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Chicago LIVE: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

by Byron Hurd

Volkswagen's hotted-up compact sedan is back for another go.

Since the debut of the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta in Detroit last year, enthusiasts have been waiting patiently for the chance to get their hands on the sporty GLI variant. That wait is always over. 

This is the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. For several generations, "GLI" has been the Jetta equivalent of GTI, and not only does this introduction mark a new iteration of the sporty sedan, but it represents a re-convergence of the enthusiast-oriented character of the two cars. 

For decades, the Jetta and Golf were fundamentally the same vehicle, just in different configurations. With the MkVI, that all changed. While Golf continued to benefit from the Euro-centric development of Volkswagen's MQB architecture, Jetta was re-imagined as a U.S.-focused product. It was made larger and, arguably, less sophisticated. 

That also-ran approach carried over to the GLI, and the two continued to drift apart for the better part of a decade as newer, better GTIs were introduced and the GLI was left to stagnate. 

For 2019, the GLI is being tugged back in the GTI's direction. While the latter is due for replacement and will likely leapfrog ahead again, this is still good news. For starters, the GLI now gets the EA888 TSI engine, making 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque--18 more horsepower and 41 lb-ft more than the previous GLI. 

But wait, there's more. For the first time, the GLI is also getting the GTI's VAQ mechanical limited-slip differential (as standard equipment, no less) and variable-ratio electric power steering. Also, as an option on the 35th Anniversary edition, the GLI is now available with Volkswagen's DCC adaptive suspension.

Despite fears sparked by the outgoing GLI's abbreviated final year, Volkswagen is offering the new car with both six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG transmissions. A multi-link rear suspension remains standard, and the GLI has also been fitted with the larger brakes from the Volkswagen Golf R. 

Look for the new GLI on dealer lots this spring. 

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