2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI – Bottom Line Review

JET STREAM, February 2019: North American meteorologists scurried to plot the Polar Jet Stream, east to west flowing winds at altitudes between 30,000 and 40,000 feet, just below the Northern Hemisphere tropopause, as it rained brutal icy conditions down from the North Pole.

JETTA STREAM, February 2019: Volkswagen picks the Windy City to unveil a performance compact family sedan with extra wind gusts in its turbocharged sails and plenty of apex hunting promise derived from newly adopted MQB bones.

Dedicated to a land where enthusiasts are defiantly fonder of their notchback sports sedans than sportbacks, Roadblazing.com prepared to be blown away by the all new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.


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WHAT: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn Mk.7 BD (VW Group A7 platform) compact family sedan. The new VW Jetta GLI is finally hatched from the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform, four years after it’s Hot Hatch relative, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Standard Power: transverse 2.0 L turbocharged DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 228 hp/ 258 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm + 6-speed manual helical transaxle, 3 [throttle, shift] Drive Modes  = Eco, Normal, Sport (customizable)

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: upgraded 228 hp, 2.0L TSI powerplant + smoother take-up 7-speed DSG dual clutch automated manual transaxle + wet clutch front limited slip = sub 6 sec. 0-60, 31 combined mpg


2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Front center console controls & storage, including deep, exposed wireless device ledge

Optional Drivetrain: 7-speed automated dual-clutch helical transaxle (DQ380)



Roadblazing.com recently assessed the new Jetta Mk. 7 as possessing the larger Passat‘s maturity and compacy Golf hatchback’s trapezoids found in wrap-around light housings, fuel filler doors. BOLDNESS = prominent hood and fender creases.

Jetta GLI sedans mimick their Golf GTI hatchback brethren with telltale insignia splashed on grille, trunk lid and fenders. Also guaranteed a spot on any GLI:  red horizontal grille bar, dark lattice grille and lower air dam, piano black in place of chrome accents, straked darkened front corner inlets, body colored side skirts, dual chrome exhaust tailpipes and a lower rear diffuser.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Oversized power tilt, sliding moonroof

Jetta‘s acute raked backlight, now leading to a more prominent GLI near duck-tail integrated trunk-lid spoiler formed from side belt-line creasing border on fastback. It’s just one interconnected ring away from being an Audi S3 ringer.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Oversized power tilt, sliding moonroof

WHY:   People’s Teutonic Hot Compact Sedan is Affordable Wolf in Dapper New Sheep’s Clothing.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2019.

WHERE: Volkswagen new car dealers

WHERE MADE: Puebla, Mexico

HOW STRONG: Valvelift 2.0L TSI I-4 114:1 power to displacement ratio = 132% that of a late 1980s Ford small-block OHV V-8! Gear pre-selection and disengagement in the 7-speed dual clutch automated manual gearbox is notably smoother than in the previous 6-speed DSG. Cog swaps in the nether regions of the tachometer occur with hardly any drop-off. Combined with the electronic exhaust wastegate it keeps a good amount of the 17.4 PSI of boost and hence ample torque low in the EA 888 Gen. 3 rev range.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Variable color and info 10.25″-inch Digital Gauge Cluster


2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: 4 Drive modes include driver customized

Large, slightly right offset pedals improve heel to toe action.

Any exhaust rumble from the Soundaktor audio system = Exclusively cabin audio synthesized + Fortunately defeatable.

HOW LIMBER: GLI’s multi-link rear set-up is harmonized with higher spring rates and stiffer dampers, stemming float and nose dive and improving wheel placement accuracy. And yet broken pavement is absorbed in civilized fashion.

Select Sport Drive Mode or set Sport Steer effort in Custom. Grab that beefy D-shaped, contrast red web stitched leather helm. The variable ratio steering firms up naturally without excessive weighting. Hankook 3-season performance tires transmit high grip. On the track, the XDS e-clutch front differential cuts out torque fidget making for improved understeer avoidance.

Larger than GTI 13″-inch vented front rotors are donated by the Golf R. While rear dics are solid, a solid pedal requires a bit more foot stabbing, but without notable fade.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: MQB platform delivers quicker rebound, and especially impressive grip when fitted with Opt. 3 season UHP tires. Oversized 13″ front brake rotors adopted from Golf RS dissipate heat.

VW Jetta GLI‘s dimensions and poundage miss the Golf GTI mark, making the hot compact sedan 9/10ths the performer of the hot hatch.

HOW FAR:  31 miles per gallon combined fuel economy solidly exceeds VW’s EPA reporting; Regular grade 87 octane gas = 530 highway miles per tankful.

HOW BIG: Length = 3″ inches > than the last Mk. 6 Jetta . The cockpit = kinder expanse.  Low cowl provides excellent forward visibility at corners.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Rear seat w/ fold down mid armrest

HOW LITTLE: Losing 1-inch wheelbase = a nibble on rear seat legroom. That intrusive front center console takes a bigger bite out of rear middle seat space than desired. A more rakish backlight = rear view impeding.

HOW USEFUL: Mid-size sedan rivaling trunk swallows 2 full size + 2 carry-on luggage pieces; 60/40% split folding rear seat backs, trunk cable releases; Overhead retracting sunglasses bin; Deep lower center stack storage shelf w/ USB x 1;  8 bottle & large cupholders;  -1 Front door pocket length; -1 Thick trunk swing arms and deep bumper cover; -1 Lack of trunk floor cover tether.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Expansive trunk cargo hold with 60/40% split folding rear seat back extension

HOW SAFE: rated “Good” in all categories by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS): 6 airbags, Generous hot formed weight saving steel used in structure; -1 Not all LED headlamps are created equal.

Driver assist technology: Rear camera w/ park gridlines, Blind spot + rear cross traffic warning,   Forward collision warning & avoidance; Pedestrian avoidance braking; Automatic high beam LED headlamps. -1 Loses standard Jetta’s available adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist;

HOW FRIENDLY: Wide girth substantial hip support & cushioned front bucket seats; Heated, cooled front seats, 8-way power driver’s adjust; GLI” D-shaped, leather tilting, telescoping steering wheel; Front passenger’s height adjustable seat; 2-Zone automatic climate control; SPECIAL MENTION: 3- position driver’s seat, wing mirror memory; Personalized multiple drivers preferences.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Leather seating w/ red stitched piping, front heated-cooled, 8-way power driver’s

Cool Gizmo(s): 10.25″ selectable color LCD Digital Cockpit instrument cluster;

Details Done Right: Tight grained soft material upper dashboard; Minimized chrome bezeled switchgear; Thick rimmed steering wheel with distinctive rocker action integrated horizontal spoke driver assist & redundant media switches; Stainless steel covered large pedals and dead pedal; 10-color variable LED cabin ambient lighting.

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Hard, coarse grain mid – lower dashboard & door panels; -1 Fixed rear seat outboard headrests; -1 Center console missing switch blank caps; -1 Lacks VW Golf’s felt lined door pockets, sturdy cargo floor and overall polish.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE:  In-dash 8.0″-inch capacitive touch/ gesture LCD infotainment display; Voice learning hands-free communications; SMS text messaging; Android Auto/ Apple Car Play / Mirror link wireless device overlays; +1 Easy to switch between smart device overlay and native navigation; CarNet Apps; 9-speaker, 400 Watt BEATS streaming & HD radio audio offers = distortion free volume, but excessively flat midrange.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn: Android Auto (and available Apple Car Play) are the only available navigation on any Jetta GLI

Subscription based: Sirius XM & Sirius XM TravelLink (90 days included trial); (3 years included), CarNet Info telematics valet

USB x 3, 12V x 1; +1 Deep lower center stack mobile device pocket;

-1 No onboard wireless charging option; -1 Glossy infotainment screen = fingerprint magnifier; -1 Busy infotainment screen icons and drop-down sub-menus;

+/- SMS connectivity requests permission at each start; CD Player inside glovebox; +/- Native GPS navigation unavailable – Android Auto / Apple CarPlay = stand-in.

HOW MUCH: $31,185 = 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn list price = $7100 less than VW Golf GTI Autobahn, less GTI‘s DCC suspension, sport seats and native Navigation.

WHAT’S MISSING: Greater steering road feel; VW Golf GTI’s balance, cabin finish; Native navigation option; DCC adaptive damping (only on 35th Anniversary Edition).

ANY COMPETITION: Honda Civic SI: +1 Redline song, seat bolstering, price;  Kia Forte GT (2020 MY) : +1 Simpler infotainment, value; Subaru WRX: +1 Power, aggressive aero bits, All-Wheel Drive.

FINAL WORDS: Well worth the four year wait to gain MQB. Now happy to have our Teutonic Hot Hatch Wolf in Sedan Sheep’s Clothing.


(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

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