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Manual transmission brings back memories driving the new 2021 VW Jetta

By Craig And Deanne Conover - | May 23, 2021
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The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T Autobahn.

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The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T Autobahn.

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The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T Autobahn.

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The interior of the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T Autobahn.

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The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T Autobahn.

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The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T Autobahn.

Every time we have the chance to drive a VW Jetta, it takes us back to early 2008 when it came time to sell our VW Golf turbodiesel we had been using as an everyday vehicle, and at the time were quite impressed with the 50-plus mpg it would get.

We came across a limited edition Jetta Fahrenheit GLI, clad with a bright yellow cover and interior yellow stitching to accent the black leather seats. It was tons of fun to drive and sure got a lot of attention, on and off the road. Complete with a manual transmission and low-profile tires, it was about as close to a sports car as we were going to get with three kids at home.

Fast forward 13 years and there is still a Jetta GLI and it can still be had with a manual transmission! This time around, however, our test ride came clad in a bright fire engine red with red-accent stitching on the interior.

The manual transmission did take us back in time and was very enjoyable to get around with, bringing with it the thrill of acceleration and maneuverability that always comes with a stick shift. However, since it is 13 years later, we are getting a little older and would most likely opt for an automatic transmission this time around.

The included 2.0-liter turbocharged engine puts out a very nice 228 horsepower and 258 ft.-lbs. of torque, proving to be just the perfect amount of fun and excitement. Our old Jetta only managed 200 ponies so there has been a pretty significant injection of power, as it brought back many fond memories.

Some of those were great and some maybe not so much as having two teenage boys around at that time it seems they both got tickets in the bright yellow Jetta. Always great to get a call from the local arm of law enforcement saying your son has been driving around a bit too fast in your car!

After a week, two trips to Salt Lake City and a bunch of running around on surface streets, we managed a very nice 29.2 mpg. Proving there is something to be said for a manual transmission as we were over the EPA estimate.

Over the past 13 years, VW has defiantly come a long way in the technology department, with the new 2021 Autobahn trim level being loaded with all kinds of things that we could not have even dreamed of back in 2008.

Ours came with Volkswagen’s new digital cockpit that includes a 10-inch LED display, completely user configurable with 21 different viewing options. It would even put the navigation right there front and center after inputting our destination.

The infotainment screen was a huge 8 inches covered in glass with volume and tuning knobs on each side. Our phones connected wirelessly, providing both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto without a tethering cord to the VW. It also allowed us to use both phones at the same time and answer either on the drive if they rang.

There also was an included wireless charger to keep a phone charged on the drive, again without any wires. We have come to love this new technology and the way it works seamlessly each time we got into the vehicle.

Ambient lighting is quickly becoming an option with many new vehicles and the Jetta was not to be left out, with 10 different color settings that would change with the drive mode or could be set by the driver. It made for a beautiful interior especially during nighttime driving.

The seats in the Autobahn trim were black and leather clad with a red stitching theme that continued throughout the interior. They are now both heated and cooled making our springtime drive complete as temperatures went from the high 70s to upper 30s during the week, leaving us never knowing if we would need heat or air conditioning.

Volkswagen Car-Net is also standard on the GLI with app connections allowing drivers to interface through smart phones with the app. Access to the Jetta can now be accomplished through this app that also includes a way to hook an Amazon Alexa device through Car-Net.

It will call emergency responders if needed, unlock the car, find the car, alert owners when in valet mode if the car travels more than 0.2 miles — so much for the valets going on a joy ride. It will even provide a curfew limit and area limit for those teens that want to take the GLI out. Oh how we could have used a system like that when our sons were growing up!

The new Jetta also comes with all kinds of safety features that included front collision warning and emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist and even an adaptive cruise control. This even worked with the six-speed manual transmission when we were out driving on the freeway, although start and stop technology was not part of the manual transmission package.

Having the new Jetta for a week was like going back in time with a truly technologically advanced vehicle, which still had the fun to drive attributes that we enjoyed oh so long ago.

Base Price: $30,745

Price as Driven: $31,740

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