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2006 Volkswagen GLI

2006 Jetta GLI New Car Test Drive

by Jeff Voth

The small town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the second oldest city in the United States, founded in 1607 by the Spanish. Translated literally, it means "Holy Faith" and is often referred to as "The Different City". Encircled by millions of acres of forest, it rises 7,000 feet above sea level.

As the starting point for many different outdoor recreational activities, it offered the perfect location to showcase the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

2006 Jetta GLI

With the launch of the new 2006 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L earlier this year, followed shortly thereafter by the TDI, (turbo diesel) it seemed reasonable to assume the higher performing GLI variant would slot in right behind. So it was with a sense of anticipation that I looked forward to driving the newest sport version of the Jetta, to see how it would stack up with the current crop of competitors in the market.

The two most likely competitive candidates deserving your attention are the Acura TSX and Nissan Altima SE-R. Excellent vehicles in their own right, they represent what it takes to contend successfully in the market. Beyond these two models however, the choice is mostly uninspiring.

Having spent the better part of a day behind the wheel of the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, I would strongly suggest that before spending your hard earned dollars elsewhere, you consider adding the new Jetta GLI to your short list.

Attitude is something the Jetta GLI has in spades. An aggressive, blacked out grille dominates the fascia of this sport sedan. The racy paint scheme is carried through the lower sill and into the rear bumper, as well as the bottom half of the side mirrors.

Large, oval styled headlights with round lower foglights and red grille trim add to the appeal of the new Jetta GLI. Blue tinted glass is unique to this model, as is the body kit, light washers and dual exhaust.

The new Jetta GLI comes equipped with a 2.0L turbocharged engine with intercooler. Producing a vigorous 200 hp @ 5,500- 6,000 rpm and 207 lbs-ft of torque between 1,800- 4,700 rpm, this fine Euro-sedan throws down the gauntlet and dares others to take up the challenge.

What separates the new Jetta GLI from its competitors is the stunning ease with which it delivers power to the road.

The in-line, 4-cylinder turbo, responds effortlessly to every request for power, while the whisper quiet cabin insulates passengers in quiet comfort. On more than one occasion, I found myself driving 20-30 miles over the posted speed limit, without even realizing how fast the car was going. On that note, top speed for new Jetta GLI is limited to 130 mph.

This is not to say the Jetta GLI disengages the driver from the road. On the contrary, it provides the opportunity to focus on the road ahead and not the distractions caused by wind and road noise.

A front wheel drive car, the Jetta GLI rides on standard 17" alloy wheels equipped with 225/45 R17 low profile tires.

The front suspension features a McPherson strut design with lower wishbones, aluminum subframe and a tubular anti-rollbar. The rear suspension is a 4-link arrangement with separate spring/shock absorbers, subframe and a tubular anti-rollbar as well.

What further differentiates the Jetta GLI from the competition is Volkswagen's use of electromechanical steering with speed dependent steering assist. Whether you are cruising down the highway, or heading full speed into a sharp righthander, the Jetta GLI always feels connected.

Shifting the Volkswagen Jetta GLI is effortless in both the 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

The 6-speed automatic features DSG, (Direct Shift Gearbox), a unique design that employs a two-clutch setup to change gears. The first clutch adjusts 1st, 3rd, 5th and Reverse, while the second changes 2nd, 4th and 6th gears. Flawless in its execution, DSG actually achieves better fuel economy in the city than the manual equipped GLI.

In a further nod to performance, the new GLI features aluminum pedals and a Formula 1 inspired steering wheel. Flat bottomed, the 4-spoke wheel offers excellent ergonomics, along with easy-to-use radio controls. Behind the steering wheel, flippers promote shifting gears "manually" in a DSG equipped Jetta GLI.

2006 Jetta GLI Interior

All gauges are easy to read and logical. I include in this assessment the heating and cooling adjustments, as well as the power window, mirror and sunroof controls. Each control switch offers tangible feedback and the intuitive placement so important when driving at night. During the evening hours, all active switches glow in a subtle, but helpful, red color.

Seating is exceptional, with "Recaro" design front seats and practical room for three adults in the back. Adjustments for driver and front passenger include backrest, fore and aft, lumbar and VW's signature manual crank that raises and lowers the seat for added comfort.

Another reason to like the 2006 GLI and Jetta for that matter is the new front passenger cupholder design. Finally a German car company provides dual cupholders capable of handling two large coffees without having to place them side by side in a precarious position. Why it has taken this long is one of life's great mysteries, but the problem has finally been solved in the new Jetta.

The 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI looks to be a winner. With bold styling, aggressive handling and a smooth, yet forceful turbo engine, it has all the characteristics one looks for in an affordable sport sedan. If Volkswagen continues to make positive strides in the areas of reliability and build quality, the new GLI should take its rightful place as one of the best new cars in the market.

Visit the corporate site for more information
on the VW 
affordable sedan.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI


Affordable Sport Sedan

Model options:



101.5 inches

Overall length:

179.3 inches

Engine size:

2.0-L in-line 4-cylinder turbo


Manual- 6 speed, Auto- 6 speed with DSG




Electromechanical steering with speed dependant power assist


Power assist 4-wheel disc with ABS/EBD

Air bags:

2 (front) 2 (side), side curtain and rear side


Starting at $23,790.00