You may have heard of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which is a gateway drug for so many car enthusiasts, relatively affordable and classic as it is. Less fanfare is afforded the Jetta GLI, which is a living testament to why sport sedans shouldn’t die. I’m driving a 2021 GLI this week. What do you want to know?
The GLI has been with us for over 35 years now, since its 1984 arrival in the U.S., with the first one getting all of 90 horsepower from its 1.8-liter engine. The 2021 version of that car makes up to 228 horsepower from a 2-liter, but the 2021 GLI is also over 1,000 pounds heavier than the 1984 GLI, which came in at a tidy 2,128.
More power, more weight, modern safety features, modern tech: The GLI has grown up like every other car over the past three decades, but in many ways it is also the same exact proposition now as it was in the ‘80s. It is a compact four-door sedan which can move quick, powered by a non-electrified gas engine and manual as standard. It is a Golf GTI, but for those who prefer the shape of a sedan instead. It is an “affordable” (starts at $26,345) sporty car that has power numbers that are manageable, as 228 horsepower is enough to get your heart pumping but not really enough to get you in too much trouble.
The GLI is also the kind of car that is an endangered species. Almost every trend is going against it, in that, these days, in the eyes of automakers and consumers, small cars are bad, sedans are bad, gas-powered cars are bad, and manual transmission cars are bad. On top of all that, it is a Volkswagen; I absolutely cannot wait to drive it this week. I’ll have more to say about it next week, but, in the meantime, what do you want to know?