Yes, it deserves the badge
Now, I'm no race car driver and I don't aspire to be one, but the GLI quickly gave me the confidence to complete each lap more quickly than the previous one while having fun at the same time. The steering is perfectly precise, making each curve easy to master. After a few pointers from professional driver Richard Spénard, who VW brought along to help us journalists squeeze the best out of the cars, we did.
The DSG on the track, however, wasn’t as lightning-quick as I expected. With the shift lever in the "S" position (for, uh, Sport), the gearbox failed to upshift on a few occasions, allowing the engine to bounce off the redline. You do get paddle shifters if you want to gain better control of the transmission. I'd gladly take the manual gearbox with its light clutch pedal and crisp throws.
Oh, and just like regular Jettas, you can't turn off the stability control system. However, I can attest that it does a good job and doesn’t cut the fun at all on the track.
We also took turns driving on country roads on our way from downtown Toronto to Mosport. While the car's suspension felt harsh around the city, thanks to admittedly rough pavement, it settled down once we hit the highway and the country roads. During the drive, the trip computer recorded an average of 8.2L/100km.
The GLI is also a looker, with a front bumper design that mimics the one found on the GTI: a unique front grille, smoked taillights, a black rear air diffuser, red-painted brake calipers, side skirts, as well as 17" alloys that I would definitely trade in for the superb $975 18-inchers. The car definitely exhibits a more aggressive presence, although it's not a great departure compared to lesser Jettas.
Inside, you get a flat-bottomed steering wheel lifted directly from the GTI, aluminum pedals; sport seats with leather/cloth upholstery or optional full leather (Canada gets it, the U.S. doesn’t); red stitching on the steering wheel; seats and shift-lever trim; a 6-speaker touchscreen stereo with 6-CD changer, a USB port with iPod connectivity; keyless entry and start; and (drum roll please) a soft-touch dashboard.
Options include a power sunroof ($1,400), a 400-Watt Fender sound system with navigation ($1,250) and the aforementioned extra features.
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