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2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Arrives With More Grunt And Sharper Handling

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Volkswagen’s new sports sedan debuts at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show.

At last year's Detroit Auto Show, Volkswagen presented the all-new Jetta designed specifically for the American market with a bolder design thanks to the flexible MQB platform, more interior space, and new tech. Fast forward over a year later, and the hotter GLI version has debuted at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show with more power, sharper handling, and features shared with its GTI and Golf R siblings.

To distinguish the 2019 GLI from the standard Jetta, the sporty sedan sits 0.6 lower to the ground, giving it a more planted look. Other sporty styling cues include a black honeycomb grille with a distinctive red accent line that harkens to the GTI, sleek 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and red brake calipers.

At the front, the black honeycomb grille is flanked with LED headlights daytime running lights, while the rear features LED taillights, a spoiler, and a unique rear bumper with a finned diffusor and dual chrome exhaust. A 35th Anniversary model is also available with unique black wheels with a red stripe, a black roof, black mirror caps, black tail spoiler, and 35th anniversary badging inside and out.

The sporty design cues continue in the cabin. Step inside, and you'll find a black interior contrasted with red accents in another nod to Volkswagen's performance cars, including red stitching on the steering wheel, shifter, armrest, floormats, and sport seats. Cloth seats on the base model add grey piping, while red accents stand out on the Autobahn trim's perforated leather seats. Elsewhere, the interior features diamond flag décor trim, a standard leather-wrapped sport multifunction steering wheel, and an available sport HMI display from the GTI. The 35th Anniversary model also gets unique seat tags, floormats, and sill kickplates.

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Under the hood, the 2019 Jetta GLI is powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI engine as the Golf GTI producing 228 horsepower achieved when used with premium fuel and 258 lb-ft of torque. For comparison, the new model has 18 more horsepower and 41 more lb-ft than the old GLI. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission or an available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which comes with a with a Start/Stop system to improve fuel efficiency.

To sharpen the handling, the Jetta GLI features independent sports suspension, with a strut-type setup at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. The brakes are also borrowed from the Golf GTI and Golf R, using 13.4-inch diameter vented front discs. Like the GTI, the GLI comes with electronically controlled, torque sensing limited-slip differential to help eliminate understeer, as well as variable ratio electric steering. Four driving modes come as standard: "Normal," "Sport," "Eco," and "Custom," with a fifth "Comfort" mode available in the 35th Anniversary model. Sport mode allows for more dynamic throttle and shift response, tighter steering, and a "more spirited" exhaust note.

Standard features include heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights, keyless access with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are standard. Driver Personalization, App-Connect technology with support for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, and 10-color customizable wrap-around ambient lighting also come as standard.

Available features include a sunroof, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit display with unique GLI graphics, 400-watt BeatsAudio system, Volkswagen Car-Net connected vehicle services, SiriusXM radio, Voice Control, a second USB port, power driver seat with memory and lumbar, ventilated seats, and remote start. A slew of safety features and driver assists also come as standard, including Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System.

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is expected to arrive in US showrooms this spring with two standard trims and a 35th Anniversary Edition.