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Sedans may not be the go-to cars and truck design for the majority of buyers any longer, however we’re still blessed with some low-cost and fun brand-new four-doors. There’s the Honda Civic Si, the Hyundai Elantra Sport and the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, to name a couple of. And the Jetta kind of brought to life the entire compact sport sedan section, now didn’t it?
Think Of it. Back in the 1990 s, if you wanted four doors, performance and a bit of refinement, you had to dispense large amounts of cash for a BMW or an Audi. Meanwhile, Volkswagen had all of it found out with its hot Jetta– among which packed six cylinders of narrow-angle fury.
I took an old GLX VR6 for a drive in the countryside, and it made me recognize that Volkswagen in fact paved the way for a number of the sport sedans we take for approved today.
( Complete Disclosure: The chance to drive a 1998 Jetta GLX came from a work colleague and Canadian Jalopnik reader who owns one. He looked at me one day at the workplace and asked me if I desired to evaluate his cars and truck. So I did.)
What Is It?
Not many people know this, but there has been a quick Jetta for nearly as long as a Golf GTI. These things appeared a long time in 1984 under the GLI name, along with the second-generation of what’s now referred to as the Jetta. And simply like the current automobile, it was essentially a four-door GTI.
Keep in mind, back then, the Golf was just provided as a three-door hatchback, so a sedan variation made a great deal of sense. Its 1.8-liter engine just made a measly 90 horsepower however the GLI was light, agile and a shit-ton of fun to drive.
In 1993, North America was introduced to the third-gen Jetta understood– think it or not– as the MKIII. That model is normally credited with making the Jetta a household name in this half of the world.
The Classic Green aspiring gentleman’s sedan you see here is sort of an oddball in the GLI’s timeline. Not only did it use an “X” rather of an “I” in its classification, it was the very first quick Jetta to be powered by the VR6 engine, the same engine that powered the Corrado efficiency hatchback.
The GLX generally kept the basic Jetta’s McPherson strut suspension, however with stiffer springs and bigger sway bars. Its rear brakes were discs rather of drums, and other than for a small decklid spoiler, 16- inch wheels, a front lip and “GLX VR6” badging, there wasn’t much about the GLX that set it apart from a regular ho-hum Jetta.
I think that’s all you needed in the ’90 s to be thought about “hot.”
That 2.8-liter narrow-angle V6 would send a claimed 172 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque straight to the front wheels. While an automated gearbox was readily available, the one to get was the close-ratio five-speed manual.
Truthfully, besides some artfully laid-out trigger plug wires that could count as engine bay decoration, that had to do with all there was to this performance variation of the MKIII Jetta. The 0-60 time stood at approximately seven seconds. Not bad.
Why Does it Matter?
The Jetta GLI/GLX has actually always been a returning member of the sport compact automobile club, and in the late ’90 s, when pocket rockets were taking pleasure in a great deal of appeal, these things rapidly ended up being a go-to automobile for tuners and street racers wishing to spank Hondas and Mustangs.
This is perhaps the most interesting of the stylish Jettas, mostly due to its engine. Since it was rather innovative at the time, Volkswagen stuffed these things into everything it could, from sports coupes to freight vans.
Its super-narrow setup implied it might fit inside the engine bay of a generally four-cylinder design. It likewise just had one cylinder head, that made stimulate plug and head gasket maintenance a lot easier than a traditional V6.
But the VR6’s signature function was constantly its exhaust note. Tuners would bolt aftermarket mufflers on their Golfs, Jettas, Corrados and even Passats to make them seem like a costly Audi or Porsche.
In addition, the simpleness of this GLX defines the entire principles of the sport sedan itself. These cars were developed to be quickly, however also subtle and unassuming, and kid did they nail it back then. Beside this, today’s automobiles appear like Christmas trees with their fancy LED’s and phony air vents.
1998 was the last model-year of the 3rd generation Jetta here in North-America. While US-spec vehicles featured leather seats, Canadian GLX’s might be had with cloth, which is what this car has, offering it additional points for nineties nostalgia. Have a look at that zebra-like texture on that chauffeur’s seat up there!
The owner, Germain (which paradoxically sounds like “German”) isn’t quite sure why his cars and truck doesn’t have the iconic VR6 badging on the grille. Possibly it was an erase alternative back in 1998? You people can confirm that one for me in the remarks.
Being In A Box
It’s insane to believe that 1998 is already considered “old.” I feel like these design Jettas were brand name brand-new yesterday, however seeing this one tossed a lot of late ’90 s fond memories in my face, reminding me how much has occurred considering that.
Something this square and angular would never fly by today’s safety standards. Even the rearview mirror is a straight-edged rectangle. It is the book definition of a three-box design, nearly as though VW’s own designers didn’t even trouble with designing it- “Let’s just make a sedan, people”.
It’s a stark contrast to today’s vehicle developing realities where five of the world’s best stylists are hired to draw a Camry.
Sitting inside the GLX feels equally throwback. Even back in 1998, Volkswagens had a credibility for having functional, no-frills interiors. But boy does this Jetta advise you how spoiled we have actually become with our expensive chrome inserts, ambient lighting and connection functions. Not to point out seats and steering wheels that change in all possible setups.
Yeah, there’s none of that here. Just a black wall of a control panel with huge physical dials and a skinny guiding wheel that doesn’t telescope.
I floored the clutch pedal, held the brake, and fired up the VR6. It was smooth and refined, precisely what you ‘d get out of a European automobile, discreetly rumbling below me. It was at that moment that I wanted I had a Huge Shiny Tunes CD to throw into that period-correct Bose stereo.
As I got the careless shifter, I observed a sticker label next to it explaining how to drive stick, total with what is potentially the worst French translation in the world.
I’m stunned I didn’t find guidelines on how to start the car after the Y2K bug.
I inspected my blind areas utilizing my neck. No fancy blind spot monitoring here. The roadway was clear. I depressed the friction-less clutch pedal, and off I went, sitting upright in my little green bread box, drawing in absolutely no attention to myself.
Many of my dissatisfactions originated from the reality that this is an old cars and truck, which we have actually become utilized to the creature conveniences of contemporary vehicles. We have actually made a lot of progress in regards to ergonomics and cabin area. New automobiles are likewise huge, so getting back into an actual compact from 20 years ago felt cramped.
I pointed out the clutch earlier. It’s the greatest disappointment. I was expecting something with a little bit more bite, however this one seems like your foot is going through a pail of liquid fat. Perhaps Volkswagen desired to market this as a high-end vehicle? That would make good sense considering the $28,000(CAD) cost at the time. That’s 41 grand in today’s money, for a damn Jetta!
However apart from that, seriously, this cars and truck didn’t disappoint me much.
If anything, I was happily shocked at how modern-day this Jetta felt. There’s an overall sensation of solidity, from how the doors thump shut, or how the entire cars and truck’s structure responds to potholes and thawing spring roadways.
While I felt massive in the cars and truck, front seat pulled back to destroy whatever rear passenger would have sat there, it was a comfortable flight. If not for the 19 mpg fuel usage average, this would be a wonderful day-to-day motorist.
Plus, the VR6 isn’t just melodious, it has lots of low-end grunt, so no need to downshift to get forward thrust. The whole automobile’s chassis was still impeccably well held together too, no undesirable rattles or cabin sounds you ‘d anticipate from a twenty year-old cars and truck, which says a lot about the construct quality of Volkswagens at the time.
Undoubtedly, this is why the GLX was developed, and even 20 years later, it does not disappoint. A minimum of, its engine doesn’t.
I was impressed at how quick this thing felt after all the modern turbocharged machines I drive. Prior to driving this, I had actually just left a 2019 BMW 330 i; a fast sedan, yet the old Volks didn’t let me down.
The VR6 isn’t just filled with low end twist, it loves to rev and has wonderful throttle response, all while staying smooth and rumbly up until it strikes redline. God I enjoy that exhaust note, though. Makes you discover what we’ve lost through turbocharging.
Sure, the shift knob is a little wobbly by today’s requirements, however equipments click into each other in a gratifying, nearly addictive matter. If it wasn’t for the rubber clutch I pointed out previously, this setup would be just as, if not much better than the present GLI’s manual transmission.
Brakes are excellent, rather good actually, however you can inform this cars and truck’s original shocks are getting old, as my tester exhibited a fair little bit of body roll in the bends. It didn’t prevent me from having massive fun with it, however. The GLX stays a tossable and lightweight machine. I ended up throwing it hard into each corner, enormous smile strapped from each ear, recollecting my young boy racer days.
What I love the most about this old Jetta, is how it provides its performance under outright secrecy, including extra indicate its appeal. No one will know you’re flying down the countryside with it. But you will as you’ll be ripping through the gears of your unassuming German sport sedan, narrow-angle, naturally aspirated V6 belching its method organically to the rev limiter.
The excellent thing about these cars is that the market hasn’t yet strike them the same method it did some mid-nineties Japanese or German sports automobiles, so they’re still rather budget friendly.
Our male Germain chooses not revealing how much he spent for his, however he declares he’s acquired it three years ago with just 118,000 km (73,000 miles) on the odometer. My guess is he didn’t pay far more than 6,000 dollars for it, which is what the uncommon ads I have actually found for these things recommend.
Considering their rarity and significance in the automotive landscape, a well kept GLX like this one will certainly value in worth. Likewise, VR6 parts are plenty, so it should not be too tough to repair your old V-dub when need be.
Driving this thing verified my theory: Volkswagen saw a pattern coming when it gave additional doors and a trunk to its Golf GTI. It’s regrettable individuals didn’t purchase more of these new, because now, good luck discovering a tidy, unmolested one.
Perhaps it has something to do with my age, or just due to the fact that I’m pestered with memories of the 1990 s. However something I can validate with certainty is that while I was driving this GLX VR6, I wasn’t thinking of my phone. All I might do was drive, because there was definitely nothing at my disposal – no expensive LCD screen, Android Vehicle, or semi-autonomous innovation – to filter out the raw experience of driving the cars and truck.
It’s a flexibility contemporary technology is slowly stealing from us at our expense.
William Clavey is a vehicle journalist in Montreal, Canada and contributes to Jalopnik. He runs claveyscorner.com