The GTI name and the heritage that goes with it are an asset to be sure for Volkswagen. Thing is, be it Golf, Rabbit, Polo or Lupo, the GTI is a hot hatch pure and simple. Days of slapping that moniker on cars outside the hot hatch spectrum such as the rare Scirocco GTI are long gone. The ground is now too hallowed.
Not so with GLI. GLI is a sedan to Americans and an enigma to everyone else. But, GTI owners often grow up, make babies and grow out of their GTIs. Enter the Passat.
This generation Passat has been a bit less loved by Volkswagen’s loyal owner group. Lackluster equipment packages except for the Euro-only R36 haven’t helped things and it can no longer boast being the “affordable Audi” as was the B5 generation with its Audi chassis and drivetrain sharing. Nevertheless, this car is a solid package underneath and I suspect it might be a bit better received if it had a younger spin.
That brings us back to the GLI name. Imagine, if you will, a Passat sedan and wagon that subscribe to the same philosophy as the GTI. Blacken the car’s chrome snout, add a red border to its grille and give it a more aggressive chin – maybe lifted wholesale from the R36. Throw in some bolstered sport seats with the GTI’s trademark plaid surfaces, along with the Jetta GLI’s flat-bottomed sport steering wheel and accenting red stitching. Ditch the car’s Tiptronic transmission for DSG and offer a manual. Fit a set of 19-inch GTI-design 5-spoke alloys and tune the suspension to handle more like a GTI and I suspect you’d have a real winner.