This car sold for $7,000.
I have to admit that when I initially heard the details of the 337 Edition GTI, I was very excited. To me, it seemed like Volkswagen had finally gotten the message and brought us a modern interpretation of the car that I loved, the 1990-1992 GTI 2.0 16V. After a period of low performance 4-cylinder variants, the pokey 1.8T was now pumping out 180 horsepower and matching torque – finally, the car had the go to match the show. While the VR6 had continued into the fourth generation GTI, the accompanying weight, luxury items and electronic throttle meant that while horsepower numbers went up, the seat of the pants kick and thrill that was the hallmark of the original and 16V GTI – and even the Mk.3 VR6 – had been replaced by a stout highway cruiser. As if to answer critics and revisit the original formula, in 2001 Volkswagen introduced a stripped down, turned up version of the GTi called the 25th Anniversary edition, celebrating the original 1976 launch. For me, it was a return to form for the original hot hatch with some great updates. Unfortunately, it wasn’t heading to the U.S., because of course we didn’t receive the GTI until the 1983 model year. But U.S. fans were taken care of too when the nearly identical GTI 337 was launched. Outside, it got some awesome shot-peened BBS RC wheels that looked stunning compared to the rather bland wheel styles that had adorned the GTI since the BBS RMs on the 16V. Behind those wheels were beefed up brakes and red calipers, because red is of course faster (or, slower in that case?). It also sported a new body kit that highlighted the lower stance – hunkering the GTi down over those great wheels. After a period of hidden tailpipes, a polished exhaust tip emerged from the rear valance – a nice change for sure! Inside, special details like brushed trim, red-stitched shift boot and special “Golf Ball” knob for the 6-speed manual and some awesome Recaro seats greeted you. And to keep weight down, no sunroof was offered. This was a sporty car that went like it looked for a change! Limited to 1,500 examples, it was an instant hit and apparently a good bet for a future collectable:
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:
Let’s discount, just for a moment, the reputation of the fourth generation water-cooled, front engined platform from Volkswagen. Yes, they’re known for not having the best build quality, and they were a bit pudgy. The electrics were sketchy and Volkswagen’s venerable 1.8T, which found its way into nearly every VAG product in the late 90s and early 00s, is certainly not without fault. But in many ways, the Mk.4 platform offered some exciting options for the Volkswagen faithful. First, the introduction of the turbocharged engine into the platform redefined the possibilities of the hot hatch. It was available not only in the top-spec GTi, but you could get a 4-door 1.8T, too – a first for Volkswagen, who had offered hot 4-door hatches in Europe but not the U.S. previously. Then, in 2002, Volkswagen upped its game even more with the introduction of the 25th Anniversary Edition in Europe. “But the GTi didn’t come out until 1983” U.S. fans said, forgetting that 1977 was the launch year of the 1.6 original in Europe. It seemed, for some time, that the U.S. would get snubbed again. After all, it wouldn’t be very smart for them to offer a 25th Anniversary Edition of a car that didn’t exist here, and “19th Anniversary” doesn’t have the same ring. But then, at the New York Auto Show in 2002, Volkswagen surprised U.S. fans by offering the near-identical package to them. The name was the GTi 337 Edition; the name harkened back to the original project code for the Golf GTi. Beefed up with 180 horsepower, a 6-speed manual, an awesome set of Recaro seats, aero tweaks and with some awesome shot-peened BBS RC wheels, it was an instant hit. Volkswagen sold 1,500 of these models to U.S. fans, and then when they had sold out, recreated the magic in 2003 with colorful options in the 20th Anniversary Edition. Today we’re looking at the 337 though, and I’ve found three for sale in varying states. 13 years on, are these hot hatches still appealing?