TO THE POINTWhat’s New? The performance-oriented 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI gets a powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a choice between two excellent transmissions, beefed-up suspension bits, 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, and several important interior tweaks over the standard Jetta 2.5. Selling Points: Excellent drivetrain and sport-tuned suspension, and attractive, well laid-out interior, a roomier back seat and perfectly sculpted race car-style steering wheel. Deal Breakers: The driving position may not suit everyone, and the ride may be too firm for some. Our Advice: If you’re looking for an affordable sports sedan, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI deserves your strong consideration.
Driving ImpressionsWatch your speed, because the capable 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI will get you tickets without even trying.
While the range of upgrades that make up the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI work as a total package, it’s the engine and drivetrain that will warm the hearts of driving enthusiasts everywhere. With just 37 more pounds to move than the base model, the engine’s 50 additional horsepower give the GLI a substantial performance boost.
Complimenting this excellent engine are two equally worthy transmissions. While we prefer the six-speed manual gearbox for its smooth, precise shifts and inherently greater driver involvement, the $875 DSG automatic option would be an easy-to-live-with compromise if we had to regularly contend with long rush-hour commutes in stop-and-go traffic.
On the road, the combination of the engine’s broad torque band and the overall refinement of the car itself make the GLI one of those vehicles where it’s easy to lose any sense of your actual speed. Several times during our day-long drive we looked down at the speedo and were surprised to discover we were doing 20-plus miles-per-hour over the posted speed limit.
If we had to point the finger of blame for those transgressions, we’d aim it squarely in the direction of the GLI’s highly refined suspension. While the handling-oriented suspension tweaks give the car a noticeably firmer ride than that of the mainstream Jetta models, the ride quality is still civilized enough that we think most driving enthusiasts would consider it a fair trade-off and very livable in day-to-day motoring.
And, speaking of handling, we can attest that the sport-tuned suspension shines equally bright on a curvy stretch of asphalt. Body lean is minimal through corners and, when combined with precise steering feel and gobs of grip from the wide performance tires, the set-up delivers a level of confidence that encourages you to continually push the car just a little harder around each subsequent turn.
Of course, all the power and handling in the world wouldn’t amount to much if it weren’t backed up by a strong set of brakes. Volkswagen’s engineers have come through with larger four-wheel antilock discs that provide above-average stopping power, though some drivers may wish for a little firmer pedal feel.
Taken together, all of these strong points make this sporting member of the Jetta family a sweet little sedan – no matter what you choose to call it.