The Extra Mile: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn
Entry Price: $15,545
Price as Tested: $27,295
This week, were driving Volkswagen's 2013 Jetta GLI Autobahn, redesigned in 2011 to offering more room and pleasing Passat style looks. Add in the peppy 2.0-liter 200-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder, and you're driving a fun car that won't break your wallet.
Jetta starts at just $15,545 for the base non-turbo Jetta S with a 5-speed manual. From there, you can choose from 14 other Jetta models from 5-cylinder models, Turbo Diesels and Hybrids all the up to its most expensive Hybrid SEL Premium at $31,445.
Dollar for dollar, especially considering the base entry price, Jetta is one of the best cars out there if you're trying to combine fun and practicality. With EPA numbers of 24 city and 32 highway on our tester's window sticker, consumers might be fooled that this car is a docile "EPA-bred" machine that isn't much when you press on the throttle.
When VW's turbo kicks in and you go through the gears you'll experience lively acceleration. Our model came with GLI Autobahn (DSG) 6-speed automatic that allows gear selection either from the console gearshift automatically or the two shift paddles located behind the steering wheel.
As for torque, 207 lb. ft. is available and it's extremely "torqu-ee" on the lower end, too, thanks to VW's turbo technology. GLI's 9.6 to 1 compression engine is perhaps best part of the mechanical equation as VW engineers merge direct port injection with the exhaust driven turbo, resulting in "lag free" torque that starts at 1,800 rpm and pulls firmly right up to 5,100 revs. The result in surprising performance as we ran 0-60 MPH in 6.5 seconds and gladly note again that the usual "turbo lag" is not present.
A GLI Autobahn option adds 18-inch tires on black and silver alloy wheels, Fender premium stereo, V-Tex leatherette seating, dual zone air, heated front seats, front washer nozzles and power adjustable driver seat. Although there's nothing "Autobahn" about these add-ons sans the 18-inchers, it does make for a more aesthetic statement.
A sports bred suspension and the all-season tires help put the front-drive power to the ground without too much torque steer. Underneath, VW relies on a proven and tweaked McPherson strut independent front and multi four-link independent rear setup for planting GLI and most other Jettas. Add standard electronic differential lock with anti-slip and electro-mechanical power steering, and you have a car that begs to be pushed in the turns and "matted" on the freeway merge lanes. We experienced just a little lean in sharper cornering and when it came time to pass, the turbo does its job as the car feels like a V6 instead of an inline-4.
Inside, GLI is aesthetically pleasing featuring firm seating, nice gauge package, 60/40 split rear seat, 6-disc changer, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry, cruise, leather wrapped steering wheel, tilt and telescopic, all the powers, floor mats, and more. The cabin is another highpoint of the vehicle, especially in GLI form.
Every Jetta comes with all the airbags, extra side protection beams and safety cell crumple zones to reduce impact. Outside, our GLI is a head turner thanks to bright red paint and the Autobahn tire and wheel treatment.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 101.5-inches, 14.5-gallon premium fuel tank, curb weight of 3,124 lbs., 4.9 inch ground clearance and spacious 15.5-cu. ft. of cargo space.
Jetta in any form is a prime example of what Volkswagen is capable of when its engineers concentrate on both versatility and driving fun. Throw in the wide range of pricing, and you've got yourself a winner.
Depending on your needs both financially and on the highway, your area Volkswagen dealer will explain all Jetta models, and assist in selecting the best Jetta for your situation.
Likes: Price, power, handling, exterior looks, interior.
Dislikes: No backup camera or Homelink standard.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated automotive columnist).