27 Club. It’s not a club in which you desire membership, consisting of legendary rock stars that burned a little too bright causing their fateful undoing by living life to excess without restraint.

But, if you can make it to 30, chances are you’ve learned to dial it back a tad. You’ll crank out a few more albums, lose your original self to find a newer sound, and revert back to the classics in later life as you tour the world. Your fans will always stick by you, even in the dark years, but it will be worth it when they get to relive their adolescence through your epic catalog of accomplishments.

Cars – in particular, high-performance cars – are much like rock stars.

If an automaker builds a car with too much emphasis on all-out performance, it will garner rabid fans but also alienate the vast majority of customers. It ends up being too good at one thing and not good enough at everything else. This is Kurt Cobain, maybe one of the most famous 27 Club members.

But, if an automaker remembers not to focus on one aspect, like performance, for too long – to look at everything else connected to the driving experience – and is able to put it in a much more acceptable package, a car can be a stellar success. Its aim to be an all-round performer, a slightly edgier alternative, and an everyday hero make it a palatable proposition for a vastly larger group of people. This is Dave Grohl.

You see, Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl come from the same humble beginnings as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta. Much like Cobain, the Focus ST burns bright and is a bit too hardcore for the majority of people just looking for a little bump in horsepower – something to push them ever so slightly harder into the seat when the pedal hits the floor. On the other hand, the Jetta GLI gives you the turned-up volume and quicker tempo, just like Grohl, without pissing off your parents.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Kurt Cobain. Hell, I still do. And the Focus ST? It’s automotive madness of the best form.

Yet, when I listen to Dave Grohl – starting at Nirvana, through to Foo Fighters, and many of his other more recent musical projects – it’s not hard to acknowledge he’s the more refined musician and vocalist. And the GLI is just that as well – refined. It may not be the high-octane performer of the Focus ST. But, I can take my Mom for a drive in the GLI and she isn’t going to instantly complain about the pseudo-racing bucket seats and hard-as-nails suspension.

The GLI is a power ballad with a slightly faster tempo.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Edition 302014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Edition 302014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Edition 30 dashboard
2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Edition 30, dashboard. Click image to enlarge

Starting at $28,290, the GLI does receive a number of unique touches not seen on other Jettas, such as sport seats (but not Recaros like the Ford) and multi-link rear suspension to keep the GLI’s butt glued to the pavement. Put down $31,275 and you can get the Edition 30 model that adds leatherette Carbon Optik interior trim, red-striped grille, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch Watkins Glen alloy wheels.

Our tester was equipped with the additional Technology Package (includes navigation w/ single disc CD player, 400-watt 8-speaker Fender Premium Audio, and rearview camera) and DSG transmission, bringing the total price up to $34,245 before taxes, levies, and fees.

Powered by a 2.0-litre TSI (turbocharged, direct injected) four-cylinder engine, the GLI is pulled along by 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of grunt routed to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment or you can opt for the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with paddles like our tester.

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