The fanatic automotive phase has yet one more carry-over sport compact to have a good time. The refreshed 2022 Volkswagen GLI didn’t get any significant mechanical upgrades, however as we’ve realized from VW’s overhauled GTI, a complete redesign could be a combined bag.
The Jetta-based GLI has all the time performed second fiddle to its Golf-based sibling, the GTI. Regardless of using on the identical chassis for a lot of its existence, the GLI has all the time been seen because the inferior, Americanized choice. The one with a “bumper wart” (trunk) on the again and extra general size than can be thought of correct for an fanatic mannequin.
The Corolla-looking fifth-generation Jetta we obtained in ’05 was most likely its stylistic low level, however even then, the GLI wasn’t unhealthy, per se; it simply wasn’t the GTI. That was additionally the final time it was largely the identical automotive because the GTI other than its trunk. Consequently, that was the final technology many lovers appeared to care about. As subsequent Jettas diverged from the Golf in measurement, underpinnings and cheapness, so too did the GLI from the GTI.
Now that each sedans and hatchbacks are going the best way of the dodo, the GLI’s plight is much more pronounced. It nonetheless has its devotees, however VW definitely isn’t going out of its approach to please them. Due to the abroad reputation of the Golf, the GTI has remained a extra engaging funding goal for VW’s bean counters than its boot-bearing sibling. So whereas the Golf stayed tight and “European” and continued to have first dibs on VW’s latest efficiency and inside tech, the Jetta diverged, turning into a bigger, softer, cheaper, extra “American” choice that needed to wait round for the Golf’s leftovers. Nice leaping off level, eh?
Sure and no, consider it or not, however maybe not for the explanations you’d anticipate. For 2022, the GLI obtained a reasonable refresh that included some aesthetic updates and a packaging overhaul. It’s dearer as a result of the bottom mannequin not exists — it’s now Autobahn or nothing — and if that bundle doesn’t swimsuit you, too unhealthy. There are primarily no choices; even the 10-inch navigation system, which is included with the Autobahn bundle on a GTI, is M.I.A. totally on the GLI.
And sure, that’s the excellent news. See, the 10-inch Uncover Professional infotainment suite and its numerous related management interfaces are far and away our least favourite elements of the brand new VW ID.4, GTI and Golf R. There’s no dancing round it; they only plain suck. The one a part of that mess emigrate into the GLI was the awkward steering wheel management setup; the opposite main management interfaces carry over from the 2021 Jetta and GLI. That’s proper, child; there be knobs up in right here.
It isn’t all excellent news, although. Together with “de-contenting” the navigation system, VW held again the GTI’s 12-way energy adjustable seats (the GLI will get six-ways), three-zone local weather management (twin solely), heated rear seats and some different inside and exterior bits — oh, and 13 horsepower. The GLI additionally will get the outdated XDS brake-based entrance differential in lieu of the GTI’s VAQ system, which employs a mechanical limited-slip differentials. So the GLI solely comes “loaded,” however on this case, that’s clearly relative.
The GLI has extra than simply actual buttons and knobs going for it. It nonetheless will get VW’s glorious dynamic chassis management (DCC) adaptive suspension system (Honda put the Civic Si’s related suspension out to pasture for the brand new technology) and a six-speed guide is customary tools. DSG’s elective, however you’ll be paying near $35,000 out the door (assuming no markup or different shenanigans) for the pleasure of letting the pc do the be just right for you.
The GLI’s 228 horsepower solely appears unhealthy on paper when in comparison with the GTI’s 241; neither VW is as potent because the Elantra N or Veloster N (275 & 276 horses, respectively) however each beat the cheaper, extra accessible Hyundai N Line fashions (201 hp) and the Civic Si (new or outdated).
Admittedly, the GLI appears half-baked on paper. However mercifully, it’s way over the sum of its spec sheet. The GLI could be a bit underwhelming should you don’t trouble placing it by way of its paces, however I problem anyone to name it boring or insufficient after giving it a correct shakedown. Each the throttle response and suspension sharpen dramatically sufficient in “Sport” that I utterly forgot I used to be driving a sedan that’s pushing the fashionable definition of “compact.”
It is enjoyable, full cease — each bit as a lot of a blast because the GTI, actually. The latter’s strengths are solely related should you’re actually pushing the automotive. Whether or not between the cones or on a street course, the limited-slip differential will make a significant distinction in your skill to place energy down out of a good nook with out overcooking your brakes. On the road? You received’t discover the distinction, I promise.
In truth, the GLI so stunned me that I’m inclined to rank it second amongst VW’s sport compacts — proper behind the GTI and forward of the Golf R — if we’re strictly speaking about enjoyable issue. The GTI’s atrocious UI/UX state of affairs detracts from its on a regular basis utility however doesn’t make it any much less of a hoot to toss round. The all-wheel-drive Golf R’s added four-season utility is definitely a plus, nevertheless it makes for one very costly Golf, and other than profitable stoplight races in damp climate, there’s simply not plenty of giggle issue within the Golf R. It’s the sort of automotive that nearly needs to be outfitted with DSG, at which level I’m going to start out an Audi S3.
I haven’t pushed the brand new Honda Civic Si, however my wheel time within the GLI makes me all of the extra keen to take action. The Elantra N Line and N fashions each supply extra worth and much better tech (and within the case of the Elantra N, a heck of much more energy too), however their styling isn’t for everyone. The GLI’s no stunner, I’ll admit (critically, what’s happening with that c-pillar?) nevertheless it’s way more subdued than the flamboyant Hyundais. The Kia Forte GT splits the distinction quite properly, however I nonetheless suppose I’d quite drive the VW.
If we’re speaking about sheer driving enjoyment and nothing else, GTI remains to be the fitting reply, nevertheless it’s extremely troublesome to suggest that automotive to anyone who wants a handy, user-friendly every day driver — and that’s half of the components that after made the GTI so interesting. Beforehand a jack of all trades, the GTI is now merely jack. It’s positively attainable somebody can be prepared to surrender the GTI’s superior dynamics for the GLI’s 2.4 inches of extra rear legroom or its 14.1 cubic-foot trunk, which is longer and would possibly truly be extra useful to some than the GTI’s technically better quantity of 19.9 cubes.
The game compact panorama has shifted dramatically over the previous decade. Between the business’s thirst for crossovers and SUVs, each long-term worth creep and inflationary stress, and a dearth of younger lovers with cash to spare, the phase (maybe aside from Hyundai) has largely matured away from reasonably priced boy-racer bombshells just like the Fiesta ST and Mazdaspeed3. The GLI by no means leaned too arduous in that course however being a half-step behind the GTI, it was not less than cheaper.
With the departure of the bottom GLI trim, that’s not the case. At $32,685 (vacation spot included), it’s a grand dearer than the bottom GTI, to not point out appreciably dearer than the Mazda MX-5, Subaru BRZ or Toyota GR 86. That’s a tough capsule to swallow, even when it’s simpler to dwell with than its hatchback sibling.