Ever since it was released in the late 1980s, the VW Jetta GLI has always played second fiddle to the more famous Golf GTI. Several generations of GLIs have been less powerful and, judging from contemporary road tests, not as good. Well, the new VW Jetta GLI now has the same amount of horsepower as the GTI, but is it as good? My dad and I test drove it at the 2020 Washington Auto Show to find out (all impressions of steering, handling, and powertrain responsiveness are my dad’s--because I’m not old enough to drive).
On the show floor, I spent some time in both the GLI and the GTI, and the difference in interior room was dramatic. The Golf had an OK amount of space, but it was not enough to be comfortable on long trips. The Jetta had significantly more rear seat space than the Golf, which helps me to understand why it’s so much more popular among American buyers. The Jetta also has a very large trunk. (click the title to read more)
All photos from VW's US website
The interior of the Jetta is pretty good. It won’t blow you away, but it feels very well made, and the materials are quite good. The design is sort of restrained and elegant. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to the outside of the car. There’s nothing offensive about the car’s styling, but it’s pretty generic and not nearly as attractive as the Golf.
Despite being larger than the GTI, the GLI starts at about $1,600 less ($26K vs. $27,600). Not a major difference, but fairly surprising still. In the past, the tradeoff was that you got less power in the GLI, but that’s not the case anymore--the GLI gets the same 228 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque turbocharged 2.0 liter inline four as the GTI, and in both cars, the engine comes with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG automatic. Our test car was the top trim level, the $30K Autobahn model, and it came with the optional DSG. However, the DSG was excellent--very responsive and smooth, even in stop-and-go traffic where other dual-clutch gearboxes we’ve tried (I’m looking at you, Ford Focus and Dodge Dart) have been horribly unrefined and unresponsive. I’m sure a manual would have been more fun, but the point remains: There’s no shame in getting a GLI or GTI with a DSG--unlike, say, getting an automatic Miata.
The GLI also rode very well--as well as the (non-performance oriented) Honda Civic. Overall, it was a very comfortable car that I think the vast majority of Americans could use as a daily driver. And yet the GLI doesn’t seem to sacrifice driving fun to achieve these goals. The environment that we were driving in (downtown D.C.) was not exactly ideal for testing performance cars, so I can’t say for sure how good it was. However, the GLI seemed like a very fun car, with sharp, responsive handling and excellent body control. Also, the engine was excellent. Certainly, comparing the GLI to an ordinary compact sedan, you see exactly where your money has gone. And speaking of money, that’s the other great thing about this car--many people can easily afford it, especially if you skip the frankly unnecessary Autobahn trim, which basically only gives you leather seats, a substance that is inferior in nearly every single way to cloth, and requires you to kill animals to get it--but I digress.
The GLI has gone through phases of being extremely good and being slightly underwhelming, but this is definitely one of the good ones. It’s quick, fun to drive, practical and good value. It’s a sports sedan with none of the downsides, a GTI with more room and a lower sticker price. If you can afford to buy a dull family crossover, you can afford to buy this, and you will give up very little to do so. If you want a daily driver that is fun to drive and still very usable, it’s hard to think of a better option.
Compact cars: Have they gotten so good/big that they have rendered midsize sedans pointless? At the 2020 Washington Auto show in late January, Honda offered test drives of the Civic and Accord, giving me the opportunity to determine which is the better car when price is taken into consideration. All impressions of handling are my dad’s -- because I’m still not old enough to drive. (All photos are from Honda’s website.)
We tested both cars in top of the line Touring trim levels. The Civic came in at around $31K, the Accord at $37K. Both came with leather interiors, a large screen, and a suite of active safety features called “Honda Sensing.” (There's a read more link down in the bottom right corner, or click on the headline to read more. Sorry how hard it is to figure that out, Weebly was designed by idiots. But I digress).
Toyota Supra: I really like it, and I think it looks fantastic, but none of those fake vents can easily be made real, despite what the Supra's chief engineer said. Still, even if you disapprove of the BMW underpinnings, you can't deny that it's a lot better than the last notable collaboration between Japan and Germany.
Toyota 86: Probably my favorite car Toyota makes, and now it comes in a really cool green-with-gold wheels color scheme
Toyota Land Cruiser: The official company car of Greenpeace
Toyota Corolla Hatchback: A very nice car ruined by a useless back seat that has about as much space as the back seats in the 86.
My thoughts on the new Tesla Cybertruck: https://drivetribe.com/p/heres-what-i-think-of-the-new-tesla-aQBhHiFQSU-t9F0f_KaZfA?iid=IBnaM-6xT1WE3gNL47mI6Q
My thoughts on the Mustang Mach E: https://drivetribe.com/p/ford-reveals-new-electric-mustang-LsjzH_W6TNaTDT1P5CInyA?iid=PkFqa3YlS2ydEj6kFfDvag
Welcome to Too Awesome For Production, where I highlight the greatest concept cars of all time. I will continue to do this until I get bored or run out of ideas.
The Audi Nanuk Quattro Concept is the greatest concept car of the past decade. Do not try and argue, just look:
Say what you want about Ferdinand Piech, but there can be no doubt that he is one of the most significant figures in the entire history of the automobile.
At Porsche, he oversaw the 917, one of the most dominant race cars ever built.
At Audi, he oversaw the Quattro, which permanently changed high-performance cars by introducing all-wheel drive into the equation.
And although his failed attempts to move Volkswagen upmarket are not really celebrated, I think that period deserves recognition for giving us some of the most wonderfully insane cars of the 21st century. The following are six of my favorites from When Volkswagen Went Nuts.
Let’s pretend for a second that you are shopping for a luxury car. You probably have Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Tesla high on your list of preferred brands, followed by Lexus and maybe Jaguar or Volvo. Cadillac is unlikely to be high up on that list, if it’s on the list at all. I think this is a real shame, because the Cadillac CT6 is a seriously good luxury sedan that more people should consider before buying another BMW or Merc.
In 1996, Ford released the first generation Ka, intending it to be their smallest, cheapest car. And it was, but it was also one of the best and most original automotive designs in years. It is a wonderful future classic, and it was so good and so popular that Ford ended up making it until 2008. That is an eternity in the world of modern cars, but it speaks to two things. One, how good the original design was. And two, how bad all of its replacements were.
For example, here is the original Ka
Rory Cahill is a teenage car enthusiast who, apparently, is considered an influencer despite not being old enough to drive. GM has loaned him cars including a Cadillac CTS, a Chevy Corvette, and a Cadillac ATS-V. He also wrote this entire paragraph in the third person. The snob.