Volkswagen Sports Cars

As far as Volkswagen sports cars go, there’s not much on offer that truly fits this description, with the available performance variants of the Jetta and Golf being the closest to this description. Volkswagen is not really known as a sports-car manufacturer and although sporty models such as the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI are much loved, they are not proper sports cars - and certainly not as fast as the Golf R. However, what VW’s fastest cars do bring to the table is a good blend of luxury, quality, handling, and performance. They’re the perfect everyday stand-in VW sports cars because of their inherent balance. These are fast Volkswagen cars that are refined and comfortable enough that you can actually use them every day.

The VW Sports Car Models

Both the Golf GTI and R are passing their torches on to their respective eight-generation replacements; both were launched in 2021 in the US as 2022 models. The new Golfs are refined versions of the seventh-generation cars that we’ve become used to over the past few years and Volkswagen has not messed with the recipe too much. The Golf 8 is restyled, safer, better equipped, and finessed to offer an even better handling balance.

The current range of VW’s sporty cars comprises:

  • Volkswagen Jetta GLI: The Volkswagen Jetta 4-door sedan is still in its seventh generation, which launched in the US as a 2019 model. The GLI is the performance flagship and basically a Golf GTI with a trunk, offering Americans a compact, sporty, premium German sedan for around $27k. Its balance is again its strength, with a strong engine, seamless dual-clutch transmission, and good handling, yet coupled with a comfortable ride. It comes fully equipped at the price and although the cabin and trunk are spacious, the quality of materials isn’t great. It can’t be optioned up much either and doesn’t have standard navigation.
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI: The brand-new Golf GTI builds on its forebear’s strengths and is faster and even better handling than before while remaining as practical as it always was. For what it is, it offers good performance, acceptable gas mileage, sporty and liveable interior, and an affordable price. It remains a well-balanced everyday hot hatch.
  • Volkswagen Golf R: The Golf R is the closest to a sports car in the stable, and is further removed from the GTI than before with its dedicated drift mode bringing something brand new to the all-wheel-drive R’s resume. It’s quite expensive at over $44,000 but its handling, performance, and polished chassis behavior counter this.

VW Performance Car Pricing

With the Golf GTI’s price rising by nearly $2,000, the Jetta is a comparative performance bargain in the range, with the cheapest trim being offered for sale for just over $26,000.

The price list is as follows:

Model Power Engine Base Price
Volkswagen Golf GTI 228 hp 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas $28,695
Volkswagen GTI 200 hp 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas $24,595
Volkswagen Jetta GLI 228 hp 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas $26,345
Volkswagen Golf R 292 hp 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas $40,395

What to Consider Before Buying a VW Performance Car

VW’s three sporty cars share most of their best and worst features:

Pros

  • Strong performance
  • Excellent ride/handling balance
  • Roomy interior
  • Manual transmission available on all models

Cons

  • Interior material quality is somewhat lacking
  • Limited customization options
  • Infotainment systems are not the most intuitive

FAQs

Which Golf GTI trim is the best to buy?

There are three Golf GTI trims, namely S, SE, and Autobahn. The new GTI is already nearly $2,000 more expensive than the old one and affordability has always been a GTI selling point, so we’d stick with the normal S, which is well enough equipped with many luxury and driver-assistance features. Big-ticket SE items are a sunroof, keyless entry, a bigger touchscreen, navigation, and a better audio system, but it adds almost $5,000 to the price. The Autobahn is another $3,700 on top of that for bigger wheels, an HUD, rear climate control and seat heating, adaptive dampers, and auto parking.

What are the performance specs and features of the new Golf R?

The new Golf R has 27 horsepower more than the old one with 315 hp. Torque is up from 280 lb-ft to 310 lb-ft. Driven through a similar seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the new model accelerates to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, compared to the old one’s 4.9 seconds. It’s not supercar performance, but it’s plenty fast enough. The new R comes standard in the USA with a torque-vectoring rear differential and Drift mode, to give it a rear-wheel-drive handling balance and the ability to do oversteers.

Are the Volkswagen performance cars reliable vehicles?

Volkswagen does not generally fare well in reliability surveys and in the 2021 US J.D. Power Dependability Study, the Volkswagen brand ranked 28th out of 33 brands surveyed with an average of 163 problems per 100 cars, compared to the industry average of 121 problems. At least the standard limited and powertrain warranties are for four years or 50,000 miles, with complimentary maintenance added to the deal to the tune of two years or 20,000 miles.

Which is the best Jetta GLI trim to buy?

The Jetta GLI comes in two trims, namely S and Autobahn. The latter has a base MSRP of over $30k, which is almost $4,5k more expensive than the base S trim. For that money, adaptive suspension, leather upholstery with ventilated front seats, a bigger touchscreen, auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, a panoramic sunroof, and a few other features are added, making it great value and adding quite a few features the base Golf GTI doesn’t have. We’d take Autobahn trim.

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