• 5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP

No more delays, Volkswagen!

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The Jetta GLI returned to the market at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, and needless to say, it’s cooler than it has ever been. Although the previous model was nothing to sneeze at, the seventh-gen GLI is a proper four-door GTI. The only thing that bugs is that Volkswagen didn’t drop the "GLI" badge for a proper Jetta GTI name. And here’s why I think it should have.

GTI looks

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP
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The styling of the Jetta GLI is obviously based on the Golf GTI. It has the same red stripe on the blacked-out grille and the bumpers are more aggressive. The front bumper looks very similar to the Golf as well with the black trim around the side vents and the wide opening in the center.

The big, 18-inch aluminum wheels are aggressive enough to go on the Golf R thanks to their propeler-style design, while the rear bumper incorporates a small diffuser and a dual-chrome exhaust pipe layout. It also features black trim everywhere, rd-painted badges, and needless to say, the new Jetta design helps a lot thanks to its coupe-like roof and muscular haunches.

GTI Engine

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP
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The GTI engines puts the Jetta ahead of the competition and brings it really close to the cool Subaru WRX

Under the hood of the Jetta GLI lurks the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that motivates the Golf GTI. The previous GLI also had a GTI engine, so this concept isn’t entirely new, but this one features variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust sides, as well as variable exhaust valve lift. It’s also more powerful than its predecessor.

Rated at 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, just like in the Golf GTI, the four-banger delivers an extra 18 horsepower and 41 pound-feet of twist compared to the old Jetta GLI. That’s enough to put it ahead of the competition and bring it really close to the cool Subaru WRX, which comes with 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet on tap.

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP Interior
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It even gets a six-speed manual transmission alongside the seven-speed DSG, so you can enjoy the sporty three-pedal and stick setup.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI specifications

Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection EA888 TSI®
Horsepower 228 HP
Torque 258 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed manual (standard) /seven- speed DSG (optional)

Performance upgrades

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP
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The GLI isn’t just more powerful than the regular Jetta. It’s also more capable under full throttle thanks to a full suite of performance upgrades. The GLI rides on a new suspension setup that’s sportier independent at all four corners. It includes a strut-type setup in the front and a multi-link layout to the rear. It also features an electronically controlled, torque sensing limited-slip differential that helps to eliminate understeer.

Not only it borrows from the Golf GTI, but it also takes some features from the range-topping Golf R, like the brakes. The sedan features the 13.4-inch, vented front discs which help shorten braking distance, increasing safety during spirited driving.

Premium features

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP Interior
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The standard Jetta is already a well-equipped sedan for this segment, but just like the GTI, the GLI comes with extra features, including LED lights, a 10-color ambient lighting system, dual-zone Climatronic, Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert. It also includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. The "GLI" badge also enables you access to various premium-specific options, like the cool Volkswagen Digital Cockpit with unique GLI graphics, a 400-watt audio system, and a panoramic sunroof. As good as a Golf GTI gets, but with all the benefits of a more modern interior.

Heritage and Future

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit Edition Exterior
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Launched in 1975, the GTI is one of the most iconic Volkswagens ever

The GTI is one of the most iconic badges ever. Introduced in 1975 on the first-generation Golf, the GTI was offered on all iterations of the hatchback, which is now in its seventh-generation. It’s been around for no less than 44 years and it was the company’s range-topping model until the 1990s, when early versions of the Golf R were launched.

By contrast, the GLI is kind of a very young badge. The first Jetta GLI was really revealed back in 1984, but it was only built for one year. It was revived in 2011, so if you discount the rare 1984 Jetta GLI, the nameplate only eight years old as of 2019. And even though the GLI has some fans in the United States, I’m pretty sure that a Jetta GTI model would become more popular. The GTI badge has been around long enough to get drivers excited no matter what Volkswagen vehicle you put it on. As long as it has the performance and the features, of course.

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP Exterior
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Even though the GLI has some fans in the U.S., I'm pretty sure that a Jetta GTI model would become more popular

And while I understand Volkswagen’s desire to keep the GTI badge exclusive, it’s not like it hasn’t used it on other vehicles too. The Polo was the second hatchback to spawn a GTI variant and it goes all the way back to 1995. Having two GTI models in the lineup for more than two decades makes a transfer to another nameplate legit and feasible too.

I actually think that Volkswagen should add GTI variants to almost all of its vehicles, including crossovers, and the Jetta would be a great start. Just think of all the potential that a Jetta GTI would unlock and the GTI- and R-badged vehicles we could get in the future.

Come on Volkswagen, get your act together!

Further reading

5 Reasons the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Needs a GTI Badge ASAP Exterior
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2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI emerges with extra power, clever suspension

2019 Volkswagen Jetta Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta.

2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Read our driven review on the 2017 Volkswagen GLI.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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