When we had the car on the street it was still set up for the track. If it was our daily driver we probably would raise it up a half to three quarters of an inch, but then again we have a parking garage with speed bumps affectionately known as Everest and K2. Otherwise, the car is completely livable. Maybe not to the point that it should be on every GTI sold, but as a limited-run car it could really work.
Mk V Jetta GLI
Of all the Mk Vs we've seen since its launch in 2006, this is by far the best looking and best handling. It's essentially a TDI Cup Car clone without the TDI engine. This includes the TDI Cup front bumper, which changes the entire look. Side skirts, a rear valance and a rear lip spoiler round out the aesthetics. We're sure that these parts will fly out of VW parts departments like grilled bratwurst during Oktoberfest.
The suspension set-up on the clone car is even more serious than the GTI's. It's almost punishing on the street, but on the track, its natural home, it's amazing. Dampers are custom units from Sachs, the springs are from Eibach, and it was all set up by VW race engineers. The only off-the-shelf parts are the H&R sway bars. With the stiffness of the springs and damping rates, we aren't really sure just exactly how much they're getting out off the sway bars, but since they are adjustable, they allow for fine-tuning of the car's balance. Like the Red Racer, this car also uses adjustable strut tower mounts to dial in static camber, and the geometry is held constant with spherical bearings all around.
Whoever did the brakes must be the kinds of guys that fish with dynamite; overkill just isn't in their vocabulary. The front brakes are straight off the mighty Audi R8. The giant assemblies required Passat front spindles and custom mounting brackets to fit the eight-piston calipers. Audi did as much as possible to decrease the 15-inch rotors' mass, but on street tires it's tough to justify the extra weight. We never experienced the slightest fade, but we'd stick to the R32 brakes if it were ours.
The engine is tuned to same level as the GTI, APR software and exhaust. The biggest difference in the drivetrain besides being a manual in the Jetta, is the lack of the differential. When we tested, the diff was still back at headquarters waiting to be installed. This demonstrated the difference between an LSD and an open diff. Coming off corners saw tire spin and the car wasn't nearly as ferocious at chasing apexes. We found ourselves turning in later and trying to straighten out exits to use the fronts more for forward thrust than lateral g-forces.
On-track the suspension showed flat cornering and no dive or squat. You imagine yourself Hans Stuck banging fenders with a Mercedes DTM car. The car is neutral at the apex, but gets a little understeer going when boost comes on. Going into the corner, the brakes are insane, while the street tires struggle to get even half of the potential stopping power to the ground. Modulation is still good and they are surprisingly easy to use on the street, but again, they really are overkill.
Divining The Future
Driving both of these cars reaffirmed our belief that Volkswagen is back on track, but it's hard to know what to make of the projects exactly. Are they test beds for future performance parts? Are they testing ideas for the next-generation GTI and GLI, or maybe even R-line vehicles? We don't know and VW isn't saying, but it's encouraging that they exist nonetheless. Who wouldn't like to see a full line of factory-warranted performance products available at your dealer, or even available to purchase on brand-new cars? That would be something we didn't even have back in the Mk II golden age.
2008 GTI "Red Racer"
Tansverse front engine, front-wheel drive
2.0-liter inline four, dohc, 16-valve, turbocharged and intercooled.APR stage-II software, cat-back exhaust