2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s web site
Volkswagen Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

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2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

There is something about this car that just seems to find everybody’s sweet spot. One of our friends said that this car would make him stray from his life-long commitment to the General and all its brands. My colleague Mike Schlee was convinced that the engine note at low revs made the engine seem a lot bigger than its 2.0T badge would suggest. My sister-in-law is ready to spend $30,000 that she doesn’t have on a car that finally satisfies all her needs without her getting that, “That’s it? I need more…” feeling. Yeah, it’s that good.

Of course, it’s all innuendo until you strap yourself into the contoured (for his and her comfort) leather seats (highlighted in red stitching), grab a hold of the curvaceous and perforated leather–covered steering wheel (with its shiny metal badges) and hold down the start button. No, you don’t just press it, you have to hold it down… just a bit longer, aaaand now the engine comes to life, with a bit of a burble and, ahem, a throaty purr.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Click image to enlarge

All joking aside, we had quite a few instances where the car needed the fob (which still has a fold-out key, but nowhere to insert it; let’s hope that doesn’t cause any complexes for anyone with those types of issues) held right up against the blank where the ignition normally is. Either the battery in the fob was dying, or this was one finicky starter (a cold fish?). And since I’m already into the complaints portion of this review, it’s sad to see how far Volkswagen has fallen in their materials standards. I own a 2003 Jetta 1.8T wagon, and the plastics on the upper door panel are still better than the hard, poorly-finished door panels of the 2012 GLI. I would gladly trade the rubbery, squishy, memory foam–like plastics on the front dash with the door plastics that I’m constantly rubbing shoulders and elbows with. Elsewhere, the cabin is stellar, and though it lacks the colourful lighting scheme I fell in love with in VWs of the past decade (culminating in the red and blue chronograph-style gauges in the Mk V GTI), it has an elegant simplicity that works well for this tailored sport sedan (with naughty engine parts).

Did I mention naughty engine parts? Santa himself would be hard-pressed to restrain his naughty urges if he was riding in this 200-reindeer-power turbocharged sleigh (especially in Santa Claus red). Between the red-cape effect of the hood, the grunts and burbles of the engine notes piped into the cabin (though some critics panned its high-rev grunting and compared it to a bovine seizure), the snick-click of the paddle shifters instantly dropping and adding a gear, or the aggressive shifting in sport mode, the GLI got my blood boiling and a little imaginary robot-rabbit demon (remember ‘Fast’?) telling me to punch it, I ended up pushing for every gap in traffic and every free green light before my better sense kicked in with a “Holy smokes, I better dial it back” before reaching license-losing speed. I don’t actually say “Holy smokes” in my internal dialogue, but I think you get the idea.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Click image to enlarge

If you’re sick of hearing praise for the magic of VW group’s famed 2.0T engine, you might want to skip this paragraph. The spec sheet will tell you that it makes 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. Your butt will tell you to slow down so you don’t lose your licence and deprive it of regular thrills at stop lights and on corner exits wherever you go out of your way to find them on your slog to and from work, the grocery store, or nowhere in particular. The throttle is immediate and easy, so torque comes on early, peaking at 1,700 rpm and sticking around until about 5,000, where peak horsepower comes into play, from 5,100 all the way up to its 6,000 rpm red line. There’s power everywhere, but that won’t stop you from cracking off downshifts on the paddle shifters for no better reason than a lull in conversation.

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