Performance in the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta runs from unremarkable in the low-end trim levels to sporty daily driver on the top-end GLI.
The only engine option for drivers of the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta S, SE, or SEL models is a new 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that delivers 170 hp. This setup definitely won’t be winning awards for its ability to motivate the Jetta. Kelley Blue Book says that the 2008 Jetta is “now fast enough to nose its way past the pack when it has to.” Autoblog agrees, noting that “when you ask it to get the heck down the road, it will, eventually, respond,” but the “sluggish” engine could take its time to reach peak power delivery. Automobile calls it “anemic,” and says with the automatic, the Volkswagen Jetta takes 9.1 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph.
The other side of the Jetta model’s performance range is another story, as the 2008 Jetta in GLI or Wolfsburg Edition trim sports a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that puts out an additional 30 hp, bringing the total to an even 200 hp. This engine earns praise all around, both for its performance and its decent fuel requirements. ConsumerGuide finds that the “GLI models are satisfyingly quick, particularly in the 45-65-mph range.” The one drawback to the turbocharged engine on the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is that, as is the case with most turbo engines, there is a bit of turbo lag until the engine winds up into higher revs.
Edmunds explained that Volkswagen offers a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic on lower-end version. The SEL edition gets only the six-speed automatic, while the GLI version comes with Volkswagen’s slick six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Automobile says, “Both the manual and automatic transmissions are slick and fun to use,” but calls the dual-clutch gearbox the “best of both worlds.”
While acceleration and other engine-related performance varies throughout the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta lineup, the handling is universally excellent. European cars have long been praised for their exceptional handling characteristics, and the 2008 Jetta easily lives up to these standards. Edmunds feels that the Jetta’s steering and handling make it “a class standout” and notices that it “corners with grippy assurance and modest body lean.” Automobile says, “ride quality is excellent, and the handling is both entertaining and sure-footed.” In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the Jetta’s braking abilities were also heavily praised, but its electric power steering was deemed numb by several sources, including Automobile.
TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven the new Jetta, and think its powertrains start mediocre and finish brilliant. The base engine is a 170-hp, 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder with 177 pound-feet of torque. It’s a flat performer with either the notchy five-speed manual or the six-speed automatic. Volkswagen’s marvelous 2.0-liter turbocharged four, with 200 hp, is standard on the Jetta GLI, and it can be ordered with the magnificent dual-clutch transmission, easily the most entertaining drivetrain on the new Jetta. Fuel economy ranges from 22/29 mpg with the five-cylinder to 21/29 mpg with the turbo four--but a diesel version with up to 50 mpg highway fuel economy arrives at the end of summer 2008.