Bigger, bolder and markedly more sophisticated than the car it replaces, the all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta was formally unveiled today in New York City at an event on Times Square. Due in showrooms here this October, the Gen VI Jetta has transitioned from being a Golf-based sedan to having its own distinct "New Compact Sedan" platform architecture. Equally important to its enhanced physical attributes, the recast Jetta also will reflect a new and very aggressive pricing policy on the part of Volkswagen. While final sticker numbers won't be released until closer to its on-sale date, VW execs have confirmed that the most affordable version of this striking new sedan will start around $16,000 -- roughly $2,000 less than the current baseline 2010 Jetta.

Adopting visual cues first seen on the NCC (New Compact Coupe) Concept that appeared at the Detroit Auto Show in January as well as the larger Volkswagen CC sedan, the 2011 Jetta is longer, wider and lower than before. It's more crisply rendered -- although still somewhat conservative -- sheetmetal envelops an equally elegantly styled and appointed cabin that VW claims will have best-in-class quality and set new standards for intuitive functionality. Passengers in the aft quarters will enjoy a class-leading 38.1 inches of legroom -- 2.6 inches more than in the current model -- and the Jetta's standard 60/40 split rear seatback can be folded to open a large passthrough to its even-more-spacious formal trunk. One other nifty feature: for the first, but likely not the last time, dealers will offer swappable interior accent bits that allow customers to create a more personal look for their vehicles.

Four engines, five trim lines

Buyers of the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta will find an abundance of choices in the Jetta's packaging and powertrain departments, as well. In the U.S., it will be available in S, SE, SEL, and TDI versions plus the sport-spec GLI. We'll see a quartet of four-cylinder motivators here: a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter R5 as well as the turbocharged 2.0-liter TSI gasoline four and VW's super-clean 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel. All will be backed by either a standard manual transmission or optional autoshifter; however, the step-up gear changer on with the TSI and TDI is VW's 6-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission.

With an announced goal of becoming the world's largest automaker by 2018, VW has a lot riding on the success of this pivotal new offering, particularly in America where it hopes to rekindle buyer interest in a big way. According to Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, this intro marks the start of a new era, both for the firm and the model. "The all-new 2011 Jetta is a class-up driving experience with the kind of styling, design and power under the hood normally found in more expensive luxury cars. At an extremely attractive price, this car is sophisticated, fun to drive and practical."

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