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2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Road Test By

2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Road Test
The Jetta GLI is a high-performance sports sedan. Click on images for larger views.


Highs: Endless power, endless fun-to-
drive, true sport suspension, nice mileage

Lows: High ride height,
longish clutch travel

The Jetta GLI is the best Volkswagen we've driven yet.

It takes all we love about the Jetta 2.0T (
Road Test) and piles on even more.

The GLI inspires confidence, begs for spirited driving and urges you to explore the limits.

Each time we think we know the limits — punching the gas from stand-still or barreling onto a freeway ramp — the car surprises us and powers through with ease.

The agile dynamics of this front driver are stupendous. And the optional 18-inch performance tires are essential to best carve corners and make the most of the 2.0T's seemingly endless power.

This dual-overhead-cam 16-valve motor pumps out 200 horsepower from 5,500 to 6,000 RPM and 207 pound-feet of torque all the way from 1,800 to 4,700 RPM. Independent tests suggest this engine is even more powerful and VW may understate it for marketing purposes. It certainly feels more powerful.

With FSI direct injection, fuel economy doesn't suffer. The EPA claims 24 MPG in the city and 32 on the highway. Even with lively driving we bested both numbers with 26 and 33 MPG.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a DSG automatic, complete with paddle shifting, optional. The clutch is light and travel is a tad on the long side (longer than a Toyota Corolla) but we still prefer the stick. The DSG is lightning quick and also extremely entertaining.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Road Test
A bold feature of the GLI is the razor-like 18-inch alloy wheels.


Vehicle Type Compact,
Price Range* $24,405 to $31,380 (US),
Not yet available in Canada

Engine I4, 2.0-liter, 16-valve, turbocharged
Horsepower 200 at 5,500 to 6,000 RPM
Torque 207 pound-feet at
1,800 to 4,700 RPM
Curb Weight 3,308 pounds
Weight Per Horsepower 16.5 pounds
Transmissions Six-speed manual

Six-speed automatic
with manumatic shifting
0-to-60 MPH 6.4 seconds
EPA Mileage 24 MPG (city),
32 MPG (highway)
26 MPG (city),
33 MPG (highway)
*Prices are for the model trim tested and include VW's destination fee.

Many automakers claim a sport suspension but the GLI's is the first we truly find sporty in a four-door sedan. It may be a tad too firm for some tastes.

All this go-fast hardware is wrapped up in a good-
looking package devoid, thankfully, of boy-racer add-
ons (spoilers, body kit, etc.), ensuring wide appeal.

A blacked-out honeycomb grille and spiffy alloy wheels offer some aggression over run-of-the-mill Jettas, while other GLI exclusives include a superb F1-inspired steering wheel, aluminum interior trim, blue-tinted windows and, of course, GLI badges.

The optional 18-inch wheels — 17s are standard — are must-haves for driving enthusiasts. Not only do they get the power to the pavement more effectively, they also fill the Jetta's fenders better.

A 5.4-inch ride height, the same as base Jettas, makes the 17s look small and the 18s just right.

Comparisons are already being made between the GLI, Mazda's Mazdaspeed6 and Acura's TSX. The 274-horse Mazdaspeed6 is faster but raw and less refined. On paper the TSX is a near match to the GLI.

Both with 200-horse four-cylinders, the TSX rewards its owner with more luxury than sport, whereas the GLI strikes a closer balance between the two, with sport getting the edge. We've driven both and prefer the GLI's firm but compliant Germanic ride and handling. Also, the GLI's 2.0T is far more willing than Acura's 2.4-liter mill, thanks to an extra 41 pound-feet of torque available at a vastly lower 2,700 RPM.

We also appreciate the GLI's extra lighting — standard foglights and bi-xenon headlights that we can't praise enough. High-performance driving requires high-performance lighting, especially on nighttime back roads where the most fun is to be had.

For all its fun, features and first-rate quality, the GLI chases the BMW 330i.

For bang for the buck, it beats it.

And for now, the GLI is the best VW we've driven. The upcoming new GTI and R32 may steal this claim.

Also see:
Jetta Photos

2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Road Test
The F1-style steering wheel makes known the GLI's sporting intentions.

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