Mixing a healthy measure of hard-core performance, an impressive list of amenities, and high-value pricing, the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI made its debut in Chicago. This new king of the Jetta hill is the most "differentiated" GLI variant the automaker has ever produced since it introduced the first incarnation back in 1984.
The 2012 Jetta GLI is powered by VW's highly-regarded 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, also used in the Golf GTI. Turning out 207 horses and 207 lb-ft of torque at just 1,700 rpm, this enthusiastic motivator can be paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic -- a quick change specialist that comes with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Underpinning the new Jetta GLI is a fully independent sport-tuned suspension that replaces the rear torsion-beam axle in other U.S. Jetta models with the sophisticated multilink hardware from its Euro-spec cousin. The chassis mix also includes the GTI's XDS cross-differential that helps quell inside wheelspin during spirited cornering, traction/stability control and four-wheel disc brakes with red calipers.
Visually, the 2012 Jetta GLI boasts a bolder front fascia treatment that also borrows cues from the GTI model. It's suitably set off by 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels and unique smoked taillamp lenses. Inside, the GLI keeps the performance motif in play with sport buckets covered in cloth or available V-Tex Leatherette, a flat-bottom steering wheel and alloy sport pedals plus a number of other dedicated trim touches as well as a 60/40 split/folding rear bench seat. Standard equipment on all Jetta GLIs includes a full range of power assists, air conditioning, a multifunction display and a premium VIII radio with 6.5-inch touch screen and Bluetooth/iPod connectivity while the GLI Autobahn and Autobahn with navigation models step up the sound mix to with the new concert-grade Fender Premium Audio System and custom Panasonic speakers.
Pricing for the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI opens at $23,495. The Jetta Autobahn variant that adds 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, heated V-Tex seats, and a sunroof as well as the aforementioned Fender audio starts at $25,545, while the Jetta GLI Autobahn with Navigation that raises the ante by bringing the RNS-315 navi system and keyless access with push-button start commands $26,445.