The Truth About Cars » GLI The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » GLI Review: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Take Two Wed, 07 Mar 2012 19:32:28 +0000
Glee (noun) [\glē\]:
(a.) exultant high-spirited joy; merriment

(b.) a television series in which smooth-skinned actors in their middle twenties attempt to portray teens navigating the tumultuous rapids of modern adolescence by the application of close-part harmony; immensely popular when it debuted, but trailed off in the second season when it began getting a little preachy and then there was that part where Rachel was all like, “Finn, I need to let you fly free,” and…

(b.) Some TV show which I have never seen.

(c.) The best car in the current Volkswagen Model range.

Whaddya mean it’s pronounced “Gee-El-Eye”?

Now, no review of Volkswagen’s warmed-up compact sedan would be complete without a few Oh! Snap! cracks at how thoroughly Vee-dub has un-pimped the regular Jetta. Fans of the German marque are appalled – appalled I tells ya – at the dumbed-down, embiggened and encheapened Kraut-rolla the once-sprightly Jetta has ballooned into.

‘Twas as though they had wandered into the VW showroom expecting the usual delicious and slightly unreliable bratwurst and been handed an Ikea hot-dog instead. Yes, a bargain at just 99 cents, but made of gym-mat foam and not tasty pork by-products.

Critics were apoplectic, and the buying public responded immediately – by completely ignoring them and snapping up thousands of Jettas. I quite enjoy that, as it must have punctured a few bombastic egos.

Not to worry though, as VW still sells a premium smokie-on-a-bun for all you sausage enthusiasts out there.

And here it is. In profile, the GLI is quite a bit better looking than I remember, a slick blend of sleek aerodynamicism and teutonic crispness set off by the traditionally chunky five-spoke Volkswagen alloys, and-

Oh wait, no, this is a Kia Rio. Oops.

That’s better. No, wait: no it isn’t.

One criticism of the GLI immediately is that it appears to be just fifteen feet of some car. I imagine that if you went down to the Car Store and asked for, “One Car, please. What? Oh I don’t know… German flavour I suppose,” then this is what you’d get.

Yes, it has two-tone, multi-spoke alloy wheels and a colour-matched grille – but what doesn’t these days? I will say that the Glee looks fairly good here in black, but if you take a look at the car Jack drove in his 2.0T Intramural League test, a silver GLI can be about as bland as unsalted porridge.

However, methinks this is a very, very good thing. A Lamborghini Reventon might look like a stealth fighter, but the Glee is actually a stealth car: just another five-seater people-pod; one more unremarkable corpuscle blending in with the flow on an arterial highway. Handy if you’re going to cane it a little, but more on that in a bit.

The interior of the Glee is slightly less stealthy; most notably, that flat-bottomed steering wheel is just the tiniest bit boy-racer. And, as apparently dictated by some international sporty car interior standard first established in the early Eighties, there’s plenty of red stitching everywhere.

Other than that though, it’s a sensible, conservative sort of place to be, with comfortable seats, an immense amount of rear legroom and a cavernous trunk. And there’s another advantage too.

If you were picking up your new fiancee’s parents at the airport, and you didn’t quite get along with them just yet, being in that not-good-enough-for-our-son/daughter zone (that sometimes never goes away), you could be perfectly safe arriving in a GLI.

A GTI? A ‘Speed3? A WRX? Those’d be something different, but this car would elicit a future-father-in-law’s reluctant nod and/or a near-mother-in-law’s mollified sniff. It’s not showy. It’s not racy. It’s sensible and circumspect and even a little bit nice. Maybe this kid’s got a good head on his/her shoulders after all.

Then, on the drive home, you completely. Ruin. Everything.

First, a painful admission. I had championed Subaru’s flat-four turbo as being the best-sounding four-pot on the market today. I was wrong.

It took four different axle-backs on the back of my personal WRX to find the right blend of growly aggression without boorish bellowing. VW got it right straight out of the factory with a thrumpety symphony that’s part panthera tigris purr, and part strafing-run Stuka. The ubiquitous 200hp 2.0T has never sounded better.

As such, you will want to dip into the power reserves early and often, and with a phenomenally low torque peak providing insta-shove around 1700rpm, the Glee provokes… well, just see definition (a.)

Right. Nearly forgot to complain about the lack of a traction control button. Yes, this is either a silly oversight or one of the chintziest cost-cutting measures imaginable, but it didn’t really bother me once.

We live in a world where a Hyundai puts out a turbo-four with a full 25% more power than VW’s version, but there’s more to it than just peak horsepower figures. The Glee isn’t underpowered, and it’s not overpowered. It’s right-powered.

Yes, there are moments where a little more thrust would not have gone amiss, but the whole package is so composed-yet-thrilling that you find yourself willing the car along, wringing it out, diving into the corners and blasting out of them. Meanwhile, your future mother-in-law is clutching her purse with a white-knuckled grip implying that hissed undertones are about to be exchanged with her son/daughter on the subject of That Young Man/Woman.

But what do you care? It’d be easy enough to back off the throttle and find that the GLI is a comfortable cruiser with its softer-than-a-GTI suspension. The Fender-brand stereo is phenomenal and the fuel economy can even be quite good, if you’re gentle.

Yet whenever I climbed into my 6-speed tester, I experienced a kinship of the sort that Tazio Nuvolari must have felt, nursing his somewhat-wheezy Alfa-Romeo to that now-legendary victory over the Auto-Union juggernauts. It seems Mazda isn’t the only company that knows something about Jinba Ittai.

The GLI is a joy to drive, and shockingly, shockingly good in wet weather. Perhaps it’s the relative softness of the suspension, perhaps it’s the soft-compound of the Continental winter tires this tester was equipped with, but the level of grip that the GLI has in a wet corner is extremely surprising and gratifying. But then, so’s the rest of the car.

Business-like exterior, comfortable interior: a sedate-looking sedan that’s capable of thrilling dynamically but prefers not to shout about it. Maybe I’m stretching, but the GLI could just be this generation’s E39 BMW. It’s that good.

But – and here comes a But so big that it should be written in flaming letters three miles high; a Mix-a-lot-sized conjunction that I don’t like (and I cannot lie) – but, it’s still a Volkswagen, and that means Your Mileage May Vary.

After a charming week with the GLI, I found myself sitting at the ferry terminal late at night, waiting to pick up my wife (I’ve been married for coming-on 6 years, the in-laws threw in the towel long ago). Docking was inevitably delayed, and as I waited, the local station began playing Young the Giant’s “My Body.” As the first kicks of the bass drum came through, the back panel of the GLI decided it was time to start buzzing like the trunk of a 90s Civic with a Bazooka tube. At all volumes.

This car, you understand, had all of 1500 miles on the clock, and while press cars generally take more abuse than somebody who expresses a political viewpoint in the comments section of a Youtube video, I generally have to say this failing was unacceptable. Unacceptable, or at least very disappointing.

Volkswagen has always been like this. Some owners have never had a problem, others have had nothing but problems. Still others have had a up-and-down track record that reads like the fortunes of a character on Days of Our Lives. Uh, which I have also never seen.

So can I recommend the GLI? Yes, though not unreservedly. It’s a fantastic car, but I’m not sure how it’s going to be next season.

Volkswagen provided the car reviewed and insurance

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New or Used: “Affirmative Action” on a Lease Payout? Thu, 29 Dec 2011 22:41:09 +0000


Luiz writes:

Dear Steve/Sajeev:

I am a 35 year old elementary school principal, married with 2 kids (5 and 9), and a certified car nut who thinks and reads about them way too much, and who is a walking contradiction when it comes to cars.

Here are some examples: I appreciate older cars from my youth that are well-cared for, but I am not mechanically inclined at all, and don’t want to tinker with cars.  I don’t like appliances like CamCords, but appreciate reliable machines.  I dislike car payments, and fully understand the value inherent in keeping a car a long time, but can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a car note, as I’ve sold and bought too many cars to list here, all before their time.  I don’t aspire to own a premium luxury ride like a BMW or M-B, but I sold my last car, a loaded-with-everything-and-a-stick, pristine, 2002 Protege5, with only 52K miles, when I became a principal in March of 2009 and wanted a new car with a bit more prestige.  I know practically all the specs on any car in my price range (can’t go more than 30K max, as the wife has an ’11 Outback we’re happy with and plan to keep till the wheels come off-at least that’s the plan), but I buy cars too quickly.  I could go on and on.

So, in March of 2009, I wanted something sporty, with a tad bit more prestige, that could hold a family of four, and wasn’t too common.  I narrowed down my choices to the TSX, or the GLI/GTI.  Test drove the TSX, liked it.  Test drove the GTI twice, but leased a GLI with DSG as the deal was much better than the essentially-same GTI.  My lease is up in 8 months, and the car has been fantastic, with ZERO issues, and a letter from VW stating that my car’s DSG is covered for 100K miles or 10 years due to similar models having issues.  I also enjoy the car and its performance, which is enough for me, as I live in crowded northern NJ, and take trips into NYC and the outer boroughs from time to time; there’s not much space here to go flat out.  This was my first lease, and the buyout will be 15,000 including tax, for a 3-year-old GLI that will only have about 24,000 miles come March of 2012.  So, should I?

1.  Buy the GLI, which flies in the face of what everyone says (don’t keep a German car, let alone a VW, outside of the warranty period)?

2.  Walk away and buy something cheaper, so I can concentrate on paying down the Outback (I have a SAAB specialist about 3 miles from my house who offers clean SAABs with 2-year warranties, for roughly 3-8K dollars, that I drive by and wonder about)?

3.  Walk away and lease something cheaper (my current payment is $350 a month), knowing that I may have to give up some accessories, power, etc, in order to go down in price?

Please help,
Principal / Affirmative Action Officer

(oh, BTW, I’m 6’3,” and it’s quite a bitch to find a car that fits, that isn’t a Chevy Express)

Steve answers:

As someone who was fortunate enough to escape from northern New Jersey, I would encourage you to spoil yourself a bit. The weather sucks. The cost of living sucks. I won’t even mention the horror that is daily commuting to NYC.

I would keep the car. First off you want to get out of the debt trap. At least you pretend to have this goal in mind. So why not do it?

Second, that price is pretty good for a retail transaction. You like the car and know it’s history. Plus VW has seen fit to make up for their recent quality transgressions. To me this all sounds like a winning combination.

Keep it. Pay it. Worry instead about why the title of your work also includes ‘Affirmative Action Officer’. I would fear that more than I would fear any VW.

Sajeev answers:

The buyout on your lease is surprisingly good.  Which makes me wonder if the down payment or monthly bill during the lease were brutal?  But I digress…

Odds are you can get just what you need in a $15,000 Mazda 6 or Camry SE (only the SE) but perhaps that’s more trouble than it’s worth.  Sure these vehicles are sporty and known for far better long-term value, but the time value of your money hunting for one is a difficult number to quantify.

If this is a “keeper” and long-term costs are a concern, you’d be wise to dump the GLI.  I don’t even want to know the cost if the DSG fails at 100,001 miles.  Then again, will you really keep it for that long? And the Camry SE is still a Camry.

Don’t listen to me. Listen to Steve.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: Blowin’ It Away, Or Not? Sat, 29 Oct 2011 16:55:55 +0000  


Westin writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I’m a 19 year old college student in the market for a car. I used to drive a 2006 GLI, but it has since been sold because it wasn’t really needed at the time. I’ll be living off campus next year, so I’m trying to decide on a car that I would purchase sometime in the next couple of months. It has to be under 18k, practical, at least as reliable as my GLI was, somewhat sporty, and a stick shift. I’ve been looking at Volvo S40 T5s, GTIs, IS300s, and Mazda 6s (the last being my dad’s idea, not mine). I would consider a Ford, but the other domestics are pretty much out of the question. My dad drives German and is fully aware of the “quirks” that come with it, which is why I’m a little hesitant to suggest an A4 or 3 Series. The GLI was an angel when we owned it though, and he has a soft spot for VAG and BMW, so I’m not completely ruling those out. We’re both car nuts and are pretty knowledgeable about what’s on the market, but I wanted to see if there was something that I missed or haven’t considered.

Steve Answers:

$18,000 can buy a lot of car. In many areas of this country it can also give you a healthy down payment on a house.

You’re sure you wanna blow it all on some wheels? Maybe a good $5000 car that will last you five years can be coupled with a $13,000 bump in your net worth.

Oh wait. I just realized that you’re 19. Forget what I just said. You now have a golden opportunity to buy a new set of wheels which should last you until an advanced degree yields the proverbial Yuppie union card and a six figure salary. Nothing wrong with that. Especially since you’ll likely have a debt free life by the time you get ready to settle.  So with that in mind, you need a reliable car that is sporty, practical and fun.

On the new side…. Scion Tc. It bumps right near the 18k mark and comes loaded up with all the features you would want ever want in a sporty coupe. It’s quick, fun to drive, and I would be very confident of it lasting well past the 200k mark if you take care of it. Much more so than a VW Beetle, Mini, Kia Forte or… well… I don’t see a VW guy moving to a Civic.

On the used side… you have more four door sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons than I can mention here. Over the years I’ve known a lot of young folks who have benefited from the hard labor of their parents. If you want to spend 18k on a car, do it! They worked hard so that you can enjoy your life. But whatever you decide, try to find a vehicle that will truly last you a good 15 years.

That way you can enjoy the times to come without any stress or hardship from your ride. Good luck!

Sajeev Answers:

Your Dad sounds like a sharp dude, mostly because he suggested the Mazda 6…and you did not!  Look, I understand the allure of these VWs and other imports, but you are a young guy who has better things to do than put up with the bullshit of a money sucking sedan.Stick with mainstream.  Parts, labor and insurance is cheap.  You can have money for stuff that really matters in college, like dressing sharp to impress chicks, having nice stuff in your apartment and generally focusing on things that will actually make you a better person in your future. That said, don’t have too much nice stuff in your apartment, those are the units that get broken into by inside jobbers.

No gigantic TVs and nothing except for a Mazda 6 in your assigned parking spot! Enjoy college, get good grades but don’t be an anti-social, endlessly studying/wrenching stick in the mud like I was back in the day.  The Mazda 6 will help there too. Or maybe a Chevy Cobalt SS, that’s totally worth considering.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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