Outrun a Golf R in a humble family sedan.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is often overlooked by enthusiasts because it lacks visual drama. Sure, VW adds a few bits and pieces to make it look sportier, but you can't get around the fact that it's still a basic three-box sedan featuring the most generic design cues the German brand has to offer.
Some of us in the office are of the opinion that its sedate body actually makes it cooler than the Golf GTI because you get that cool sleeper effect. It's a bit of a performance bargain, too.
Volkswagen has now changed that with the introduction of the Jetta GLI Performance Concept at the 2022 SEMA Show. It's inspired by touring cars of the past, and you can't miss it.
Volkswagen's Design Center California is responsible for the car, and it used features from the GLI's long history to amplify the looks and performance.
The car you see here is based on a 2022 GLI Autobahn, equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. One does not simply go to SEMA without engine modifications, so this Jetta has plenty. The team started off with the famous turbocharged four-cylinder EA88 Gen 3 engine. In the stock GTI, it produces 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This particular car has 350 hp and 372 lb-ft on tap. That's more than even the Golf R's 315 hp and 295 lb-ft.
Racing Line is responsible for the engine upgrades. It added its IS38 turbo-based performance package, an R600 carbon fiber cold-air intake, and a performance intercooler. The car also has an oil management kit and oil cooler aid.
The six-speed manual has been retained, but a performance clutch package has been included.
Sending that much power through the front wheels is a tough ask. For reference, see the MK2 Ford Focus RS. Ford had to design a trick front differential to keep it on the road, and its turbocharged five-pot only produced 300 horses.
Thankfully, this monster GLI has ALL the brakes. Racing Line added a set of its Stage 3 + six-piston forged caliper big brakes, and 15-inch carbon ceramic discs. Also included are a TrackSport coilover suspension kit and underbody braces for increased rigidity. This suspension system and its lightweight aluminum bodies, 2.4-in linear springs with helpers, and fully-adjustable solid top mounts are usually reserved for racing cars. It should keep a 350-hp Jetta the right side up.
Style-wise, the Jetta has front and rear fenders that are 0.8 inches wider, larger side skirts, a custom front bumper with larger air intakes, a muscular lower valance, and a custom hexagon-themed matte black vinyl wrap that transitions to the car's factory shade of Kings Red Metallic paint. The wrap works beautifully with the Rotiform forged GRZ Monoblock 20-inch wheels with custom-finished covers.
A pair of classic Recaro Pole Position seats have been installed inside and feature integrated headrests with high bolsters finished in custom "Texagon" themed upholstery.
"The Jetta GLI concept was an opportunity for our team to draw from our passion for motorsports and create a vision that is even more expressive and exciting than the production vehicle already is," said Reto Brun, Senior Director of Volkswagen Design Center California. "The wide body design gives this GLI concept the stance that every enthusiast dreams of and the graphic treatment underlines its more aggressive nature, while incorporating classic GLI elements."