With bright Tornado Red paint, big 18-inch “Watkins Glen” alloy wheels, subtle badging on the fenders, and a very GTI-like red stripe running through the honeycomb grille and headlights, even the non-initiated can figure out that the GLI Edition 30 is no ordinary Jetta. Unveiled at this year’s Montreal Autoshow, it is meant to be a nod to the original GLI performance sedan produced exactly 30 years ago. And what a head-bobbing nod it is.
The Edition 30 builds on what is already a fantastic GLI canvas. A few of my favourites are the LED daytime running lights, the bi-xenon lamp setup with an adaptive lighting system that turns when you turn (in the Technology Package), and the added body effects like the black front bumper that adds a touch of subtle aggressiveness.
On the inside, it’s one of the first vehicles I’ve driven that has a flat-bottomed steering wheel offered from the manufacturer. The thickness felt just right and the spokes were nice and grippy. There’s a neat branded shift knob, and the cabin is filled with a continuation of the sporty red theme, as well as what Volkswagen calls “Carbon Optik” trim, basically a carbon-fibre-look material that is found heavily on areas like the seating. It would have been nice to see some of the plaid Recaro recliners found in GTIs and GLIs of yore. A 400-watt Fender Premium Audio System (tech package) appropriately bangs out all tunes deemed roadworthy.
The first Jetta to don the GLI emblem had 90 horsepower and a close-ratio, five speed, manual transmission—nothing to scoff at in its day. The Edition 30 adds a bit more flair to the powertrain now boasting a 2.0-litre, direct-injected, turbocharged TSI engine producing 210 hp, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or VW’s proprietary Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG) complete with paddle shifters.
I consider myself a standard man through and through, but the DSG is definitely up there when it comes to modern automatic trannys. Anytime you feel up to taking over the shifting, a quick tug on the paddle initiates a near perfect response. You’ll hear it, too, because the engine emits a marvellous burbly sound whenever throttle is applied. Fortunately, I’m here to report that turbo lag isn’t an issue with the 2.0 L and power comes on almost instantly. Note that the GLI is a performance-oriented car and the suspension reflects that. Translation: the suspension is firm making it great for driver feel and attacking the open road, but you’ll want to take it easy over speed bumps and potholes.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI Edition 30 we tested has a base MSRP of $32,675. Add another $1,570 for the technology package (navigation system, aforementioned bi-xenon lights, Fender audio, and backup camera). What you can’t put a number on, however, is owning a refined modern reminder of an automotive milestone.
MSRP (as tested): $32,675
Motor: 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged TSI
Horsepower: 210 @ 5,100 to 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.): 207 @ 1,700 to 5,000 rpm
Gearbox: Automatic Direct-Shift-Gearbox
Layout: front-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.2 L/100 km combined
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