This week I bring you the most powerful Jetta in the lineup - the 2023 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, offered just in the Autobahn trim.
By most powerful, I don't mean adrenaline-rush powerful, but still quite a bit more exciting than the standard Jetta. The front-wheel drive GLI is equipped with 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 228-horsepower - a nice boost from the 158-hp delivered by the lineup's standard engine. You'll also get a nice 258 pound-feet of torque. Its sporty flavor is enhanced by the GLI's performance monitor in the multimedia system.
The engine is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly -- a manual is also available if you want more engagement from your ride.
As with other VW models, I consider the Stop/Start to be somewhat noticeable, but it can be disabled. I do need to mention brakes - as the GLI features front brakes shared with a previous generation Golf R. Its rear brakes are also larger than on a standard Jetta.
The powertrain doesn't just set GLI apart. Looks do, too. My test vehicle wears Pure Gray with a Deep Black Roof - an added cost color.
The Jetta features sharp creases on its profile giving it an aggressive look.
GLI models feature black honeycomb detailing on the front end, along with a red accent strip through the center of the grille. The grille frame also swaps chrome for glossy black.
Other GLI features include black window surrounds, GLI badging, a black honeycomb diffuser in the rear and a wide chrome dual exhaust. Brakes feature red painted calipers.
What really kicks things up a notch in my opinion is the GLI Black Package, which looks terrific. It adds 18-inch black alloy wheels, black painted side mirror caps and the black rear spoiler which gives it a sporty look.
As far as exterior equipment goes, you get LED headlights, daytime running lights and taillights, heated foldable power side mirrors, rain sensing wipers, and a panoramic sunroof. The slim side mirrors get my thumbs up.
The GLI's Black Titan leather interior with red contrast stitching is modern and sporty with the GLI's red accents, glossy black trim and two large digital displays. The GLI features a nice amount of soft touch materials on the dash and door panels along with a black headliner.
Stainless steel pedals greet your feet once in the driver's seat. The Sport front seats, with a red underlay, are well designed and comfortable, and provide side bolstering for support. The GLI comes with heated and ventilated seats -however this model lacks the latter due to the chip shortage.
The perforated leather, glossy black accented steering wheel is on the beefier side and red GLI accents add some pizazz. I wasn't terribly excited about the paddle shifters. They seemed to be positioned rather low, at least for me anyway.
Above the steering wheel you find VW's always impressive 10.25-inch digital cockpit. my only complaint is that this GLI doesn't feature navigation, which looks great full screen.
An 8-inch touchscreen features VW's Composition Media system that runs MIB3. It's not the latest and greatest VW infotainment offering (check out my 2022 Golf GTI review to see what I mean) but still it does offer nice graphics for things like the drive modes. You get voice control, HD radio Sirius 360L, and Bluetooth. It's also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also impressive real estate for the backup camera. The Beats premium audio system is a highlight and it delivers excellent sound.
The center stack is where the tech stops. You'll find traditional knobs and buttons here to control the climate. Good I guess if you prefer that to touch sensitive controls which we're seeing more of these days.
On the GLI-red accented center console you'll find the a leather and glossy black gear shifter, wireless charger, the push button start along with other controls. The cupholders are somewhat of an oddity - in a geometric shape and on the smaller side. No supersizing here. You'll also find two UCB-C ports up front.
The 2nd-row of the Jetta is roomy and offers a 60/40 rear split. The seat backs are soft-touch. You'll get less oddly-shaped cupholders in the drop-down rear armrest.
No complaints about trunk space either.
The GLI also features illuminated front door sill plates, dual-zone climate, an electronic parking brake, multi color adjustable interior lighting and carpeted floor mats both in the front and rear.
Ride and Drive
The Jetta is an easy compact sedan to drive, accelerating and performing well as a daily driver both in town and in highway driving.
Steering is on the looser side, though Sport mode tightens it up a bit along with firming up the standard adaptive damping suspension system. Sport mode also offers up a nice exhaust note. For the smoothest ride, you'll want to go for Comfort mode. Other standard GLI performance-oriented features include a front limited-slip differential.
In terms of cabin noise, for me the Jetta seemed noisy in highway driving, but not unusually so for the segment.
The Jetta GLI feature's VW's IQ.Drive semi-autonomous system that includes:
— Travel Assist
— Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
— Active Blind Spot Monitor
— Rear Traffic Alert
— Front Assist
— Emergency Assist (automatic transmission only)
— Lane Assist
The GLI also equipped with Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. The GLI also features Light Assist (High Beam Control for headlights). It automatically turns on high beams in certain situations if there's no oncoming traffic detected.
Options and Price Adjustments
Options on my test model include the GLI Black Package ($595). There's a -$200 listed for no ventilated front seats. MSRP as equipped is just slightly over $34,000.
The Jetta GLI Autobahn is the best-performing Jetta to date, a terrific daily driver, and the most engaging ride in the lineup with sporty looks that give it a distinct personality.
- What I liked most: Looks, Overall Comfort, Beats Audio.
- What I would change: Update multimedia unit.
- MSRP: Base Price: $32,385; as equipped $34,270.
- Fuel Economy: 26 MPG city/36 MPG highway/30 MPG combined.
- Odometer reading when tested: N/A.
- Weight: 3,355 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Compact spare.
- Length-Width-Height: 186.9 ” long/ 70.8 ”wide/ 57.9 ” high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gallons w/filler on the passenger side.
- Official Color: Pure Gray with Deep Black Roof. ($395)
- Towing Capacity: N/A.
2023 VW Jetta GLI Autobahn: The most fun to drive Jetta grade, delivering the most power and a sporty personality to match.
- Volkswagen New Vehicle Limited Warranty: 4-years/50,000 miles, Corrosion Perforation warranty 7-years/100,000 miles.
- Final Assembly Location: Puebla, Mexico.
- Manufacturer's Website: VW