The Volkswagen GLI is actually a fifth-generation Jetta. The Jetta was first introduced in 1979 and each generation has increased in both power and size. In the years that have passed since the origin of the Jetta, depending on the country you were in; the model year and the country where it was marketed, the Jetta has also been known as the Sagitar, Fox, Atlantic, Bora, Vento and/or the City Jetta. Volkswagen has a well-established history for naming cars after different streams of wind and the Jetta was named after the Jet stream.
Part of the reasoning for developing the Jetta in the first place was to allow the American market to break away from hatchback-style autos and gravitate towards a sedan-based vehicle body style. As a result, the Jetta became the best-selling European automobile in the entire US and in Canada as well. As of 2005, when the GLI was introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show on January 5th, the Volkswagen Jetta had sold over 6.6 million units worldwide. That included over 2.2 million in the US alone.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI satisfies a driver's needs and desires to sport a car with more attitude and spunk than the stock Jetta. The company wanted to design a car that felt like it was aerodynamically-designed for driving directly on the Autobahn and the GLI does just that. It also satisfies the need for a car that is practical, offering the solid performance of a spacious 4-door compact.
The Volkswagen GLI is a totally redesigned Jetta, bigger and more powerful than any other previous model. It has more leg room, more head room, more shoulder room and more cargo room. Although it is obviously a relative of the Jetta, the GLI has unique styling and a definite sense of solidarity. It has a leaner, more sporty presence than does the Jetta. It is a design based on performance and presents an extra sense of gutsy power when compared to its more subtle Jetta brethren.
That extra power comes from the strongest engine in the Jetta history, the 2.0T. The 2.0T is a turbocharged V4 that cranks out 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque from 1800 up to 4700 revolutions per minute. When coupled with its 6-speed manual tranny (the Triptronic 6-speed DSG automatic transmission is now available as an option), the GL can accelerate from an initial position to 60 mph in just under 7 seconds. You have no problems feeling your back pushed into the seat.
Double overhead cams, hydraulic lifters and 4-valve cylinders work in conjunction to provide the driver with smooth and responsive engine performance. Fuel combustion potential is optimized by a comprehensive electronic engine management system coupled with FSI direct injectors. Emissions are reduced, milage is increased and power is enhanced in the VW GLI. Additionally, the gearbox has direct shifting capabilities that capacitate both automatic and manual gear switching via a twin-clutch assembly. This helps to eliminate interruptions in power while shifting.
The Volkswagen GLI has a slightly stiffer ride than the traditional Jetta, but that's only because it was designed to pin itself to the driving line. If you are trying to get the rear end to swing out of line, then you are really going to have to get stupid with your driving. The GLI is designed with responsive and safe handling in mind first. The 2008 GLI remains largely the same as the previous year's models. Sales are great for the Volkswagen GLI and the future looks very bright.
All-in-all, the Volkswagen GLI is a sportier, spunkier, racier, more powerful version of the best-selling Jetta. Upgrades in every design area have been incorporated and they are very obvious when you sit down in the cockpit. Once again, the Volkswagen company has a solid hit with this new, fifth generation Jetta, the GLI.