As more and more performance vehicles move toward a fully electric platform, VW is continuing to offer the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI as a gas-powered holdover sure to keep enthusiasts grinning. Overall, the Jetta is a sharp sedan that already hones in on driving satisfaction, but the GLI ups the game with its higher-performing engine and tuning to give buyers a bit of thrill, not unlike driving a hot hatch. For 2022, the Jetta benefits from a refresh that gives it a few new appearance tweaks to freshen the overall design. Some changes to the tech will carry over from shifts in the rest of the VW lineup, but the GLI retains a few of its old tricks that create a happy medium in how buyers will interact with the screens, and these small changes could be the one of the last times buyers will have the chance to enjoy them before they’re gone.
The driver-oriented cockpit in the 2022 Jetta GLI isn’t the only thing to be excited about when it comes to the looks of this savvy little sedan. When you approach the GLI, you can spot it from afar in a sea of other cars with its red highlights in the brake calipers, red stripe across the black honeycomb grille, and the outlined air scoops in the lower front fascia. An extra sporty option is the slick style of the Black Package, which adds exterior details like black mirror caps and a black roof, if that speaks to your sensibilities. On the back end, the bumper gets some new shaping, and the dual exhaust tips are enlarged to be more visible and audible, making the GLI a sleek sedan you’ll be happy to see in your driveway.
Shift to the interior, and the 2022 GLI sees subtle changes. In the driver’s seat, the new digital instrument display works in tandem with the eight-inch touchscreen in the center stack to offer up tantalizing data in performance mode. Seated behind the leather-wrapped sport-style steering wheel, even unseasoned drivers can appreciate the thickness of the wheel that lets you firmly control the vehicle, and the manual transmission will have dedicated enthusiasts delighted by the responsive feel of the shifter. More on how the GLI drives later, but for now, it’s worth saying that the GLI won’t disappoint. As for the rest of the interior design, VW gives the GLI its own special appearance with contrasting red stitching and highlights around the cabin that nicely break up the Titan Black interior upholstered in perforated leather.
The red and black theme continues into the digital readouts in the driver’s display, where the red dials make the perfect centerpiece to the whole visual array. In typical VW style, the interior is thoughtfully planned for easy access to all the necessary buttons and knobs while driving, and the Jetta retains those knobs in the infotainment for yet another year–a feature most drivers will probably appreciate for their ease of use. On the steering wheel, however, VW changes the mounted controls to the haptic buttons found in updated models elsewhere in the VW lineup, and before the touchscreen is updated in the same way, buyers may want to snag a GLI this year if you value those physical knobs.
Overall, the GLI echoes the look of its more popular cousin, the GTI, but still has its own demeanor as part of the Jetta family. As an upper trim of the Jetta, the GLI has posh elements like ambient lighting, illuminated scuff plates, and stainless steel pedal caps that give this sporty sedan an elevated appeal. Add in small flourishes like driver’s seat memory and the numerous tech features to make life convenient while you drive, and the GLI translates into a fine automobile. Lastly, the wheels deserve their own mention. New for 2022, VW changes up the wheel designs for each trim of the Jetta. GLI models get 18-inch machined aluminum alloy wheels fitted with standard 225/45 R18 all-season tires. However, summer tires are a no-cost upgrade for extra grip when cornering.
Tech Made Easy
For this upper trim of the Jetta lineup, VW makes its newest MIB 3 infotainment system standard. Forget about the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; those are just sideshow events to the main stage that begins with the haptic touchscreen you can treat like your smartphone, from pinch-to-zoom capability to swiping. You can even leave your cords at home since connectivity and charging. If you have an Alexa, you can connect it with your GLI, so they are synced, and you can take along your favorite playlists to enjoy the Beats Audio system that also comes standard.
If you happen to be familiar with VW’s CarNet, you know this is the brand’s version of connected services that includes WiFi, remote access, and security features. For 2022, all Jetta models equipped with the MIB 3 system will get these as standard, and then buyers will have the option to add “enhanced” features that can come with factory installation of the system. Features like a Plus Online Radio package that only costs $8 per year but adds over 30,000 internet radio stations. Or you could pay a meager $49 per year for access to online maps that link to parking options, traffic, and finding places to fuel up. Unlike connected services from some of the other brands, VW provides premium features at affordable prices.
Driving the GLI
Only the sharpest eyes will notice the slight differences in body shaping that delineate the GLI as a sport-tuned performance vehicle that’s parted from the rest of the Jetta pack. Most of the Jetta lineup is just a tad shorter, with the GLI only gaining a fraction of an inch in length and height, though none of these factors affect the interior space. The Jetta has comfortable seating for five, with room for adults to sit in the rear even when taller folks put the front seats back. This will make rides for the fun of it more enjoyable for everyone, especially with the plentiful infotainment options included in the GLI.
The real pleasure in owning a 2022 Jetta GLI will come from the sheer joy of getting behind the wheel. If you love the sweet note you hear from a rev of the engine, the GLI will be sure to please your ears. The dual exhaust releases a satisfying promise to charge forth into the blue yonder, and whether you get the six-speed manual or the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, you’ll find both to be equally exciting to drive. With the VW EA888 turbocharged 2.0-liter I4, there is no lack of power when you hit the gas. This is a little engine that makes 228 hp with 258 lb-ft of torque for road-worthy performance that has a number of supporting actors.
VW builds the GLI with a unique multi-link rear suspension not found on the standard Jetta and lowers the ride height by about half an inch, stiffening the springs for a sport-tuned feel that you really notice when you take it out to play on curvy roads or hit a tight corner without having to slow to a crawl. Add in the XDS Cross Differential System that subs for a limited-slip differential, and you might start believing you’re a rock star driver even if you’re just an average joe. Even though the GLI has a stiffer suspension for performance driving, VW balances it beautifully so you won’t have jarring rides in the cabin. Throw in the boosted braking power VW borrows from the Golf R, and you have all the makings of a juicy sports car any enthusiast should be proud to drive.
Take a Closer Look
Whether you toss your 2022 Jetta GLI on sport mode and let it fly or cruise in comfort mode, this is a sport sedan that deserves a closer look, especially for the 2022 model. Don’t miss the chance to snag this beauty during this interim year when you can get the tech you want before the gas-powered models start to disappear. VW has done an excellent job of making the Jetta GLI a noteworthy performer for 2022.