Volkswagen has alot riding on the current generation Jetta. While the newly updated Jetta brings a lot of good things to the iconic compact, the one thing that felt missing here was the absence of the range topping GLI variant. Volkswagen has taken note of this absence, and has formally unveiled the 2019 Jetta GLI at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show.
The exterior styling of the 2019 Jetta GLI follows the same motif as other iterations of the GLI, with the suit of clothes largely being shared with the standard Jetta. However, the honeycomb grille is a dead giveaway of the performance underneath, as well as the trademark red stripe in the grille which has been a hallmark of the GLI for the bulk of its production run. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard issue, with attractive looking brake calipers peeking out from under them. More aggressive front and rear bumpers are also part of the GLI transformation, and a snazzy set of dual exhaust tips round out the handsome package. Opt for the 35th anniversary model, and you are rewarded with wheels that feature a red stripe, a black roof, black mirror caps, as well as special badging to denote its role as a celebratory limited edition.
Meanwhile, the interior of the 2019 GLI continues the black and red theme with red stitching for the black seats as well as a healthy amount of standard equipment including dual-zone climate control, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, as well as push button part. LED head and taillights are also standard issue, with goodies such as a panoramic moonroof, heated and cooled front seats, and digital instrumentation being some of the few items that are optional on the otherwise loaded GLI. For those that own a GTI, this is a proven yet delectable formula which should please these picky fans, while also allowing the GLI to appeal to new fans that might have otherwise jumped ship to the hatchback.
However, the biggest change that buyers will see lies underneath the GLI’s skin. Like other GLI models, the engine is lifted from the GTI, with 228 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque on hand (a gain of 18 horses and 41 lb-ft of torque respectively over the old GLI.) Like before buyers can also choose between a standard six speed manual gearbox, or the latest iteration of Volkswagen’s seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. These have always been welcome additions, but this iteration of the GLI finally addresses the long standing difference between it and its hatchback counterpart when it comes to handling and its suspension technology. Unlike the older GLI which used a different platform that failed to match the MQB platform that underpins the GTI hatchback, the 2019 GLI FINALLY moves to this award winning structure, and that should allow the GLI to be firmly on equal ground with the GTI when it is tasked with overcoming curvier sections of tarmac, and corner filled apexes. An electronically controlled limited slip differential is standard issue, but adaptive dampers for the suspension are an optional extra. Braking duties are handled by beefy 13.4 inch front discs, as well as slightly smaller ones for the rear wheels.
Volkswagen did not release any official pricing information for the 2019 Jetta GLI, but look for the model to begin somewhere around $20,000 with prices rising accordingly depending on what model is chosen, as well as optional extras. The first units should begin arriving in Volkswagen dealers this spring, with full nationwide availability being established by early summer.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.