Recently, my mechanic picked up an interesting car. It’s a Golf GLS 2.0. Immediately, it’s a car that most will dismiss as being perhaps the least exciting Volkswagen produced in modern times, if not the least reliable. He tossed me the keys when I turned up with a broken front spring in the Passat (Thank you, Rhode Island Department of
Pothole Management Transportation) .
Stepping into the Mk.4 from the B5.5 Passat, you’ll feel instantly right at home. The two share a majority of switchgear and the layout is identical. However, the quality of the Golf is lower, and it’s immediately evident the moment you turn the key. There’s less noise isolation, there’s more plastic, and the feel of the car is not as refined as the Passat. There are fewer options, too.
However, there are redeeming qualities. I can get the 1.8T in my Passat to return well over 30 mpg. But, to get those numbers you really have to go easy on the throttle. Not so in the Golf, which returns well over 30 mpg seemingly regardless of what you do with the loud pedal. And though the Mk.4 has gained a reputation for being unreliable, what immediately struck me was that everything still worked. Cruise control, power mirrors, seat heaters, air conditioning, radio, sunroof – it was all working on this relatively loaded GLS model. That was especially curious when I looked at the odometer, because still on its original engine, his 2003 Golf had an almost unfathomable 273,000 miles on it – yet it looked, ran and drove like it had less than half that amount.
For a car he picked up for around a thousand dollars, I’m not sure what more you could ask, so I decided to keep an eye out for one to pop up.…
For me, the Jetta got a lot more interesting when it came to the fourth generation. That’s mostly because the Mk.4 came in a myriad of variations. Sure, there was no coupe as there had been in the first and second iterations. But I’d gladly trade the odd two-door sedan for what did come to the U.S., as the Golf Variant finally arrived here as the Jetta Wagon. Engine choices were plentiful, as well; the base 2.0 continued on, but there was the torquey and tunable 1.8T, the thrifty 1.9 TDI, and…of course…the 2.8 liter VR6, Volkswagen’s party hat since 1992.
Mild revisions in the late 1990s gave the VR6 174 horsepower and 181 lb.ft of torque. In most Jettas, the VR6 had been paired with the “GLX” package since the prior generation. They were fully loaded with electrical accessories and leather interiors in an attempt to bring the economy sedan closer to near-luxury models. But since the GLX and VR6 came with a serious premium on the Jetta – almost $6,000 over the base price of the 2.0 GLS Wagon – Volkswagen offered a de-contented GLS version of the VR6. I remember a friend purchasing one when new and excitedly showing it to me. There it was – a Jetta which looked pretty much like every other Jetta, but with a VR6 under the hood. It had smaller 16″ wheels, cloth interior, and…like pretty much every other basic Jetta…an automatic.
So, two days after the last cheap and interesting spec Jetta, here we are again. This one is in a very interesting configuration, as well. It’s a GLS wagon – so, cloth interior and no sunroof, but it was selected with the VR6 motor and is mated to a 5-speed manual. Talk about a sleeper!
The last Golf I took a look at was a high-spec GLS TDi model from the end of the run. A popular niche vehicle, the turbo diesel Golf is a hot commodity and even with over 170,000 miles bids were quick to crest $4,000, finally ending with a $4,350 sale. Yet it’s far from the most desirable, or indeed the most valuable, model within a robust lineup of favorites.
There’s the all-wheel drive 3.2 liter VR6 R32, often with asks that rival multiple generations of M3s:
2004 Volkswagen Golf R32
There’s the 20th Anniversary Edition GTI, a turbocharged terror with great looks:
2003 Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition with 9,800 Miles
There’s the Edition 337 – a limited collector-friendly model that kicked off a new generation of turbocharged Golf performance:
Feature Listing: 2002 Volkswagen GTI 337 Edition
And though it carried a ‘Jetta’ badge, we finally got the “Golf Variant” wagon, replete with your choice of 1.8T, 2.0, TDi or even a gutsy 2.8 liter VR6 hooked to a manual:
2002 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6 Wagon
So the Mk.4 range really has a devoted following and plenty of love to spread around to make you a bit unique. Today’s car, though, is none of those collector favorites. What we have here is a Flash Red first-year Golf. No TDi, no VR6, not even a GLS. No, this is a standard Golf. Except it’s not a standard Golf, because it’s an automatic. But before you click away, this one’s odometer hasn’t yet turned 23,000 miles….
Where to start….where to start….
So, in the realm of ‘Least Desirable Volkswagen Products’ enthusiasts bemoan, the New Beetle must surely rank very high on the list. But every once in a while one pops up that is worthy of consideration. Maybe they have low mileage or are a neat color. Sometimes they’re turbocharged, making them pretty quick, too – all attributes of this 1999 example. Presented in L9L9 Cyber Green Metallic, it’s traveled only 23,000 miles in its life and its the more macho 1.8T speedbug. Though it’s clearly not stock, we’ve recently looked at a well modified Beetle that pulled off big-dollar mods at a budget price.
Tuner Tuesday GCFSB Alumnus: 2002 Ruf Volkswagen Beetle Turbo S Concept
So when I first caught the gallery shot, it looked as though the owner of this car tried to replicate the super-sweet Beetle RSI – not a bad thing, if it was pulled off correctly.
This one is not pulled off correctly.
However, if you’d like a few chuckles, read on.
Continuing on the diesel theme from yesterday, let’s take a look at another no spark Volkswagen. Again we have one that flies below the radar but is worth a lot more than you’d expect. The pre-scandal TDis have a serious niche following. While not quite as set-it-and-forget-it as the 1Z, the derivatives – first the AHU, then the later ATD/AXR and other models similar to today’s example, were nonetheless high-mileage warriors. Rated at 100 horsepower and 177 lb. ft of torque, performance wasn’t outstanding – 0-60 took a few ticks over 11 seconds, it’d take a half minute to hit 100 and top speed was limited to 115 mph. But then you weren’t really buying this car for it’s straight line acceleration. What you were buying it for was notable longevity and, of course, fuel mileage. At a time when the standard 2.0 inline-4 struggled to return about 30 mpg at best and the 1.8T was no better, the premium for the TDi gave you 33 mpg city and over 40 on the highway. You could stretch it even farther on a tank if you were careful. Impressive? Well, for the time, it was one of the very few diesel motors you could buy in the U.S. and set the stage for the popularity of the Mk.5 models.
As we saw with the Jetta Wagon, the ‘GLS’ trim moved upscale and included nicer wheels and interior bits. But just like that Jetta, the combination of a 4-door Golf, GLS trim, the turbo diesel motor and a 5-speed manual are quite hard to come by:
While I spend most of my early 2000s Volkswagen attention on Passats and GTIs, there was another pretty compelling package in that period. The Jetta Wagon launched in 2002 and brought with it a myriad of engines and transmission options. Finally, the United States had access to the ‘Golf Variant’ that the rest of the world had enjoyed through the 1990s. And, you could have a TDi, a VR6 or even the 1.8T hooked up to a manual. Aside from it being called a Jetta and therefore you had the same car as all of the ‘Jenna’s from ‘Jersey (‘Cause, like, it’s like almost the same like spelling as like my name is like OMG!!!), there weren’t many drawbacks to the small wagon.
Judging from the number of Mk.4 Jetta Wagons that I still see on the road, the TDi was the most successful model sold in this area. Neat – in theory – is the VR6 model with a 5-speed manual, though finding one can be a bit of a trick. And they were pricey; you’d assume the Jetta would be cheaper than the more upscale Passat, right? Not always. While my 1.8T GLS Passat went out the door around $26,000 in 2002, if you opted for a modestly equipped VR6 Jetta you’d pay over $27,000. And while the VR6 may have seemed to be the best bet, I’d argue that the 1.8T was better value.
That’s because for the 2002 model year, Volkswagen reprogrammed the 1.8T to make a bit more twist. The resulting AWW was seen in the GTI and GLI cars, but also carried over unchanged in the Jetta. Rated at 180 horsepower, it produced 10 horsepower more than the Passat and 6 more than the 2.8 liter SOHC 12V VR6. While the GLI package didn’t carry to the wagons, you could still get 17″ wheels, leather interior, a 5-speed manual and some pretty colors, too:
News broke this morning that the brand new RS4 Avant is unsurprisingly not coming to the United States. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought it and the 1.8 million who claim on the internet they would if given the option, it follows a long tradition in German motoring of leaving the best of the breed in the homeland. When it came to the GTI, not only did we have to wait several years before we got the hot Golf, but indeed it was a bit watered down and heavier when it did arrive. The same continued in the next two generations; more weight, less power. Both in the second and third generations we also lost out on supercharging, all-wheel drive and special body kits available in the European market.
Once again in 2001, a neat Golf was launched that – of course – wasn’t coming to the United States. But of all of the special editions that weren’t sold here, perhaps this one made the most sense to be excluded. It was called the 25th Anniversary Edition and you didn’t need to be good at math to realize that there was no GTI sold here 25 years before 2001. Since the “18 year Anniversary Edition” didn’t make much sense from a marketing perspective even in spite of Volkswagen’s continual spotty judgement in that regard, it was no surprise that it wasn’t offered. That was too bad, as it had a lowered suspension, better brakes, a bit more power, fantastic Recaro seats and the best looking BBS wheels fit to any Volkswagen, ever. Volkswagen enthusiasts in America drool inwardly and shouted openly, so in 2002 Volkswagen finally did bring the special edition here. Again, since “19th Anniversary” didn’t make any sense, we instead got the “337” Edition.…
As I talked about in the recent post about the 20th Anniversary Edition GTI, the 2002 ‘337’ was the GTI to get when they launched. The moniker derived from the original project code – EA337 – for the first generation GTI, and effectively the 2002 337 was a carbon copy of the 25th Anniversary model that was a Europe-only special from 2001. Hunkered down with the 1BE sport suspension, the 337 wore 18″ specially painted BBS RC wheels with low profile 225-section tires. Red calipers grabbed 12.4″ front vented discs and 10″ in the rear, also with veining. Powering the 337 was a 1.8 liter, 20V turbocharged motor, good for 180 horsepower, mounted to a new MQ350 6-speed manual gearbox. Underneath was a stainless steel exhaust system tuned to emit a bit more noise than a standard model. Inside the GTI got Recaro “Le Mans” red and black cloth seats, a special golf ball shift knob, aluminum interior accents and Monsoon radio system. Finally, a unique Votex body kit and retro badging helped to distinguish this model as the one to get for 1,500 lucky U.S. customers:
The New Beetle isn’t a car which often featured on these pages. In fact, I can only find three times since we’ve started this site that they’ve come up. Considering that we’ve written up about 1,200 M3s in that same time period, I guess our stance on the Golf-based image car is pretty clear. However, the bones of the New Beetle aren’t really all that bad; based on the Mk.4 chassis, there are plenty of parts available and they’re cheap to buy. They offer a pretty practical hatchback package with some additional style. And, in turbocharged 1.8T form, they even offered a sporty ride.
Introduced in 2002, the Turbo S turned that package up a notch with help from the GTI. Underneath, the AWP-code 1.8T was rated at 180 horsepower at 11.6 lbs of boost, and had matching 173 lb.ft of torque. The transversely-mounted power was channeled through the same 6-speed manual you’d find in VW’s hot hatch and no automatic was available. Volkswagen outfit these cars with standard stability control and loaded them up with Monsoon sound, sunroof, active aerodynamics, leather, aluminum trim, power accessories and keyless entry. They also got special white and black gauges inside and a more pronounced twin-tip exhaust, along with fog lights integrated into new bumper covers. To help manage the speed, Volkswagen’s 1BE lower and stiffer suspension package was fit, along with BBS-made “Delta X” 17″ wheels with 225-45-17 tires. The package was pricey, at nearly $24,000 in 2002 – a not unsubstantial amount, considering that money would get you into the much nicer chassis of the Passat in wagon form at the same time. Unlike the pastel-toned entry colors of the New Beetle, the Turbo S was only available in Black, Silver, Platinum or Red with a total of 5,000 produced. Volkswagen hoped that these sporty changes would re-character the model which had primarily appealed in only one sexual demographic.…
While the GTi, and more recently “R” models, have enjoyed the Volkswagen performance limelight, in the background has been an equally fun and nearly as capable sedan. Since the A1 chassis, Volkswagen has offered the same underpinnings with slightly different style in the betrunken Jetta (clever, that), and just like the GTi there have been some special models along the way. For example, the Wolfsburg Limited Edition “Helios” GLi was one of my favorite 80s VWs, with the beautiful blue color matched on the BBS RA alloys and uniquely striped Recaro seats. While the Mk.3 model lost the GLi in favor of the upscale GLX VR6 models, the GLi made a triumphant return in the Mk.4. As with the Golf, it was available with either VR6 or 1.8T turbocharged powerplants, and in fact the Jetta got an undercover screamer in a 24V version of the VR6 not offered in the Golf. Today, though, we’re taking a look at the equivalent of the 20th Anniversary Edition GTi in the Jetta lineup: