($27,700) include its black, honeycomb grilles, a red stripe under the upper grille, a blacked out centre bumper, xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps instead of halogen headlamps, chrome GLI badges in the grille and rear deck, a sport-tuned fully independent suspension with stiffer springs, shocks and bushings, distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels and standard Continental 225/45R17-inch performance all-season radials instead of the 16-inchers on the 2.0T.
Inside, the GLI gets real aluminum trim rather than the 'metal-look' trim in the 2.0T, a unique leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, a leather and aluminum gear shift knob, AM/FM/CD/satellite radio with two extra speakers and a digital compass. The GLI is also slightly heavier than the 2.0T (by 22 kg (49 lb)).
Shared with the 2.0T are standard speed-sensing electric power assisted rack and pinion steering, four disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, and traction and stability control.
Other standard features on the Jetta GLI are heated cloth sport seats, air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power windows and remote door locks, AM/FM/6-disc CD player that's MP3 readable, side airbags, cruise, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, variable intermittent wipers, and tachometer.
Options include the DSG transmission ($1,400), 18-inch summer performance radials (a no-cost option when you pay $900 for the 18-inch alloys), and a Luxury Package ($2,610) that includes leather upholstery, special sport seats, power tilt/slide sunroof, power window pinch protection, and driver's door key lock window closing feature. The power sunroof is also available as a separate $1,400 option. Side curtain airbags ($250), and side curtain airbags combined with rear side airbags ($450) are worthwhile options.
A full load of options plus $695 Freight charge can boost the price of a GLI over $38,000 - plus taxes of course. Yes, you can pay close to 40 Large for a Jetta!
Unlike the previous generation Jetta bodystyle, the new model is a genuine four or five-passenger sedan with adequate legroom and headroom for front and rear passengers. I found the front sport seats, which include a manual height adjustment and lumbar adjustment, very supportive and comfortable. They include standard cushion and backrest heaters with five temperature choices. I usually set it at '2' to keep me toasty without getting 'toasted'. Believe me, once you've tried heated seats in the winter, you can never go back.
The quality of the GLI's interior plastics and fabrics, and the overall fit and finish are of a high standard. My test car's black interior was accented with attractive real aluminum trim on the dash, steering wheel and shifter. The standard cloth seats have sporty 'tartan' style seat patterns that resemble the seats in the original 70s GTIs. The GLI's thick-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel features thumb grips at the 'ten' and 'two' positions and a flat bottom, and it telescopes and tilts for optimum adjustment. Personally, I think the steering wheel is too thick and I didn't like the thumb grips which often seemed to get in the way while turning the wheel.
The metal-rimmed gauges look great, but the speedometer is difficult to read unless the headlights are turned on and the gauges are illuminated in that attractive blue backlighting that VW uses. There's also a useful red digital display between the two large gauges showing the time, temperature, odometer, and transmission gear display. The power windows, radio and heater controls are also backlit in red for easy operation at night.
Some of my compatriots at CanadianDriver complained about the radio reception of the standard radio, but the one in my car at least, didn't have any problems. It's worth noting that though a single CD player is listed as standard equipment on VW's consumer web site, a 6-disc in-dash changer plus Sirius satellite radio compatibility is included in the base price of the GLI.
For interior storage, there is a small bin between the front seats, a drawer near the driver's door, a passenger-side glovebox and four large door pockets, but I would have like to have seen more dash storage locations. A 12-volt powerpoint just behind the centre cupholders is useful for recharging, but it would have been better inside the storage bin.
The GLI comes with 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks that are lockable with a key to prevent unauthorized access to the trunk; plus there's a centre pass-through. The trunk is huge (453 litres/16 cu. ft.) and fully lined with a fabric liner. A handy storage bin on the right side with a 12 volt outlet can be used for milk jugs or coolers or items that otherwise might roll around the trunk.
The most impressive feature of the Jetta GLI is its powertrain. Considering that the engine displaces only 2.0 litres, it's amazing how well it performs, particularly when combined with the optional six-speed automatic DSG transmission. The engine's maximum torque of 207 lb-ft starts at just 1800 rpm and carries through to 4700 rpm, so throttle response is almost instantaneous in that range. I say 'almost' because there's a slight delay on initial tip-in prior to the turbo boost kicking in. But it could hardly be called 'turbo lag'.
The DSG transmission, which uses two clutches to pre-select the next gear while operating in another gear, provides quick, smooth shifts in either automatic or manual mode. No matter what speed the car is going, the transmission always seems to be in the right gear - it almost seems to anticipate your throttle input, and shifts down immediately to provide the acceleration you need. Manual sequential shifting with the floor shifter or the paddles behind the steering wheel can be a lot of fun on a winding road, as the transmission blips the throttle on downshifts and allows you to maximize the revs before shifting. Fuel economy in the GLI will depend a lot on how you drive, but it's worth noting that the GLI's official fuel consumption ratings are better than the base Jetta's 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine which has 50 less horsepower. Drive economically in the GLI and you might achieve official fuel consumption figures of 10.7 L/100 km (26 mpg Imp.) City, and 7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg Imp) Highway. However, the turbo engine uses Premium gas while the 2.5 uses Regular.
With its fully independent suspension tuned for handling, the Jetta GLI offers excellent driving dynamics and good control over undulating pavement, and plenty of grip from its standard Continental ContiPro Contact 225/45R17-inch all-season performance tires. However, the new Jetta is a bigger car than the previous Jetta, and it feels more like a mid-size car than a compact. In particular, it feels "taller". I found the highway ride to be comfortable but the sport suspension is a bit stiff over uneven pavement. The available 18-inch summer performance radials would provide better handling, but the ride would likely be worse.
The brakes are superb, offering a great pedal feel, and very quick stops. Four discs with ABS and Brake Assist are standard equipment. With front-wheel drive and standard traction and stability control, the GLI offers greater cornering stability and traction in slippery winter conditions (assuming you have proper tires).
Despite the chunky steering wheel, I enjoyed the GLI's quick and responsive steering (rack and pinion, electric speed sensitive variable assist) and urban manoeuvrability thanks to its 10.8-metre (35.4 ft.) turning diameter. I also liked the sweeping night-time illumination from it standard High Intensity Discharge headlights. The turn signals in the outside mirrors are also a noteworthy new safety feature.
Speaking of safety, the NHTSA gave the new Jetta four stars for the driver and front passenger in a 35-mph frontal crash test and five stars for the front and rear seat passengers in a side impact crash test. The IIHS gave the Jetta a 'Good' rating in 40 mph frontal offset crash tests and a 'Good' rating in side impact tests when equipped with the optional curtain airbags (see links below). In the GLI, side airbags in the front seats are standard equipment while curtain airbags and rear seat side airbags are optional (in the U.S. curtain airbags are standard, and I think they should be here too considering the car's price.) Anti-whiplash front head restraints, and three height adjustable rear head restraints are standard.
A nicely equipped, fun-to-drive luxury sport sedan with a terrific powertrain, the 2007 VW Jetta GLI is nevertheless a bit pricey when you look at the competition.