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A Volkswagen GTI vs GLI Love Story

For automotive freaks – they usually don’t get any freakier than the B&B – a automotive is greater than only a transportation equipment. We find yourself concerned with our vehicles. We take care of them. We fear about them. A few of us even title them.

My final automotive, a ‘15 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro, was Mitzi – petite, German, cute, enjoyable … and never very straightforward to reside with. If Mitzi had been a human feminine, she’d have been a blast within the sack and high-maintenance and form of clueless the remainder of the time. A fantastic mistress and a awful accomplice, if you’ll. The “it’s not you, it’s me” dialog had been coming for some time, and when used automotive costs went bonkers, it felt like the fitting time to kiss Mitzi on the brow and say goodbye.

That’s how I ended up on a car-search journey that took a number of months and ended with probably the greatest exhausting choices a automotive freak could be confronted with: Selecting between a VW GTI or Jetta GLI. Which one received my coronary heart? Learn on.

I used to be searching for a automotive that may very well be a freak once I wished it to, with out Mitzi’s practicality and upkeep points – much less of a mistress, extra of a accomplice, if you’ll.

Nicely, if you need practicality, it’s exhausting to beat CUVs, so I flirted with the concept of 1 briefly. Trying again, I believe this proves that peer stress doesn’t finish whenever you’re 18 – it’s just like the world is whispering “everybody’s shopping for a crossover, and if you wish to be cool, you want one.”

So, I thought of two CUVs that fans have heaped reward on: A Mazda CX-30 and Mazda CX-5, each with the two.5 turbo engine. Each felt huge and ponderous, and the drivetrain was significantly disappointing – these vehicles each have over 300 lb-ft of torque, nevertheless it’s delivered joylessly by an old-school automated that drained these autos of no matter fun-to-drive chops they may have had. If that is what an “fanatic’s crossover” is like, I believe I’ll simply let another person expertise the fun of CUV possession, thanks. I’d additionally recommend to Mazda that now that they’ve the engines to make their “right here’s your way-less-expensive Audi” pitch to prospects, they want to determine why individuals like driving Audis a lot (trace: search for the “S-tronic” label on the gearshift).

I additionally tried out some midsized metallic – the Honda Accord Sport 2.0T, Hyundai Sonata N-Line, and Mazda 6 2.5T received spins. I additionally checked out the Subaru WRX, the Mazda3 2.5T, and the Hyundai Elantra N-Line. The Accord got here closest to what I used to be searching for, nevertheless it was so rattling huge; the others, for numerous causes, didn’t really feel like a match.

That introduced me house, so to talk, to the VW GTI and Jetta GLI, which each share my previous Audi’s MQB platform and an excessive amount of its working gear. And should you’re an fanatic, I can’t think about placing a Nardi-clad proper foot mistaken shopping for both of them.

Like all automakers, VW is within the midst of a torrid CUV moist dream, ejaculating limitless rows of porky Atlases, Tiguans, and Taoses (Taosii?) onto vendor tons. However they nonetheless supply the GTI (a brand new mannequin is on the way in which), a automobile that wants no introduction for automotive nuts. A few years in the past, they dropped all of the GTI’s drivetrain, steering, chassis, and suspension goodies into the milquetoast current-generation Jetta, creating the present GLI, and gave it a price ticket that’s about three grand lighter (we’ll delve into why it’s cheaper in a second).

New-car pricing could also be in full Looney Tunes mode proper now, however as a consequence of VW’s Tolkienesque quest to promote solely issues which are electrical or unnecessarily lifted and clad with ugly black plastic, offers could be had on a GTI or GLI. And for what it’s value, if you need one, I think you may need to purchase one sooner versus later, earlier than all you may get from VW is an EV, or one more Karen-tested, Karen-approved crossover. And with that, my anti-CUV rant endeth.

Put the GTI and GLI facet to facet, and the distinction is apparent: The Jetta has principally morphed right into a midsize automotive. In truth, when the present Jetta was launched, many B&Bers contemplated whether or not this almost-as-big-as-a-midsize mannequin spelled the top of the Passat within the VW lineup, and they had been proper. In the meantime, the GTI gives a considerably extra cramped again seat, however its’ hatchback configuration additionally means you’ll be able to put the again seats down and stuff virtually something smaller than a SpaceX Dragon capsule again there. Both approach, relating to practicality, both of those vehicles has it throughout my previous Audi.

You may marvel how VW will get away with charging three grand much less for a GLI, and whenever you climb into the driving force’s seat, it turns into obvious: The plastics are more durable, shinier, and extra hollow-feeling, and it has the identical cheap-looking gauge cluster as the bottom mannequin. The rear compartment loses the GTI’s rear seat HVAC vents, and the door panels look suspiciously just like what you’d discover at the back of a police cruiser. Petrochemical austerity apart, although, there’s a pleasant fold-down armrest with cupholders, and loads of room for adults to stretch out.

The most important distinction within the GLI’s cockpit is underneath your glutes – VW ditched the GTI’s great entrance seats (and the ridiculously cool Clark plaid upholstery) for a similar ones you’d discover in an up-level Jetta, and the game seats are nowhere on the choices menu. The GLI’s seats aren’t dangerous by any stretch – the truth is, should you’re not a low-bodyfat sort, that is likely to be a decisive think about shopping for it over the GTI – however the GTI’s seats are missed within the cheaper automotive.

If I’m making it sound just like the Jetta is a rolling hairshirt, it isn’t; it has a class-competitive inside, nevertheless it undoubtedly suffers by comparability to the Mk 7 Golf line, which has all the time punched far above its weight when it got here to inside high quality, and nonetheless does, even in its seventh (and remaining) mannequin 12 months. Save for the HVAC controls, all the pieces within the GTI’s cockpit seems and appears like cash, and whenever you shut your eyes and shut the doorways or trunk, you get that very same “German unobtainium” sound that you simply recover from on the Audi retailer.

Alternatively, VW tosses in keyless “consolation” entry, push-button begin, and adjustable inside “ambiance” lighting as freebies on the bottom GLI mannequin; you’ll should spend properly over 30 grand to get the primary set of options on a GTI, and the accent lighting – assuming you’re into that – isn’t accessible in any respect. Each vehicles supply the same old connectivity/infotainment niceties, together with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, in-car Wi-Fi, and a collection of fundamental passive security options (automated emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, rear-assist, blind-spot monitoring, and so forth).

Each vehicles additionally supply a characteristic that ought to heat the guts of any fanatic – user-configurable drive settings for the steering, transmission, entrance differential, and engine notice. Go for the automated transmission on both mannequin and also you additionally get a launch-control system.

Beneath the sheet metallic, each vehicles are virtually an identical. The place to begin is the superb EA888 2.0T motor, which anybody who complains about “2.0 China compliance engines” ought to check out. It’s principally a slightly-uprated model of the engine in my previous A3, and I can inform you from expertise that it’s received loads of punch, suffers minimal turbo lag, has a pleasant engine notice, and even likes to rev past 5,000 rpm. You’ll be able to mate it to a fine-shifting six-speed guide (I’d quibble on the clutch journey, however that’s about it), or an amazing seven-speed dual-clutch “DSG” automated. The VW group has put this drivetrain in all kinds of VW and Audi vehicles, and it’s received the system down pat. My solely concern is the water-pump-made-of-Kleenex problem, a $1,800 restore that my A3 fell sufferer to on the ripe previous age of 60,000 miles, however that’s why on the eighth day, God made manufacturing facility warranties and 45,000-mile leases.

Each vehicles even have uprated – and really sturdy – brakes sourced from the Golf R, and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential; step as much as the Autobahn trims on both automotive and also you get user-configurable suspension damping.

If that seems like all the pieces you want for a very good time behind the wheel, you’re precisely proper, however should you drive each vehicles back-to-back, you’ll discover two distinct roadgoing personalities.

Tons of digital ink has been spilled on these pages concerning the joys of driving a GTI, so I received’t add far more. Let’s simply say that there aren’t many vehicles that match the “pure driver’s automotive” mildew at this value anymore – Mazda Miatas and the Toyobaru twins come to thoughts – however the GTI does, and for this type of cash, it’s the one one you should utilize to shuttle stuff and your loved ones round in. It’ll virtually beg you to be pushed exhausting, and whenever you do, it responds like an keen little pet – it’s fast, direct, likes to dig for the quickest approach via a nook (that is the place the electronically-controlled limited-slip diff actually shines), and the brakes really feel sturdy and positive.

The GTI may use a bit extra steering really feel, and extra energy would all the time be welcome, however this automotive’s “pleasant to drive” rep is well-earned. On the debit facet, the GTI rides a bit too stiffly to be a really perfect commuter on Denver’s terrible streets, and it’s additionally a contact loud on the freeway, nevertheless it’ll definitely do as a each day driver (it’s quite a bit higher than, say, a WRX).

The GLI gives a unique tackle the identical fundamental mechanicals. Buff books have strapped testing devices to each vehicles and concluded they each have the identical fundamental efficiency envelope, and your bottom will inform you a similar story – bend the GLI right into a nook, and it’s definitely keen (with a contact extra understeer than the GTI), and darned fast, however whereas the GTI insists on going quick, the GLI merely encourages it. Take the GLI out on the freeway, punch in “consolation” mode, and its character comes into clearer focus: It’s very refined and quiet, with a far smoother, extra relaxed journey.

The GLI’s larger footprint explains a few of the distinction, as does the selection of tire – the GTI rides on 40-series rubber, and the GLI on 45-series.

Each of those vehicles are immensely gratifying to drive, and every has its’ personal charms. I’ve wished a GTI since my junior 12 months in faculty, and it’s an automotive Jack Russell terrier – all the time able to play, all the time seeking to go slightly faster, and having fun with each minute of it. The GLI is a tad extra relaxed, extra mature, however all the time prepared to show it on at a second’s discover.

There’s a second when a automotive connects with me, and for me, it occurred once I was piloting a GLI on I-25 (I received’t point out how briskly I used to be going, a minimum of not till I’m previous the statute of limitations on dashing in Colorado). It was a type of good little automotive moments: a transparent freeway, a vivid blue early-summer Colorado sky, Tony Bennett on the stereo, the A/C wafting softly, and the GLI’s engine buzzing quietly, however simply loudly sufficient to let me comprehend it was prepared for extra. I’d performed the same run up I-25 in a GTI, and whereas it was definitely acceptable, it was additionally barely rough-edged. I additionally realized – a lot to my chagrin – that as a lot because the GTI’s sport seats appealed to the 21-year-old in me, my bottom is 57 years previous, and it was extra comfy parked within the GLI’s extra accommodating seats. The GTI needs to be a racer, and the GLI needs to be an Audi … and the Audi proprietor in me can’t resist that. I’d wished a GTI since without end, and I’d miss its cheeky plaid sport seats and its cute hatchback butt, however I spotted its “hey, hey, hey, let’s go quick proper now!!!” perspective and barely uncouth on a regular basis manners would get previous relatively rapidly.

I used to be offered. And with that, I made the choice to purchase my second Jetta – and this one can be far, far cooler than the primary.

Which GLI mannequin, although? The GLI is out there in two trims – S and Autobahn – and every could be had with a 6-speed guide or 7-speed, dual-clutch automated. We’ll revisit the transmission selection in a second and delve into trim first; the latter was by far the simplest name.

The S mannequin has all the great things I’ve talked about earlier than lined, and the Autobahn mannequin provides configurable chassis dampening, leather-based seats with air flow, an uprated Beats audio system, a really Audi-esque digital cockpit together with a configurable LCD instrument panel and a bigger touchscreen; and a panoramic sunroof. All these items comes at a fairly stiff value – about three grand – and Autobahn fashions are relatively scarce.

Nonetheless, I’m boujee, so I used to be contemplating one once I remembered the $800 seppuku the pano roof on my A3 dedicated at 60,000 miles, and TTAC’s personal Corey Lewis’ unhappy story of woe concerning the limitless troubles on his pano-roof outfitted VW Alltrack (there’s truly speak of a class-action swimsuit in opposition to VW and Audi over this downside). I’d have loved the nicer stereo and the cooled seats, however I’ve discovered the exhausting approach that relating to VWAG product, the much less stuff that may go mistaken, the higher. Base mannequin, glad to fulfill you.

So, guide or automated? First, off, can I get an amen that this automotive gives a selection? The GLI’s six-speed is a really good piece – not so good as the one within the Civic Si, however definitely ok, and it permits all the same old driver-engagement joys that you simply solely get with a guide. It was additionally a tad cheaper, which is all the time good. The expertise was ok that I wasn’t even going to check out the slushbox. However the gross sales man I used to be working with – and should you’re right here in Denver and need to purchase a VW, I’d undoubtedly advocate him, by the way in which – steered I check out the automated.

And – hate away if you’ll – the DSG automated model is the one I purchased. For the report, of the eight vehicles I’ve purchased with my very own cash, 5 have been manuals, and I used to be totally ready to toe the “Manuals 4Ever” line and make this my sixth.

So why did I’m going with the automated? For starters, faster is healthier in my guide, and the DSG-equipped GLI, with its launch-controlled, eye-blink shifts which are faster than any human being may probably make, will outrun the guide model. And it doesn’t give a lot up when it comes to driver engagement – in full-sport mode, you should utilize the superb paddle shifters to carry revs indefinitely, and the automotive will cost out of corners with authority. In the meantime, in Consolation mode, my GLI is completely joyful in Denver’s rotten on a regular basis site visitors, and on the interstate, the seventh gear gives a serene, Audi-esque ambiance.

We wish to argue on this website about why manual-equipped vehicles are dying a sluggish demise, and the same old suspects are issues like “an excessive amount of infotainment,” or “the large dangerous gubmint.” However this newest automotive store has introduced this into clearer focus for me. There was a time when a guide was the one approach to actually get essentially the most out of an enthusiast-oriented automotive, however that’s modified. My GLI is a efficiency automotive, and it performs higher with the automated; other than the Mazdas I attempted, I additionally had zero downside with the automatics in a lot of the different vehicles I “dated” (the 10-speed within the Accord Sport, specifically, is a really good unit).

So why are manuals dying? I’m positive digital stuff and rules have one thing to do with it, nevertheless it’s develop into apparent to me that the actual risk to the third pedal is how extremely good the very best fashionable automatics are. I definitely hope the selection of a guide “sticks” round (Ed. notice: Haha!), even when I selected to not purchase one this time round. As for the longer term, I suppose we’ll see what occurs 39 months from now.

The massive choices made, and the papers signed, there was one final option to make: What to call my new child.

Farewell, Mitzi … hi there, Isabella. Right here’s hoping our street collectively is joyful, enjoyable, and ticket-free. And no dangerous water pumps, please.

[Images provided by the author]

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