Woodstock’s legendary “Light” Volkswagen bus gets reincarnated 50 years later
March 8, 2019
Like much of the Summer of Love, one of the most famous Volkswagen vans in history had a moment in the sun, only to be lost in the ’70s. But thanks to its original painter and a Canadian documentarian with a detective streak, the magic bus will hit the road again ahead of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary.
Artist Robert “Dr. Bob” Hieronimus was only 26 years-old when he was commissioned to paint a “magic bus” for Bob Grimm, a musician in the Baltimore-based group Light. The year was 1968, and the magic bus was a Volkswagen Type 2 van decorated in a psychedelic style. The group planned to drive their trippy wheels on tour and to the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Bob Grimm in the Light bus before Woodstock, 1969.
Hieronimus took six months to conceptualize and complete the Light bus, which he festooned with cosmic symbols, archetypal motifs and words in ancient languages. He earned $1,000 – “a mega fortune back then,” he notes a half-century later – and bought a ticket to the three-day music festival in Bethel, N.Y. However, when he heard that 50,000 people were planning to attend, he decided to peace out instead.
Little did he know that Woodstock would draw nearly half a million people or that his ‘63 van would become a Woodstock icon. An Associated Press photo circulated widely in newspapers and magazines across the nation helped immortalize the VW art bus as a symbol of the 1960s counter-culture movement.
Hieronimus says the van symbolized the Summer of Love like no other vehicle. “The bus is really about being one people on one planet,” the Baltimore-based artist Hieronimus, who is also a symbologist, added. “We all have the same divine spark of the cosmic creator inside of us.”
With a 40-horsepower air-cooled engine, the Type 2 bus wasn’t built for speed. But it was inexpensive to maintain and easy to fix, plus it could transport a load of people, making it the ideal ride for highway-bound hippies. “It was a real people’s car,” the artist says. “It represented freedom.”
It wasn’t until 2017, as the 50th anniversary of Woodstock approached, that Hieronimus and Canadian documentary producer John Wesley Chisolm teamed up to track down the psychedelic van and restore it. But there was a problem: Grimm and Hieronimus couldn’t remember where the bus was located.
Using researchers, detectives and, per Hieronimus’s request, a psychic, the pair set out on an exhaustive six-month search to find the elusive bus. Thanks to the generous support from Volkswagen and the greater Volkswagen community through a Kickstarter campaign, they were able to fund and document their painstaking journey.
“We searched from the top of New Jersey to the bottom of Arkansas,” Chisholm says. They stopped at virtually every Volkswagen junk yard and talked to as many Volkswagen mechanics as possible, hoping to pick up clues along the way. Unfortunately, the trail was too cold.
In early 2018, they decided to switch lanes and create an exact replica instead. After one false start, they found an 11-window, non-walk-through, 1963 Type 2 microbus with a split front window shield that was an exact match of the original.
They recruited a team of restoration experts across the country to help make their vision a reality. Everyone involved was passionate about the project, and many volunteered their time and services to the cause.
Robert Skinner, who owns Vacaville Auto Body Center in California, and his team rebuilt the 55-year-old vehicle engine, transmission and transaxle. The cargo flooring and the inner and outer rocker panels were all gutted and exchanged. At one point, to help maximize efficiency, the shop had eight-foot scaffolding on either side of the bus, so teams could simultaneously work on its bodywork and mechanical system.
“We had three weeks to do a three-month job,” says Skinner, a Volkswagen restoration specialist. “We wanted to build a solid foundation that would allow Light to live on for another 50 years.”
Primed for painting, a transport took the bus up to Maryland where Hieronimus and five artists recreated the esoteric imagery in six short weeks. Hieronimus even required that the painters learn the symbolism of the bus inside and out with written assignments and readings.
“On every side of the bus is a story—many stories—and the stories all point to unification, working together and a higher consciousness, which is what Light really is all about,” says Hieronimus.
After one more trip through East Coast VW Restorations in St. Augustine, Fla., for interior and exterior detailing, Hieronimus and Chisholm unveiled the reincarnated Light bus earlier this month at a VW bus owners’ gathering in California. Chisholm will release his documentary, titled “A Bus Called Light,” this summer.
Meanwhile, the groovy van will travel around the country, leading up to the Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival in August. “The bus just brings joy and smiles to people’s faces. Everybody wants to be on the bus and along for the journey,” Chisholm says. “Whatever your dream is, wherever you want to go, the bus will take you there.”
After the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the guiders of the Light bus hope to find it a permanent home where it can serve as a public reminder of a long-ago Summer of Love.
Volkswagen’s ID.BUGGY concept takes the dune buggy electric
March 6, 2019
No doors, no roof, no worries. A huge part of the fun behind the Volkswagen-based dune buggies of the 1960s, such as the classic Meyers Manx, was enjoying the outdoors as much as possible. Sure, not every day at the beach was going to be sunny – but when it was, cruising in a Manx was about as fun as it got.
What if Volkswagen could bring back that open-air feeling, but this time as an electric car? That was the question that spawned the ID.BUGGY concept unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this week, and the answer may be closer to reality than you think.
Built again from the MEB electric-vehicle chassis, the ID.BUGGY combines a 62-kWh battery pack with a 201-hp electric motor driving the rear wheels. On the road, the ID.BUGGY can reach 62 mph from rest in 7.2 seconds and travel up to an estimated 155 miles. But it’s off-road where the ID.BUGGY’s really designed to shine.
First, there are no doors or roof, although the light-up VW logo works as a sign that the ID.BUGGY comes from the electric future. The exterior design draws inspiration from the fiberglass magic of the ‘60s with a dramatic curve upward from front to rear, with off-road tires on 18-inch wheels and increased ground clearance from other MEB concepts. The entire interior was made from a waterproof material, and while there’s an optional sunshade that provides a limited amount of rain cover, the ID.BUGGY is as open-air as the Manx. There’s a minimalistic, weather-resistant digital cockpit and even a playful touch on the pedals, with a “play” arrow on the accelerator and a “pause” symbol on the brake.
And the ID.BUGGY concept isn’t just a curvy car. The original dune buggies were made possible by the construction of the original Volkswagen Beetle, which made it simple to put custom bodywork on top of the Beetle’s running gear. The ID.BUGGY has been designed to help make similar moves possible with the MEB chassis for the first time with a body that can be removed after purchase due to a minimum of tech sensors –which can allow the 21st-century successors of Bruce Meyers to take the ID.BUGGY into new directions.
Officially, the ID.BUGGY is just an idea of how the MEB chassis could produce driving fun, not an actual production vehicle. But the flexibility of Volkswagen’s future electric vehicles mean an electric beach buggy could become a sight on the shores once more.
Volkswagen collaborates with composer Jacob Collier for new SUV campaign
March 1, 2019
Volkswagen enlisted British composer Jacob Collier to score the music for three new television spots featuring the Volkswagen Atlas and Tiguan.
At age 24, Collier has already won worldwide acclaim as a musical protégé and mulit-award-winning artist; both in composing and performing. Largely self-taught, Collier had learned how to play a variety of instruments by age seven, and he gained viral fame for a series of inventive, jazz-tinged cover songs that he recorded in his home and uploaded to online video sites starting in 2011. In addition to touring internationally, Collier has released two albums and is slated to release three more in 2019.
Although his talent and ability inspired confidence in the collaboration, it was his youthful, free-spirit approach to music and how it aligned with the campaign’s spirit of fun that ultimately proved this would be the perfect team.
To help bring his score to life, a 20-person orchestra assembled at AIR studios in London in January to record his music live for the Volkswagen Atlas spot “Coaster.”
In addition to “Coaster,” Jacob also scored the 30-second “College” and “Moving” spots currently airing nationwide.
See the spots here, and see behind the scenes from the London recording session below:
You can also see Jacob live on the road during his current world tour, as well as the Volkswagen Atlas and Tiguan on roads nationwide.
Meet the VW camper van built from 400,000 LEGO® bricks
February 26, 2019
One brick at a time. It’s how you likely built LEGO® models when you were a kid, or with your own children. And it’s exactly how two of the world’s best builders were able to construct a life-size version of a Volkswagen Type 2 camper van from LEGO® bricks in just six weeks.
Unveiled this week at a travel convention in Munich, the Volkswagen van required about 400,000 pieces, with a final weight of 1,543 lbs. It uses real wheels from a Type 2, and like all Volkswagen camper vans has a pop-up roof and sliding door. And the interior is built out just as a camper would be, down to the pair of toothbrushes for overnight stays.
The van was designed and built by Rene Hoffmeister, one of only 12 officially certified LEGO® professionals in the world. Along with colleague Pascal Lenhard, the duo used 3D modeling to assemble a plan for the van, including a precise figure for the number of bricks needed. Beyond ensuring the major flexible pieces like doors worked, the pair also had to ensure structural rigidity in the side walls and other vertical surfaces to keep all the bricks from collapsing.
All of those plans nearly went out the window when they found themselves short 20,000 transparent bricks for the windows.
“Essentially, we would have needed a nine-day week,” says Hoffmeister. “However, as they don’t exist, the only option was night shifts.”
With a burst of around-the-clock work, the model was completed on time. The finished product is some 16 feet long, more than 6 feet wide and just shy of 10 feet tall with the roof popped up.
Planning the all-new 2019 Jetta GLI
February 22, 2019
When it comes to creating a new vehicle or updating an existing model, there are lots of decisions to make. For example: Should the side skirts be lowered — and by how much? How should the controls of an ambient lighting system work? Those are just two of the thousands of decisions, big and small, represented in the all-new 2019 Jetta GLI and ones that filled the work day of product planners such as Daniel Shapiro, a key member of the vehicle’s planning team.
When making those decisions, says Shapiro, ever-present on a product planner’s mind is how it will affect the daily driving lives of Volkswagen owners, as well as its tie in to the history and heritage of each model. The product planning team’s goals are always multilevel: The vehicle should be relevant, affordable, and ultimately true to its ethos.
To get to a finished vehicle like the all-new GLI, Shapiro and the product planning team drew on diverse backgrounds and varied insights and expertise. Here’s a peek into the product planning world.
A product planner’s career path: anything but traditional
You might assume that a product planner takes a traditional career path — say, from industrial design to the factory floor. Not so, says Shapiro, and his own resume is an example: He zig-zagged from degrees in mechanical engineering to a stint in art school to an MBA.
Regardless of jobs and educational experience, says Shapiro, product planning team members may have diverse backgrounds including sales, marketing, software development, linguistics, consulting, finance, or accounting. As a result, product planners strive to balance market, technological, and automotive challenges and demonstrate the ability to deep dive into core areas of experience: project management, data analysis, consumer behavior, and basic finance.
Product planning isn’t a straight line
The GLI you see today? It’s gone through lots of twists and turns, says Shapiro. The process has to adapt to changes in the market and to additional insights into customers’ wants and needs. As the process moves forward, says Shapiro, they pass through a variety of milestones, ranging in length from a few months to a year. They include everything from establishing a mission, creating a concept, finalizing a design, and beginning production.
The product planning process on the GLI
Product planners at Volkswagen of America juggle a number of different tasks and goals on any given day and in any given year while working on a project such as the all-new GLI. In general, new generations of a vehicle are planned on five-year cycles. That meant Shapiro worked on both the 2016 and 2019 models of the GLI — at the same time.
Key individuals from various departments formed the core team that worked on the 2019 GLI. This included colleagues in:
As they began work on the 2019 GLI, Shapiro and the team relied on several different inputs. They looked at the previous generation, of course, and also competitor models, sales performance metrics, purchase price data, customer demographics, and societal trends.
To take into account both the vehicle’s heritage and the current market, the product planning team took several things into account. First, they were mindful of what the core GLI fans love about the vehicle — its performance. They also obtained feedback from small groups of customers and dealers to evaluate performance and feature expectations for consumers of today. The versatile underpinnings of the MQB architecture on the GLI gave the team plenty of leeway to adapt as the vehicle developed and evolved.
The end result of the product planning process
Years after they began sketching and meeting and listening to input about the next GLI, the product planning team at VW debuted the results of their efforts at the Chicago Auto Show in February. One of the biggest changes was the integration of the Volkswagen MQB architecture in the GLI.
The GLI exhibits a deft balance of familiar and new, updated for today’s drivers: the same powertrain and brakes on the Golf GTI. Standard equipment includes a VAQ limited slip electro-hydraulic differential that is electronically controlled and variable-ratio steering system. The option of DCC® adaptive chassis control. And there are more Driver Assistance features — a direct result of customer input — with Blind Spot Monitor, Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert standard.1 All these changes tie directly to the listening the product planning team did and to their desire to remain true to the vehicle and to VW.
The all-new Jetta GLI is back for 2019
February 22, 2019
Since its 1984 debut, the VW Jetta GLI has always combined irrepressible good looks and distinctive performance. Luckily for decades-long and newbie fans, that combination got a head-turning, sixth iteration update (and special 35th Anniversary Edition), which debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February.
Enthusiasm for an all-new GLI is warranted: With a 228-horsepower (achieved with premium fuel), turbocharged engine, and aggressive looks to match, the GLI is a hard bet to beat for drivers who seek a daily ear-to-ear grin and fun behind-the-wheel experience. Let’s let the GLI (and photos) speak for itself.
The 2019 GLI combines a lowered sports suspension with lower side skirts, which is the lowermost portion of the vehicle underneath the doors. Subtle changes add up to a GLI that looks lower and wider than the Jetta. The rear lip spoiler, rear diffuser, and chrome dual exhaust tips amplify its sporty intentions.
A more aggressive front fascia, lower lip spoiler, blacked-out window trim, and a red accent line across the honeycomb front grille easily distinguish the 2019 Jetta GLI from its sibling.
Slim lighting profiles, made possible by the use of LEDs, gives the GLI a streamlined profile.
A standard 2.0 TSI® turbocharged engine produces 228-horsepower (achieved with premium fuel) and 258 lb-ft of torque, put to the wheels through a sophisticated XDS® Cross Differential System with VAQ limited slip differential that helps to maintain optimum torque balance. These can be paired with a 6-speed manual or available 7-speed automatic transmission.
Peek closely at the brakes, and you’ll see the distinctive red — here on the front calipers — that defines much of the GLI look.
An available 10.25-inch high-resolution Digital Cockpit offers a unique experience for the driver.
TOP: Top-of-the-line comfort sport seats are standard; the Autobahn trim features leather-clad ventilated front seats that cool when the weather gets warm. Standard red contrasting stitching on the seats mimics the red accents throughout the interior.
BOTTOM: Every GLI comes with convenience-minded keyless entry with push-button start as standard.1 A 10-color ambient lighting system responds to the driving mode selection, or it can be customized manually. A 400-watt, eight speaker BeatsAudio® stereo system can crank up the excitement in the Autobahn trim. Paddle shifters, viewable in this photo, offer rapid shifting for the 7-speed DSG.
The 35th Anniversary Edition features more exclusive badging on its flanks, as well as unique dark grey wheels, black mirrors, and a black roof. It also has standard DCC® adaptive chassis control, which allows the driver to adjust suspension and handling characteristics with the push of a button.
A standard blacked-out rear spoiler complements other accents, including the distinctive GLI 35th Anniversary badge. (Not pictured) Special flags are stitched into the seats, front floor mats are embroidered with GLI35, and even the doorsills, backlit in red, mark the 35th Anniversary Edition.
How Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter” presented by Volkswagen is more than a ski movie
February 20, 2019
Since 1950, ski season in America has been synonymous with one name: Warren Miller. For the 69th installment of the skiing and snowboarding films, Warren Miller Entertainment created “Face of Winter” as a tribute to Miller, who died in January 2018. For the second year, Volkswagen of America was the presenting sponsor of the film, which focused on veterans and new athletes as they pay tribute to the legend.
We talked with Josh Haskins, producer of the film, about capturing the spirit of adventure in the snow and what makes the films a tradition.
What were you trying to capture during film productions?
We tried to capture all forms of sliding on snow and aspirational moments around the globe that documented skiing and snowboarding with incredible athletes in stunning locations. We also aim to capture stories of our heroes and give insight to their personalities.
What’s it like to produce a film with such high-volume action?
Producing our films year after year is a mixture of excitement, stress, joy, frustration and ultimately, complete gratitude when it finally hits the big screen in theaters during our Fall Film Tour. I believe the saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Our small team of film makers are passionate about upholding Warren’s legacy and continuing the tradition that started 70 years ago. So many variables work against us during production – weather and snow conditions are probably the biggest factor, along with athlete schedules, travel logistics and time constraints. I could go on and on, but the truth is, it’s all worth it.
As for the high-volume action, I would say that we are extremely calculated in the risks we take. We work with professional athletes, snow safety experts, qualified guides and established location support. Ultimately, we let the athletes call the shots. If they aren’t comfortable in a situation, we move on. We’ve been very fortunate over the years and have had few incidents in the field because we’re willing to make safe calls, even if it means not getting the images we had hoped for.
Are you an extreme sports enthusiast yourself?
Yes. I’ve been in British Columbia, Canada flying around in helicopters, filming and skiing steep couloirs, wide open powder fields and tight trees. I’ve been skiing and snowboarding longer than I can remember, and I love chasing winter around the world.
How do you make films like these in such tough conditions?
Right about the time our film tour launches in the fall, the production team is already planning the next feature film. We map out potential locations, athletes and overall movie themes and continue to develop and plan as winter approaches. Once the snow starts flying, we’re in full production mode, with film crews in the field December through May in the Northern Hemisphere and as late as August working in the Southern Hemisphere.
During production of “Face of Winter,” we broke our record of latest filming date, finishing location filming on August 26th. As we wrap location shoots, all the footage goes to our team of editors and they start editing the film. It’s a bit of a relay race, as each production department carries the baton and passes it off to the next team as we feel the time crunch to deliver the movie for the tour.
Was there an overarching feel you were trying to achieve while filming “Face of Winter”?
When Warren passed away in January of 2018, that changed the direction of the film. We still traveled to amazing global destinations with incredible athletes, but in addition to that, we paid homage to the man who started it all. The entire film pays tribute to Warren in a sense: The movie opens with a tribute to Warren and throughout the film, various athletes reminisce about how Warren affected their lives. The film ends with an inspiring look at the past decades of filmmaking that Warren was involved in.
Who are some of the athletes you feature in the movie?
Gold medalist Jonny Moseley narrates the film and travels to Iceland for some heli-skiing under the midnight sun, literally. Another incredible gold medalist, Jessie Diggins, along with the U.S. Cross Country Skiing team, train in New Zealand and recount their incredible win. There are many amazing athletes in the film: Dash Longe, Jim Ryan, 15-year old pro skier Simon Hillis, Anna Segal, Amie Engerbretson, gold medalist Seth Wescott, Rob Kingwill, Marcus Caston, Johan Johnnson, Kaylin Richardson, Jessica McMillan, Forrest Jillson. I’m sure I am missing a few others. We can’t make the movie without our dedicated team of athletes. They literally are The Face of Winter.
Both the Volkswagen Atlas and Volkswagen Tiguan were used during the filming of “Face of Winter” presented by Volkswagen. Did you have a chance to drive both vehicles? Which was your favorite and why?
I had the chance to drive both the Volkswagen Atlas and Volkswagen Tiguan while on location during the shoots. I really like the Tiguan; it has a sporty feel and look, but I have to say the Atlas is my favorite, especially the R-Line! The larger size and capacity for hauling ski, snowboard and camera equipment won me over. I’ve driven thousands of miles in an Atlas and it’s such a comfortable ride for extended road trips.
What can viewers expect to see in the film?
Beautiful ski destinations around the world, incredible athleticism from downhill skiers, snowboards and cross-country skiers, an eclectic soundtrack and a touching homage to Warren Miller himself.
A Beetle owner reunites with her first car after 22 years
February 14, 2019
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to your first car, or considered trying to track down the one that got away, Amanda Dorset can tell you what it feels like to chase down a memory.
Two decades ago as a teenager, Dorset bought, restored and sold her first car, a 1975 Volkswagen La Grande Bug. A few months ago, Dorset was able to reunite with her Beetle thanks to a little help from the Internet.
“It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me,” Dorset says.
Raised in Victoria, Virginia, Dorset had wanted a Beetle for as long as she could remember. Her dream car was likely inspired by her parents, who each owned a Beetle in their youth.
In 1996, she heard a classmate of hers was selling an old Beetle and pounced at the chance to see it. The La Grande Bug, marketed as a luxury model and one of the last Super Beetle sedans, was one of a line of limited-edition models with colorful names like the Sports Bug, Sun Bug and Champagne Bug, offering upscale touches like a wood-grain dash and a fuel-injected engine.
By the time Dorset laid eyes on it, the La Grande was not so grand. It still had its original Ancona-metallic blue paint and just 48,000 miles, but otherwise the Beetle was in desperate need of restoration. “It was a hunk of junk,” Dorset recalls. “It had trees growing from the floorboard!”
But Dorset was up to the challenge. Her stepfather even agreed to pay for the car, if she was able to rev up its engine. Thankfully – and much to their surprise – she was. “The dang thing had a little juice in her,” Dorset said. They bought it on the spot for $125.
Despite the car’s outward appearance, she painted her with a punchy coat of Plum Crazy purple and optimistically nicknamed the car “Pretty Purple Penny.” For months, she diligently worked with her mother and stepfather on fixing Penny part-by-part, replacing the car’s engine, floor pans, fender and seats.
“That car defined me because of the color,” Dorset recalls. “When I go down to Virginia, I say, ‘Hey, do you remember me? I used to drive the purple Beetle.’”
Dorset’s time with Penny was short-lived, but memorable. She drove her for eight or nine months before moving to New Jersey in 1999. During that time, she fondly recalls stories of getting lost, braving the weather and, once, thinking on her feet when she needed an unscheduled repair. “My defrost stopped working, so a repairman offered to bring it to his shop so he could fix it with beer cans,” she said.
Years passed, and Dorset wondered what happened to Penny. In the interim, she married a fellow VW enthusiast, and the two went on to own five other Volkswagens.
Late last year an old high school friend texted her a photo of a retired, purple Beetle in Meherrin, Va. Spotted in a Facebook ad, the plum Beetle was up for sale in a town seven miles from Dorset’s hometown. Was it her old Bug?
Although it was far from pretty – the car’s color had faded, and her wheels rotted – Dorset immediately recognized her long-lost bug. Yes, it was Penny, and she was looking for a new owner.
Right away, Dorset reached out to the seller and offered to buy the car on the spot for $525. Funny enough, Penny hadn’t forgotten her either. A custom decal, reading “Amanda” was still stuck on the car’s back windshield. When the seller “realized it was really my car, he says, ‘Oh my, your name is still on the back window,’” she said.
Today, Penny sits at Dorset’s father’s house in Green Bay, Va., awaiting their next adventure. Whether that’s on the road or as a static piece of history remains to be seen. “I don’t care,” says Dorset, “as long as it’s mine again.”
The new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI marks 35 years of four-door fun
February 7, 2019
The formula has been simple from the start: Pair a four-door, affordable compact sedan designed for everyday usability with the engine and handling prowess of a hot hatchback. Volkswagen first deployed this formula in 1984 when it created the first Jetta GLI, and the 2019 Jetta GLI unveiled today proves the old recipe still has a kick.
Redesigned with American drivers in mind, the new GLI has more power, more technology and more handling prowess than its predecessor, in a package that’s within reach of the compact-sedan market. While some automakers have either made their enthusiast offerings more expensive or eliminated them entirely, Volkswagen knew some car owners need a bit of fun from their vehicles.
“Volkswagen has long been synonymous with small, sporty cars,” said Scott Keogh, CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “The 2019 GLI takes the redesigned Jetta foundation and adds performance features from the Golf GTI to give buyers a true sport sedan that’s the best blend of European and American flavors.”
Start with the engine: the 2019 GLI borrows the GTI’s 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI engine, good for 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on premium fuel, an increase of 18 horsepower and 41 lb-ft from the previous GLI. That power gets to the road through a choice of either a six-speed manual or an advanced seven-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission – a type of transmission usually reserved for high-end performance vehicles.
To keep the 18-inch wheels planted, the GLI uses a strut front suspension and a new multilink independent rear suspension. The front brakes are shared with the Golf R, while the rears are upgraded from the regular Jetta. And the GLI also employs the VAQ torque-sensing limited-slip differential, a key part of the GTI performance package that helps to mitigate understeer while powering through corners.
Over the past three decades, the GLI models have typically played down their sporting capabilities on the outside. For the 2019 edition, Volkswagen designers turned the wick up a bit, beginning with a 0.6-inch drop in ride height. From the red GTI-themed line in the grille to the red brake calipers and integrated spoiler, finned diffusor and dual chrome exhaust tips, the GLI has more signs of the performance under the metal – but in a restrained, timeless way that’s more grown-up enthusiast than boy racer.
All of the performance enhancements are standard across the Jetta GLI trims. So too are several new driver assistance features, including Blind Spot Monitor, Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.1 And the Jetta GLI also comes with other popular features as standard, such as App-Connect cellphone connectivity,2 10-color ambient lighting, automatic climate control, keyless access3 and heated front seats.
For those who want something extra, the GLI’s options include the 400-watt BeatsAudio system, a sunroof, ventilated seats and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. For 2019, there will also be a Jetta GLI 35th Anniversary edition, with unique, dark gray-painted wheels, a black roof, mirror caps and spoiler, and badging. Inside the 35th Anniversary edition has unique seat tags, floormats and sill kickplates. This model also features the DCC adaptive damping system.
New to the GLI, a standard Drive Mode Selection allows drivers to customize their vehicle’s dynamic behavior. This system includes four modes: “Normal,” “Sport,” “Eco,” and “Custom.” Normal mode gives a balanced drive experience, while Sport is tuned for more dynamic throttle and shift responses, tighter steering, and a more aggressive exhaust note. Eco mode optimizes shift points, throttle response and climate control settings for improved fuel economy.4 And the Individual setting allows a driver to tailor the steering and throttle and climate control settings: on the 35th Anniversary edition with DCC, it allows the driver to change the damping as well.
The new Jetta GLI is scheduled to hit dealerships this spring. While pricing isn’t ready to be announced yet, the Jetta GLI will continue in the tradition of affordable performance it’s built over the past 35 years.
Building a sportier sedan: 35 years of the VW Jetta GLI
February 5, 2019
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Volkswagen’s Jetta GLI – a performance version of VW’s best-selling sedan. Over the past three decades, multiple generations of the Jetta GLI have delivered an affordable, family-friendly package to automotive enthusiasts. Ahead of unveiling the 2019 Jetta GLI at the Chicago Auto Show, let’s take a quick look back at the car’s history.
The Jetta GLI first arrived in the United States for the 1984 model year. After the successful launch of the Golf GTI – or as it was known here, the Rabbit GTI – Volkswagen decided to create a similar sporty version of the Jetta. Unlike the Golf GTI, the top-of-the-line Jetta had a four-door option, seating for five and a spacious trunk, which better fit the needs of the average American family.
The GLI’s first iteration was powered by many of the cutting-edge mechanical pieces featured in the Golf GTI, including a fuel-injected, 90-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine with revised cylinder heads, lighter pistons and higher compression ratio. It also had a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission and improved sports suspension.
The original GLI has become a rare classic, as it was only built for one model year. Its power numbers seem mild by modern standards, but in its day the first GLI was frequently tested against entry-level sports sedans from German luxury brands – and often came out on top.
As the Jetta evolved throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the GLI underwent several more enhancements to improve its performance and visual appeal. The first 16-valve, 2.0-liter engine arrived in the 1990 GLI, for instance.
2003 Jetta GLI
The new millennium brought a slew of improvements for GLI. The Mk4 Jetta debuted with Hartmutt Warkus’s modern, rounded design for the 1999 model year and the GLI returned for the 2002 model powered by the 2.8-liter narrow-angle VR6. In 2004, the more efficient 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct injection engine was also offered, the only time that GLI was offered with more than one engine.
The Mk5 Jetta GLI paired the 2.0-liter TSI turbo engine with an independent rear suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels. Where the original Jetta GLI was offered with few options, the Mk5 GLI ‘s demonstrated just how important tech and creature comforts had become for compact sedan owners, with available options such as touchscreen navigation, keyless entry and heated seats.
The fifth-generation version of the GLI, built on the Jetta Mk6 platform, offered 210 horsepower and available technologies like lane departure warning and blind spot detection systems.1 But the benefits of the GLI – a European-tuned sport sedan at an affordable price – were just as evident as when it first arrived in 1984. We’ll see what advances the next generation of Jetta GLI offers later this week.