2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI: The Sedan With the Heart of a GTI

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Big, hulking trucks may have stolen the spotlight in the lead-up to the Chicago Auto Show, but Volkswagen still holds an interest in plain ol’ cars. In the interest of preserving your interest in said cars, VW took its new-for-2019 Jetta sedan into the shop and hauled out the surgical instruments.

The first component removed was the standard, thrifty 1.4-liter four-cylinder. Then, VW engineers went to town on the rear suspension, scrapping the low-cost torsion-beam setup. What emerged from the operating room was the 2019 Jetta GLI — a GTI for people who like trunks.

With its new GLI, VW binned the Jetta’s 147 horsepower, 184 lb-ft 1.4L in favor of the GTI hatch’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. That’s an improvement of 18 hp and 41 lb-ft over the previous generation’s GLI.

The Jetta’s newfound power travels to the front wheels (they’re 18-inchers) through a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional seven-speed dual-clutch unit. A stop/start system comes with the automatic. VW engineers saw fit to lower the car by six-tenths of an inch for improved roadholding.

Arresting all of this German action are binders borrowed from the GTI and top-flight Golf R. This setup means 13.4-inch vented discs up front and red calipers for that much-needed flash. (Red is a color that appears everywhere on the Jetta GLI, from the seat stitching to the model-specific exterior trim.) While underway, a torque-sensing limited slip diff aids in plow reduction during cornering, while 35th Anniversary models — in addition to their birthday badging and blacked-out external bits — gain an adaptive damping system to keep things level.

Speaking of the suspension, the torsion-beam rear disappears in favor of an independent, multi-link setup for more refined road manners.

Standard drive modes include normal, eco, sport, and custom, with 35th Anniversary models gaining “comfort” as an added perk. Also standard are heated seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic headlamps, and rain-sensing wipers. Connectivity comes in the form of Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and MirrorLink. Those of you interested in setting the mood will no doubt appreciate the 10-color ambient lighting.

Happily, safety isn’t optional on this uplevel Jetta, with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and post-collision automatic braking offered as standard kit. LED lights appear fore and aft.

While pricing isn’t yet available, it won’t be long before VW drops those details. The 2019 Jetta GLI appears on dealer lots this spring.

[Images: Tim Healey/TTAC, Volkswagen]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Pathfinderdoorhandle Pathfinderdoorhandle on Feb 12, 2019

    One question: 35th anniversary of what? The GLI? I owned two of the GLI's predecessors, the VR6 GLX (a '95 and a '98) so the GLI is newer than that, twenty years at most. The Jetta itself? That doesn't seem right either, having also owned a 1980 back in 1982. My recollection is that the Jetta had already been out a couple of years at that time. So that's more like 40 years ago. Math was never my strong suit but stuff like this always bothers me. Anybody have a clue?

  • Thekevinmonster Thekevinmonster on Jul 07, 2019

    I actually just bought one of these. US 35th edition, so it's an S with DCC and striped wheels. Pros: it's everything I liked about my MK6 GTI several years ago, with none of what I didn't. Cons: D is punishment mode, S has clunky downshifts to a stop, so just live in M. Also, the soundaktor is like when a horse whinnies in a movie but it's not when a real horse would do a real whinny. And, no DSG farts. Best part of the DSG: it auto-downshifts as you come to a stop and does it very smoothly (vs S mode which is like HURGH HARD DOWNSHIFT!)

    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Jul 07, 2019

      I like your description of the soundaktor. Maybe the next Bullitt Mustang will upshift through an infinite number of gears on the highway, like the one in the movie did.

  • JOHN One is for sale on an ebay car donation site.https://www.ebay.com/itm/305579991767?itmmeta=01HYHVJ49MCC6HEWQY5AX9MX85&hash=item4725fca2d7:g:k9cAAOSw5V5mThFw
  • Scott So they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars and they are promising us a “Cheaper EV”? I wonder how that will look and feel? They killed the Fiesta because they claimed that they couldn’t make a profit on them and when I bought the first one in late 2010 they couldn’t deliver the accessories I wanted for it! Then I bought a 2016 Fiesta ST and again couldn’t get the accessories for it I wanted. They claimed that the components were going to be available, eventually. So they lost on that one as well! I don’t care about what they say anymore. I’ve moved on to another brand.
  • Michael S6 CX 70 or 90 will not be on my buying list. Drove a rental base CX 90 and it was noisy and the engine noise was not pleasant. Ride was rough for a family SUV. Mazda has to understand that what is good for Miata isn't what we expect in semi luxury SUV. My wife's 2012 Buick Enclave has much better Ride and noise level albeit at worse gas millage. Had difficulty pairing my phone with Apple CarPlay
  • Michael S6 What is the metric conversion between one million barrels and the number of votes he expects to buy.
  • NJRide This could give Infiniti dealers an extra product maybe make it a sub brand