The Volkswagen Jetta GLX is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a real sports sedan hiding inside a sensible body. It's a trick Volkswagen has played with its cars ever since the first Rabbit GTI back in 1982.
The growl behind this wolf is Volkswagen's innovative VR6 engine, a smooth powerplant that delivers lots of gusto around town and out on the open road. That power is backed up with a sports suspension and big brakes--stuff that makes for great sports sedans. The Jetta GLX responds quickly, precisely and smoothly, just as the driver expects. It quickly establishes a bond with its driver, a result of precision German engineering and years of research and development.
Yet this wolf is as easy to control as a sheep around town. And it possesses all the comfort, roominess and practicality that make this compact sedan as useful as many mid-size entries. It's a collection of attributes that have helped to make the Jetta the best selling European car in North America.
The Jetta GLX is a lot of fun to drive and the source of much of that fun resides under the hood. The VR6 engine revs well and propels the Jetta quickly down winding roads, but strong mid-range response and a wide powerband is what really sets the GLX apart from the other cars in its class.
The VR6 engine generates 85 percent of its pulling power at only 2000 rpm--much lower than most engines--and continues pulling right up to 6000 rpm.
Punch the gas pedal at any time and the Jetta GLX is an instant getaway car. For example, the GLX can get away from an Acura Integra GS-R, a Nissan 200SX SE-R and a BMW 318ti. VW's VR6 is also one of the smoothest engines in its class, and ongoing development has largely elminated the noise that plagued earlier versions.
All Jettas offer a great balance of handling, driver feedback and ride quality, the result of a rigid structure and finely tuned suspension. At higher speeds, the Jetta is exceptionally stable, thanks to VW's track-correcting rear suspension bushings that minimize unwanted steering effects from the rear wheels during cornering.
The standard Jetta five-speed manual transmission is smooth and reasonably precise. The GLX has a close-ratio five-speed gearbox that helps keep the engine in the sweet spot of its broad powerband, to enhance acceleration.
If you prefer an automatic transmission, VW's four-speed self-shifter adjusts shift patterns according to how the car is being driven. The ample torque supplied by the VR6 works well with this smart automatic.
All of the Jetta and Golf models deliver confidence-inspiring handling, roomy interiors and German engineering.
The powerful VR6 engine turns the Jetta GLX into a real sport sedan. It handles well and it's fun to drive. The interior is comfortable, elegant and functional.
Although its exterior design is a little boxy by contemporary standards, the Jetta GLX combines comfort, utility and composed road manners, with sinewy performance.
The result is a sport sedan that backs up Volkswagen's "Drivers Wanted" advertising theme. Jettas have tended to be a trifle expensive in the past, but Volkswagen has held the line on pricing while competing cars have soared.
Predictably, this policy has helped VW regain lost ground in the U.S. market, and it's a key factor in the Jetta's rising popularity. If you covet European performance but a BMW is out of reach, you might just find the Jetta GLX a more-than-acceptable substitute.