Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Jetta Still Has the Right Feel

Photo by Joy Schaefer
The Jetta has always been kind of a cool car to drive and own. In a sea of Hondas and Toyotas, it delivers German engineering and a sportier feel.

So, when I read about the new Jetta four-door sedan I was a little concerned. There were comments about "cheaper plastic" in the interior and the external design language seemed a little simplified. But before long, new Jettas started appearing everywhere I looked. As it turns out, the new car is a success.

I had the opportunity to pilot a Jetta GLI, which earns its three distinctive letters by featuring a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged engine under the hood. It's good for a solid 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. That's like the one in my wife's Audi A4--and it's plenty potent in a car this size.

This is one car you can still get with a manual transmission, in this case a six-speed. The DSG automatic shifts very quickly, but there's nothing quite like a manual--at least for me. 

The track-tuned independent suspension includes a multilink rear setup, re-tuned spring and damper settings and a 0.6-inch lower ride height. Volkswagen’s XDS® cross differential system, which debuted on the GTI, is standard on the Jetta GLI. It helps prevent inside wheelspin during hard cornering.

The GLI, as the performance Jetta since 1984, wears more aggressive clothes than standard models. It's decked out in a new honeycomb grille, flaunts a more pronounced front spoiler and gets vertical foglights like the ones on the GTI hatchback. Yes, those are red brake calipers tucked behind those wheels.

Inside, the car still feels like a VW. Of course, there's that unique logo at the center of the wheel, but the no-nonsense, angular dash surface, padded in this case, still seems like it should. The gauges tell you what you want to know with a minimum of fuss, a welcome feeling in this age when so many compact cars are giving you the shiny, cell phone look.

Side-bolstered sport bucket seats feature bright-red stitching; there’s matching red stitching on the flat-bottom steering wheel; and aluminum pedals, shift knob, dash and door trim. 

The Autobahn model--the upper level one--offers an upgrade to 18-inch wheels and a Fender audio system. I was not as impressed by the sound as by the distinctive Fender logos on the windshield-pillar-mounted tweeters, but it may be that I insisted on playing oldies instead of new stuff from my iPod.

Prices start at $23,745 for the base GLI, but by the time you move up to the Autobahn model with the navigation system, you're looking at $26,695 (plus shipping).

It's big fun, and much less expensive than an Audi. And the feeling is still fine in this German-designed, Mexican-built product.


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