When it first debuted in 1984, the Volkswagen GLI was dubbed a “GTI with a trunk” and its mission was simple: to deliver an accessible German performance sedan. The car had to be undeniably fun to drive without sacrificing any of the usability and efficiency that drivers expected from the brand. While technology, efficiency, safety, and—of course—performance have come leaps and bounds in 35 years, the mission of the Volkswagen sixth-generation hot sedan remains exactly the same.
The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is offered in two trim levels: S and Autobahn. In a modest value realignment, Autobahn models introduce new infotainment and driver-assistance systems. Autobahn models have standard Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Assist, and Light Assist. Additionally, the new MIB3 Infotainment system will be standard on Autobahn models.
Pricing for the Jetta GLI with 6-speed manual transmission starts at $26,345. The 7-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission starts at $27,145. Destination charges for all Jetta GLI models is $995.
While the 2021 GLI features the MQB architecture, coupe-like profile of the Jetta, it adds sporty styling cues that hint at its beefed-up powertrain. Featuring a sport suspension, the GLI sits 0.6 inches lower than a regular Jetta, giving it a more planted look. The front bumper features a lower front spoiler and larger air intake than the regular Jetta. A standard compliment of full-LED lighting, including front LED projector headlights, LED DRLs and side mirror-mounted turn signals, as well as LED taillights, sets the GLI apart from its competition. Featuring a red accent stripe, the wide grille on the Jetta GLI is filled with a honeycomb pattern that gives a subtle nod to previous GLI variants as well as its spiritual sibling, the Golf GTI. Unique lower side skirts carry the line to a more aggressive rear bumper, which features LED taillights, a finned diffusor and dual chrome exhaust tips.
Above the beltline, the GLI receives black window trim (rather than chrome), a spoiler, a “GLI” flitzer and rear badging. A panoramic power-tilt-and-slide sunroof is standard equipment on Jetta GLI Autobahn.
Befitting the aggressive appeal of the Jetta GLI, wide 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a diamond-turned surface are mated to low-profile 225/45 R18 all-season tires. Golf R front brakes, with red-painted calipers, are standard equipment on every GLI.
The optional Black Package on Autobahn models adds 18-inch black wheels, a black roof, black mirror caps, and a black spoiler.
The sporty GLI variant mimics the driver-focused cockpit of the Jetta. The instruments and infotainment system are arranged in an easy-to-read horizontal orientation, and the center console is angled toward the driver. Meanwhile, design elements from the exterior are repeated in the cabin for a touch of sportiness, and premium soft-touch materials are used throughout.
A black interior sets the stage for sporty details to pop throughout. Red stitching is used on the steering wheel, shifter, armrest and floormats. Comfort sport seats feature red stitching both on the cloth seats on S models, as well as the leather seating surfaces on Autobahn models. Diamond flag décor trim, black headliner, stainless steel pedal caps and a leather-wrapped sport multifunction steering wheel are standard on every model. DSG-equipped cars gain paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel.
Jetta GLI offers a number of premium features as standard equipment. KESSY® keyless entry and push-button start, automatic on/off headlights, rain sensing wipers, an automatically dimming rearview mirror and dual-zone Climatronic® automatic climate control are standard. Cloth seats are standard on GLI S models, while Autobahn models feature leather seating surfaces. Heated front seats are also standard and Autobahn models add ventilated front seats. GLI S features 6-way adjustable drivers’ seats, while Autobahn models add a power driver’s seat with memory function and adjustable lumbar. Autobahn models also feature standard remote start and a vehicle alarm.
Every GLI features a 10-color LED ambient lighting system. Coordinated with the Jetta Driving Mode Selection feature, the system provides white light in the Normal profile, red light in the Sport profile and blue light in the Eco profile. The driver can set any of the 10 colors using Manual or Custom mode. In addition, the doorsills feature red backlit inserts.
To appeal to music lovers, the GLI Autobahn features the BeatsAudio® system. This setup showcases a 12-channel, 400-watt amplifier, digital signal processing and eight speakers and a subwoofer.
MIB Infotainment. All 2021 Jetta GLI models feature innovative Volkswagen MIB touchscreen infotainment systems. The displays utilize a capacitive-touch sensor (as in smartphone and tablet technology) rather than the more common resistive touchscreens that require pressure, enabling controls like swiping and even pinch-zooming. App-Connect smartphone integration for compatible devices is standard, and offers users the ability to run select smartphone apps directly on the vehicle’s display through services such as Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto™ and MirrorLink®.
The Jetta GLI S is equipped with the MIB2 Composition Color unit, which features a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display. The infotainment system includes two USB-C ports, SD Card multimedia interface, and Bluetooth® technology for compatible devices.
All other Jetta GLI models are equipped with the all-new third-generation modular infotainment matrix (MIB3). The new MIB3 infotainment system features a glass-covered 8.0-inch display, wireless App-Connect with multi-phone pairing that can switch between compatible devices, enhanced voice recognition, and two illuminated USB-C ports in the center stack.
Jetta GLI Autobahn models are equipped with the Composition Media unit. The unit features Bluetooth technology for compatible devices, HD radio, and SiriusXM® radio (three month trial period).
SiriusXM . Autobahn models will offer the newest and most advanced audio entertainment platform—SiriusXM with 360L. Available by subscription (three-month All Access trial package included), SiriusXM with 360L combines satellite and streaming content delivery into a single, cohesive in-vehicle entertainment experience and provides more options than before, including access to more than 10,000 hours of SiriusXM’s recorded On Demand content, and more live channels. SiriusXM with 360L’s personalized “For You” recommendations enables listeners to discover more of what they love based on listening habits and served on screen in an easy format. Additionally, individual listener profiles allow multiple drivers and passengers to customize their own favorites and receive “Related” recommendations similar to the currently playing channel and content.
Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. The advanced Volkswagen Digital Cockpit system, standard on Autobahn models, presents drivers with a fully-digital instrument cluster. Using a 10- inch TFT display, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit offers a customizable presentation of important vehicle information, with 21 viewing options, including car status, navigation, driving data, phone information, driver assistance features, and more. Users can select from multiple views, including a full screen navigation view.
Since its debut for the 2014 model year, Volkswagen Car-Net has allowed Volkswagen owners to get connected to their vehicles. Last year, Car-Net moved into the next generation of integration, with an updated mobile app, a long list of no-charge services for five years, and new subscription options. For model year 2021, Car-Net Services will be offered in three areas: Remote Access, Safe & Secure, and Hotspot. For vehicles equipped with a MIB3 system, additional online features are available with a paid subscription that provides enhanced navigation and infotainment. Next year, Volkswagen will introduce Carrier of Choice, giving our customers the option to select a data plan from either VerizonTM or T-Mobile ®. With just a few clicks in the VW Car-Net mobile app or at vw.com/carnet, owners can add their new Volkswagen vehicle to their existing mobile data plan or purchase a new one.
Car-Net Remote Access allows owners the ability to interact with their vehicle from miles away via the mobile app. It is offered at no additional charge for five years from the date of vehicle purchase. Features include remote start and stop (if equipped), remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and flash of lights, last parked location, and remote vehicle status display, which provides information on estimated fuel level and mileage and door and window status. Also available on MY21 vehicles equipped with MIB3: trips statistics and “Hello Volkswagen” in-vehicle advanced voice control, which can recognize natural language input for vehicle radio, navigation, telephone, and media functions.
VW Car-Net skills for Amazon AlexaTM are now available for most new Volkswagen vehicles, is. To set up, owners should open the skills page associated with their car model in their Alexa app and link the skill to their VW Car-Net account. This will allow them to use their voice on an Alexa-enabled device to ask Alexa to send remote commands from the comfort of their own home—for instance: “Alexa, ask Car-Net to honk my horn.”
For vehicles equipped with factory-installed navigation systems, Car-Net can make customers lives easier by locating off-street parking information and sending destinations or points of interest directly to their car from the app. Powered by ParkopediaTM, the Parking Information feature can help make owners’ lives easier by locating off-street parking information. Through the Navigate tab on the app, users can click the “P” icon to show available parking locations, either in the immediate vicinity or near a Point of Interest. Clicking on a specific location will display the address, hours of operation and pricing. Users can also send the location to their car’s navigation system, if so equipped, by clicking the “Send to My VW” button.
Vehicle Health Reports can provide owners easy access to diagnostic information. Reports generate automatically each month after enrollment and are sent directly to the email address in the owner’s profile; owners can also request updated reports anytime through the mobile app. When it’s time for scheduled service, Car-Net can not only notify the customer, but also provides a simple way to schedule a dealer visit.
Family Guardian services and Roadside Call Assist can provide added peace-of-mind no matter who is driving. Speed Alert notifies the owner when the pre-determined maximum speed limit is exceeded. Boundary Alert lets the owner know when the vehicle has traveled outside of a pre-set virtual boundary. Curfew Alert notifies the owner if the vehicle is driven while curfew alert is on. Valet Alert warns if the vehicle is driven more than 0.2 miles from the valet drop-off location. The Car-Net app allows users to control who receives notifications by designating primary and secondary users, with varying levels of control and functionality for each. Notifications can come in the form of text messages, emails, or push notifications from the mobile app itself. If the vehicle is disabled, Roadside Call Assist is available at the touch of the wrench button.
By enrolling in the DriveView™ program, Car-Net users may be eligible for discounted rates from some of the top automotive insurance companies in the country. This program can also help Car-Net users monitor their driving by tracking activities like night driving, hard braking, idle time, and excess speed. These factors all contribute to an overall driving score, which is visible within the mobile app.
Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription service that includes Information Assistance, Emergency Assistance, Automatic Crash Notification, Anti-Theft Alert, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance. The subscription is $99 per year before taxes and fees, and automatically renews annually at the end of the subscription term, unless cancelled. Information Assistance—accessed through the i-call button within the vehicle—allows the driver to speak to a Car-Net agent for support needs, such as points of interest and account services. Emergency Assistance can be accessed through the SOS button in the vehicle, and, if a cellular connection can be established, puts the driver in contact with the Car-Net service center, who can direct emergency responders to the vehicle’s location and notify the user’s Emergency Contact. Provided a cellular connection can be established, Automatic Crash Notification can help automatically notify an operator who can quickly contact first responders in the event of a collision. Anti-Theft Alert sends a push notification to the user if the vehicle’s anti-theft alarm is triggered, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance uses Car-Net to assist law enforcement with locating the vehicle in the event that it is stolen.
Car-Net Hotspot allows passengers to access the internet with up to four connected devices simultaneously, including compatible tablets, smartphones, laptops, gaming devices, and more— at 4G LTE-enabled speed. Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile customers with an existing mobile data plan can simply add their Volkswagen vehicle as a new $20 line item to their existing monthly bill; non-Verizon or T-Mobile customers can set up an unlimited plan for $20/month, taxes and fees may apply.
Car-Net Hotspot also offers additional annual paid subscription packages to enhance the navigation and infotainment experience for MY21 VW owners with a factory-installed MIB3 infotainment system. With an active data plan, the Plus Nav package ($49/year) allows drivers to access online route updates, traffic reports, fuel prices, and parking information. The Plus Speech package ($9/year) offers advance voice controls using natural language, and the Plus Online Radio Package ($8/year) offers online internet radio with 30,000+ radio stations and podcasts. Media streaming apps can also be accessed at no additional charge, including iHeartRadioTM and TIDALTM (both require existing accounts).
The Jetta GLI is powered by a Volkswagen 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI® 4-cylinder engine, making 228 horsepower (achieved with premium fuel) and 258 pound-feet of torque. This engine, shared with the Golf GTI, features variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust sides, as well as variable exhaust valve lift.
The power is taken to the front wheels via a standard 6-speed manual transmission, with an available 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Automatic transmission models come standard with a Start/Stop system designed to help improve fuel efficiency. This technology stops the engine during idle when the brake pedal is held (such as when waiting at a stop light). When the brake pedal is released, the engine restarts. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2021 GLI is 24/35/28 mpg (city/highway/combined) when equipped with the automatic transmission. When equipped with the manual transmission, the EPA-estimated fuel economy is 24/33/28.
The TSI engine features innovative solutions such as water-cooled exhaust gas routing through the cylinder head to the turbocharger (to help reduce full-load fuel consumption) and a dual injection system with direct and multi-port injection. Thanks to its fully electronic coolant control system, the engine also offers efficient thermal management with a short warm-up phase; this helps reduce friction and decrease fuel consumption.
Built on the award-winning MQB chassis, the Jetta GLI features a MacPherson strut suspension mated with a multi-link independent rear suspension, the latter of which is unique to GLI variants. Featuring dual anti-roll bars, sport-tuned gas-filled shock absorbers, along with stiffer springs and a 0.6-inch lower stance than regular Jetta models, the sport suspension delivers a performance-focused ride without sacrificing comfort.
Further underlining the high-performance capabilities of the Jetta GLI are larger brakes compared to the standard Jetta and the sophisticated VAQ electronically-controlled front limited-slip differential, both shared with other Volkswagen performance models. The front brakes are shared with the Golf GTI and Golf R, using 13.4-inch diameter vented discs. The rear brakes, using 11.8-inch diameter discs, are also larger than on standard Jetta models. While larger brakes can provide more stopping power, the VAQ differential hydraulically varies torque to each front wheel, working in tandem with the XDS® electronic differential lock (which uses individual brake-force distribution to help prevent understeer) to help create neutral handling and limit wheelspin.
From a structural standpoint, the MQB platform provides extremely high body rigidity, resulting from a combination of ultra-high-strength and ultra-high-strength hot-stamped steels. This allows for very precise steering, high vehicle responsiveness and optimal ride comfort. Ultra-high-strength steel is used in areas of the vehicle such as the side sills, as well as the side members and cross members of the body. Ultra-high-strength Hot-formed steel is used for the B-pillars, center tunnel, lower bulkhead, rear side members, and roof side members. This results in an extremely comfortable and agile car.
Driving Mode Selection. As on GTI and Golf R models, the Driving Mode Selection feature is standard equipment. This system has four modes in vehicles without Volkswagen’s DCC® adaptive damping system: “Normal,” “Sport,” “Eco,” and “Custom.” Normal mode gives a balanced drive experience, while Sport is tuned for a more dynamic throttle and shift response, tighter steering, and a more spirited exhaust note. Eco mode optimizes shift points, throttle response and climate control settings for improved fuel economy compared to other drive modes. Custom allows a driver to tailor the steering, throttle, differential, engine note, and climate control settings. The Autobahn model with DCC allows the driver to adjust damping settings and adds a fifth “Comfort” mode.
DCC. The GLI Autobahn features the DCC adaptive damping system, which gives the sport sedan the optimal balance between excellent handling and superior ride comfort. DCC achieves this by managing the suspension’s rebound and compression rates individually, helping to improve vehicle dynamics.
Progressive variable-ratio steering. Variable-ratio electromechanical power steering is standard on GLI, and helps contribute to its agile nature. Requiring only 2.1 turns from lock to lock, the steering noticeably reduces effort when maneuvering and parking, while remaining direct and responsive in the center position when traveling at highway speeds.
To help protect occupants, the Jetta GLI provides a combination of both passive and active safety systems. It features six airbags as standard (front and side airbags for front passengers and side curtain airbags for outboard seating positions), along with a number of electronic safety systems, such as an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
A standard feature on the 2021 Jetta GLI is Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. This builds on the premise that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but rather a series of events that follow the initial impact—the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System helps address this, in certain crash scenarios, by applying the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus potentially reducing residual kinetic energy and, in turn, the chance of additional damage.
The Jetta GLI also includes Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions.
All Jetta GLI models feature a standard rearview camera.
To meet the demands of American drivers, the 2021 Jetta GLI offers a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance technology. Standard features include Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist), and High Beam Control (Light Assist).
Front Assist, standard on all GLI models, is intended to warn drivers of potential frontal collisions (Forward Collision Warning) with vehicles, and in some cases provide automatic braking assistance (Autonomous Emergency Braking).
Within physical system limits, Forward Collision Warning warns the driver of potential critical front-end collision situations, both acoustically and visually by a warning symbol in the instrument cluster if the car is traveling above 18 mph. Furthermore, an automatic jolt of the brakes can warn the driver of the danger. If the driver fails to brake, Autonomous Emergency Braking is activated to help slow the vehicle. If the car is traveling below 18 mph and the system detects a potential front-end collision, Autonomous Emergency Braking activates without a prior acoustic and visual warning. If the brake pedal is applied but the driver brakes too lightly, the brake pressure is increased by the system (Braking Support).
Blind Spot Monitor is standard on all Jetta GLI models. Blind Spot Monitor uses two radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle to scan the approaching traffic and is intended to warn drivers of the presence of other vehicles in adjacent lanes. If the driver uses the turn signal to indicate a lane change while a vehicle is detected in a blind spot, the system utilizes a flashing LED symbol in the outer area of the side mirrors. Even if the driver does not use a turn signal, the LED symbol in the mirror will illuminate if a vehicle is detected in the blind spot. The system is designed to help alert drivers in specific situations; stationary objects or oncoming vehicles do not trigger warnings, nor do vehicles more than one lane across away from the vehicle.
If combined with Lane Assist (standard on Autobahn models, see below) the system not only warns the driver with the flashing LED symbol if a vehicle is detected in the blind spot, but within system limits, it can also countersteer to help keep the car in the lane even if the turn signal is on. If the driver still tries to steer out of the lane, the system will warn with an additional vibration of the steering wheel.
The Rear Traffic Alert system, standard on all GLI models is intended to detect vehicles approaching from the side that may be difficult for the driver to see while reversing. The system offers a 180-degree view of the back of the car with a range of 65 feet, and will present a visual and an acoustic warning, if a potential collision with a crossing vehicle is detected. If the driver does not react, the system can apply the brakes to help mitigate and, in the best case, can prevent a collision. The system is activated by putting the car in reverse.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), standard on Autobahn models, uses a forward facing radar to maintain a set speed while helping maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front. The driver sets the speed and the desired spacing via buttons on the multifunction steering wheel and can further use those buttons to adjust and cancel the ACC function while the accelerator can be used to override the ACC function. Pressing the brakes always cancels the ACC function. All ACC-related system messages appear in the central multifunction display.
When the roadway ahead of the vehicle is clear, the system maintains the set speed. Jetta GLI models fitted with ACC can match a vehicle in front and come to a stop if the vehicle in front does. If the car in front moves within three seconds, ACC will resume automatically to the set speed. If the car stands longer than three seconds, the driver can resume ACC control by pressing the accelerator pedal or the “resume” button on the steering wheel.
Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist) is standard on Autobahn models. When driving above 40 mph, if the system’s camera recognizes visible lane markings and, using a special algorithm, calculates that the vehicle is unintentionally straying from its lane without using a turn signal, Lane Assist actively countersteers to help keep the vehicle in the lane. If the driver takes his or her hands off the wheel for a defined period of time, the system provides an audible warning and a visual signal in the instrument cluster, asking the driver to take over.
The system will not engage if it cannot properly detect lane markings. If the turn signal has been set before crossing a lane marking, the Lane Assist system will not engage or give a warning. The driver can override the system at any time by applying minimal force to the steering wheel.
High Beam Control (Light Assist), standard on the GLI Autobahn, helps provide drivers with better visibility. High Beam Control (Light Assist) automatically switches on the headlamp high beams above 37 mph on dark or poorly lit roads, if there is no oncoming traffic detected. Below 18 mph, the high beams automatically switch off.
Every 2021 Jetta GLI comes with a bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty and Carefree Maintenance Program. The warranty provides coverage for four years or 50,000-miles (whichever occurs first), and can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration. The Carefree Maintenance Program provides scheduled maintenance services for 2 years or 20,000 miles (whichever occurs first) at no additional charge, and can be transferred to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration.