A wolf in sheep`s clothing.
The Volkswagen Jetta GLX is a wolf in sheep`s clothing, a sports sedan hiding inside a sensible body. It`s a trick Volkswagen has played with its cars ever since the first Rabbit GTI back in 1982.
The growl behind this wolf is Volkswagen`s innovative VR6 engine, a smooth powerplant that delivers lots of gusto around town and out on the open road. That power is backed up with a sports suspension and big brakes--stuff that makes for great sports sedans. The Jetta GLX responds quickly, precisely and smoothly, just as the driver expects. It quickly establishes a bond with its driver, a result of precision German engineering and years of research and development.
Yet this wolf is as easy to control as a sheep around town. And it possesses all the comfort, roominess and practicality that make this compact sedan as useful as many mid-size entries. It`s a collection of attributes that have helped to make the Jetta the best selling European car in North America.
The Jetta`s smooth body and formal contours are distinctive, a descendant of Jettas past combined with the sophistication of the `90s. It`s a functional look, albeit somewhat dated.
For 1998, five models are available: the practical GL, the loaded GLS, the sporty GT, the powerful GLX and the economical TDI.
The Jetta TDI is powered by Volkswagen`s high-tech Turbo Direct Injection diesel engine.
Jetta GL, GLS and GT models are powered by responsive 115-horsepower 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engines. The cylinder head was redesigned last year for smoother, quieter operation.
The 2.8-liter VR6 puts the Jetta GLX in a separate class from the rest of the model line. This engine is technically a V6, but the angle of the vee is so narrow--just 15 degrees, compared with 60 or 90 degrees for conventional V6s--that the cylinder banks share a common head. The result is a very compact powerplant that allows VW engineers to pack six cylinders in a four-cylinder engine bay. The VR6 generates 172 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, a freight train load of low-rpm pulling power.
The Jetta TDI model may appeal to those seeking fuel efficiency. If you tend to think of diesels in terms of sluggish performance and clouds of black smoke, think again. Volkswagen has developed this engine into one that`s clean and fun to drive.
Ninety horsepower may not sound like a lot, but Volkswagen`s turbocharged, fuel-injected diesel delivers 149 pound-feet of torque starting at just 1,900 rpm. This low-end torque gives the Jetta TDI surprising acceleration and the broad range allows for good mid-range performance for passing. The Jetta TDI boasts a top speed of 109 mph.
More important, it achieves an EPA-estimated 49 mph on the highway, 40 mpg city. With a 14.5-gallon fuel tank, that could extend the range between pit stops to as much as 700 miles. Volkswagen claims its TDI emits 20 percent less carbon dioxide than a comparable gasoline engine.
The TDI`s remarkable performance characteristics are the result of a major advance in diesel technology whereby fuel is injected and ignited directly in the engine`s cylinder head. Sophisticated electronic controls oversee everything from the position of the accelerator to the amount of intake air, eliminating losses to heat that plagued previous diesel engines.
For 1998, optional side-impact airbags are available, which are designed to better ensure the airbag can properly protect the front occupants no matter where they adjust their seating position. All Jettas come standard with dual airbags, daytime running lights and child safety locks. Antilock brakes are a $775 option on all models except the GLX, which provides them as standard equipment.
To provide a good platform for the powerful VR6 engine, the Jetta GLX comes with a sports suspension employing a wishbone lower control arm, stabilizer bar and MacPherson struts up front and torsion-beam with trailing arms, gas-charged shock absorbers and stabilizer bar in the rear. Wider 15-inch alloy wheels with high-performance 205/50HR15 tires keep it glued to earth, while an advanced antilock braking system with big 11-inch ventilated front discs and 10-inch solid rear discs help resist brake fade when descending mountain passes. A rear spoiler, color-keyed mirror housings, bumpers and side moldings, darkened tail lamp lenses and a roof-mounted flexible black whip antenna add to the sports appeal.
The compact Jetta body belies its roomy interior. The Jetta is roomier than a Honda Civic and provides more headroom than a Toyota Camry. Shorter drivers will appreciate the height-adjustable front seats.
Getting in and out is easy with front doors that open wide. The interior serves up logically laid out controls that have a high-quality feel. Instruments are attractive and highly legible. Rubber-lined pockets in the front and rear doors and at the sides of the front seats provide a quiet place for odds and ends to ride.
There`s more trunk space than a BMW 7-Series luxury sedan and the trunk lid lifts beyond vertical for easy loading.
Our $21,455 Jetta GLX came standard with air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, mirrors and sunroof, and a new 10-speaker Bose music system with AM/FM/cassette. An optional $250 all-weather package added heated front seats and a heated windshield washer nozzle. It was also equipped with the $395 optional side airbags. Leather is an $800 option.
A new radio frequency central locking system comes standard on all Jettas.
All Jettas are appointed with dual vanity mirrors, a lockable split-folding rear seat back, folding armrest, three cup holders, rear heating ducts, and an emergency repair tool kit.
The Jetta GLX is a lot of fun to drive and the source of much of that fun resides under the hood. The VR6 engine revs well and propels the Jetta quickly down winding roads. But it`s the strong mid-range response and wide power band that really sets the GLX apart from the other cars in its class.
The VR6 engine generates 85 percent of its pulling power at only 2000 rpm--much lower than most engines--and continues pulling right up to 6000 rpm.
Punch the gas pedal at any speed or rpm and the GLX is an instant getaway car. For example, the GLX can get away from an Acura Integra GS-R, a Nissan 200SX SE-R and a BMW 318ti.
This power comes with polish. VW`s VR6 is one of the smoothest engines in its class. Ongoing development has largely eliminated the noise that plagued early versions of this engine.
All Jettas offer a great balance of handling, driver feedback and ride quality, the result of a rigid structure and finely tuned suspension. At higher speeds, the Jetta is exceptionally stable, thanks to VW`s track-correcting rear suspension bushings that minimize unwanted steering effects from the rear wheels during cornering.
The standard Jetta five-speed manual transmission is smooth and precise. The GLX has a close-ratio five-speed gearbox that helps keep the engine in the sweet spot of its broad power band, to enhance acceleration.
VW`s optional four-speed automatic adjusts shift patterns according to how the car is being driven. The ample torque supplied by the VR6 works well with this smart automatic.
Volkswagen`s full range of Jetta models deliver confidence-inspiring handling, roomy interiors and precision German engineering.
The powerful VR6 engine turns the Jetta GLX into a real sports sedan. It handles well and it`s fun to drive. The interior is comfortable, elegant and functional.
Although its exterior design is a little boxy by contemporary standards, the Jetta GLX combines comfort, utility and composed road manners, with sinewy performance.
The result is an affordable sports sedan. Jettas were relatively expensive a few years ago, but Volkswagen has held the line on pricing in recent years while prices of competing cars have soared.
For this reason, the Jetta`s popularity is rising. If you covet European performance but a BMW is out of reach, you might find the Jetta GLX a trustworthy, high-performance companion.
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