Volkswagen GLI

The Volkswagen GLI, also known as the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, is a performance-oriented version of the best-selling Jetta, which was in production since 1979. The latest version of the Volkswagen GLI is part of Jetta’s fifth generation. The Jetta itself is known by different names around the world, such as City Jetta, Vento, Bora, Atlantic, Fox, and Sagitar.

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Volkswagen GLI Origins

The Jetta was first introduced in the late 70s as an alternative to the hatchbacks that were popular at the time, and its release marked a shift in favor of sedans. The car became extremely popular upon its release in the U.S. and Canada. When the fifth generation Volkswagen GLI debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2005, more than six million units of the Jetta were sold as over 2 million being sold in the U.S. alone.

The birth of the GLI can be traced back to 1984, when Volkswagen released a new variant of the Jetta with certain modifications brought forth from the very popular GLI model of the previous year. The car’s exterior was overhauled, and the interior was also significantly modified. The 1984 Volkswagen GLI had a sporty leather four-spoke steering wheel, as well as a leather-capped shift knob. Three new instrument gauges were added to the car’s central console, and the seats were changed to the sport seats that are now found in the GLI. The GLI was available in Diamond silver, red, white, Atlas gray, and black colors. Over the years, the Volkswagen GLI was modified along with each new generation of Jettas, with the latest model being introduced in 2011.

About the Volkswagen GLI

The Volkswagen GLI has also enjoyed the same popularity as the stock Jetta, but the difference between the two is that the GLI is a sportier version. Apart from some modifications in the engine, the exterior of the Volkswagen GLI is also slightly different from the base Jetta model. Its design is more aerodynamic, so the Volkswagen GLI ultimately combines the practicality of the Jetta with a more lively performance. Moreover, the sporty and slick design of the GLI attracted customers who were originally turned off by the basic Jetta design which many viewed and bland and uninspiring. The car was designed to give customers a glimpse of both the Jetta and the Golf GTI. Since its introduction in 1984, the GLI fused the performance-oriented elements of the Volkswagen GTI with the family-friendly nature of the Jetta.

Volkswagen GLI Features

A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine known as the "2.0T" powers the 2012 Volkswagen GLI with 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. It is the strongest engine ever used in five generations of Jettas and was powering previous versions of the Volkswagen GLI. This car also features an independent rear suspension, apart from a stiffer all-round suspension. The car has a sporty and more streamlined body kit than the stock Jetta, which makes it look just a little more aggressive. The interior of the Volkswagen GLI is also markedly different than that of the Jetta due to the addition of a soft-touch dashboard and red interior stitching. The Volkswagen GLI has a six-speed manual transmission system, with the DSG twin-clutch six-speed automatic transmission as an option. With the high-end DSG transmission, the Volkswagen GLI can go from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. This smooth engine performance can be attributed to the double overhead cams, four-valve cylinders and hydraulic lifters. Fuel combustion is improved thanks to an electronic engine-management system. With the DSG transmission system, the Volkswagen GLI is able to deliver 24/33 mpg city/ highway.

The additional features and changes in the 2012 Volkswagen GLI culminate in a better driving experience. The steering is sharp and more responsive than the regular Jetta, and the car is predictably faster as well. The engine output of the Volkswagen GLI is nowhere near the league of today’s sports cars, but the engine can deliver enough power whenever required. In other words, the 2012 Volkswagen GLI is a refined, well-engineered car that is fun to drive. Like other versions of the Volkswagen GLI, the 2012 version is a powerful car, which is also family-friendly.

Volkswagen GLI Evolution

The 1984 version of the Volkswagen GLI was introduced in the U.S. with several improvements to the first generation Jetta. These improvements included a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission, 90 hp engine, sports suspension, air-ventilated front disc brakes, and anti-sway bars in the front and rear. When it came to the exteriors, the Volkswagen GLI could be distinguished from the Jetta due to the addition of wide moldings to the sides, an airfoil on the windshield wiper on the driver’s side, a GLI badge, and a black-trim panel located between the rear taillights.

Select a Volkswagen GLI Year

2012 Volkswagen GLI

Compact, Sedan

Almost everything other than the drivetrain that it retains from the GTI and 2010 GLI. Compared to the standard Jetta, the GLI packs a firmer suspension, an independent rear suspension, rear disc brakes, and more upscale interior accoutrements, VW's RNS 315 touch screen stereo head unit, and an optional Fender stereo, and even the nicer interior materials from the Euro-spec cars. The Jetta GLI is a decidedly higher-class car than the other sedans in the Jetta lineup.

2009 Volkswagen GLI

Compact, Sedan