Whatever the reason might be, Volkswagen enthusiasts never seemed to hold the third generation GTI in as high regard as some other iterations of this hot hatchback. While the Mk2 GTI 16V seemed to hit the nail on the head in terms of what boy racers desired, the Mk3 fell just a bit short of that mark, in four-cylinder form. No one was complaining about the superb new VR6 engine available, however, US customers were left with a modest 2.0 liter 8V four-cylinder that produced only 115 horsepower. It was a torquey unit, but performance at the top end was less than stellar. Regardless, I enjoyed my time with my final year 1998 GTI 2.0. I miss that car to this day, even if my 2006 MINI Cooper S blows the doors off it performance wise. Like the Audi A8L 6.0 W12 we saw yesterday, this 1995 GTI 16V was a model not offered in the US. Looking great with just over 100,000 miles on the clock, you don’t see Mk3s this nice hanging about anymore.
The year is 1997, I’ve recently turned 11, and mountain biking is my thing. My 21 speed Trek is my ticket to freedom, and adventure, I’m old enough to now be allowed to ride it anywhere in my small town, and strong enough to take it on some of the more aggressive wooded trails. One day while out for a ride a car blows past me, not anything out of the ordinary, just a Mk III Jetta. But up on the roof rack, well, there sat a pristine Trek with one of the freshest paint jobs I’d ever laid eyes on. If Google had existed I would have gone straight home, and looked up all the pertinent information about this uber cool bicycle, and known that it was a special edition in partnership with Volkswagen. Instead, it wouldn’t be until I accompanied my parents to a local VW dealership that I would come to learn about the Jetta Trek edition.
For a brief amount of time, I drove a Mk3 Volkswagen GTI. While it didn’t have the VR6, I still have fond memories of that car. It wasn’t the sportiest of hot hatches, nor the fastest, but it did everything well and I had nary a problem with it. Midway through the Mk3 production run, Volkswagen went a bit wild with the paint shop and released the Golf Harlequin. This was part of a design series for VW and an attempt to draw more traffic in the showrooms. There were four versions of the Harlequin, each with a different “base” color. This Harlequin for sale in Washington state has a Ginster Yellow base color and seems to have escaped the ravages of rust that plagued many Mk3 Golfs. It is also refreshing to see one that hasn’t been modified and the mileage is reasonable considering its age.
In the past, I’ve used the Friday Fail to examine some pretty awful ads and terrible aesthetic choices. With today’s column, however, I’d like to put it to our readers to decide if this is a full-on fail, or if there is some merit to this Jetta. I happen to really dig the 2-door Jettas as both Mk1s and Mk2s, cutting a similar cropped 3-box style to the E30 coupes (compare these to their four-door brethren and then try to wrap your field of vision around a 4-series… who’s failing now?) This one has some choice Dublover retrofits like a VR6, outstanding Porsche D90 wheels, and a clean Trophy interior. The body modifications, however, are where the fail starts to seep in. I don’t hate how the Mk2 Big Bumpers look on it, or rather how they could look on it if fully modified to fit, but their slight sag makes my linear-loving brain blow gaskets. The rear bumper is the worst, which brings us to the next fail: if you’re going to give such great detail about what you’ve added to the car, CAN’T YOU TAKE MORE THAN TWO PICTURES?! At least SHOW us how that saggy butt really looks so we can start to picture how to fix it.
$6,500 isn’t bad for a mostly cool-looking Jetta Coupe with a VR6 and Porsche wheels. But having two pictures is the domain of $850 OBO “NEDS WRK AC BROKN” eBay specials. So, is it a big Fail this Friday, or just in need of a serious in-person investigation?
Volkswagen popularized the concept of the hot hatch in the 1970s with the GTI, but they moved the chains in the 1990s when they shoved the newly introduced VR6 engine under the bonnet of the Mk3 GTI. Mazda got the jump on Volkswagen in the six cylinder hatchback game by a few years with their MX-3, having a 1.8 liter V6 as an option. But the GTI VR6 had much more brawn and that famous, baritone exhaust note. This 1997 GTI VR6 for sale in Oregon is a two owner, unmolested car.
Sometimes the most unsuspecting vehicles in the lineup make for the most interesting tuning subjects. The introduction of the VR6 engine in the early 1990s got the enthusiasts’ minds racing, especially when it was dropped under the hood of the Mk3 GTI. Hot hatchbacks would never be the same again. Ever since, the VR6 has found its way into unsuspecting VWs, from Mk1 Golfs to drop top cruisers such as this Mk3 Cabrio for sale from our reader Daniel. Under the hood you’ll find a 2.8 liter VR6 with a shot in the arm by way of a Vortech supercharger and coupled to a limited slip differential.
Back when I had my Mk3 GTI 2.0, I longed for the day I could afford a VR6. Even though the added horsepower coupled with front-wheel drive generally goes against my motoring tendencies, I think it is safe to say this narrow angle V6 was one of the best powerplants of the last couple decades, ranking up there with BMW’s inline-6 and Audi’s 4.2 liter V8. The VR6 ended up in a lot of different VAG products and still does duty in some models in various forms to this day. One of the lesser seen VR6 engined VWs you see these days is the Mk3 Jetta GLX VR6. Offering similar thrills to the GTI but with added practicality, this was a formidable competitor in its class. Like the Mk3 Golfs and GTIs, it’s near impossible to find good examples of the Mk3 Jetta, no matter what engine it’s packing. This GLX VR6 for sale in Philadelphia is a little rough around the edges but has the all-important 5-speed manual gearbox and is generally nicer than any others I’ve seen on the market as of late.
To this day, I still miss my 1998 Volkswagen GTI 2.0. I’ve talked a lot about it here on this blog, and while the Mk3 GTI isn’t the most loved of all these hot hatches, I found a lot to like, especially after I traded it for the Mk4 GTI 2.0 that was a problem child from the get go. Rarely do you see a Mk3 GTI that isn’t unmodified or clapped out, but this 1997 Ginster Yellow VR6 example for sale in Pennsylvania about as close to a clean, unmolested example as I’ve seen in the past six months.
Model: GTI VR6
Engine: 2.8 liter VR6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 123,566 mi
Price: Reserve auction
This is a really nice rare Ginster Yellow GTI VR6. It only has 123k miles on it. It runs and drives awesome. These cars are getting hard to find in this nice condition. The only thing I would fault this car for is a small quarter size blister on the hatch as shown in the picture. The fuel door and shock towers are completely rust free. The floor is very solid no holes just a little bit of rust at the seems. Don’t let this one get away. Any questions call 717-273-9331.
The beauty about the Mk3 GTI 2.0 and VR6 is that they fall into a bit of a gray area with collectors and Volkswagen enthusiasts at the moment. While the Mk1 and Mk2 GTIs are very much sought after, the Mk3 and certainly Mk4 are newer and had a few teething issues to go along with heavier curb weight and less sharp handling. Still, a VR6 Mk3 is a cracking drive that you can snag for reasonable money. Expect a VR6 with this kind of mileage to sell in the range of $3,000 to $4,000.
Since we featured a cheap BMW 3 series yesterday, I couldn’t pass up following it on with this Mk3 Golf four door with a touch over 46,000 miles. You could file this car under cheap thrills or simply “don’t see ’em.” Almost all of these Mk3 Golfs have been used up to within an inch of their lives, with the errant mint GTI turning up here and there. But a four door Golf GL? What prompted someone to keep this in such great shape? Nevertheless, with an economical and reliable 2.0 liter four cylinder and 5-speed manual, this would be a great car for the university set or for someone in need of a commuter who doesn’t want to break the bank but enjoy decent MPGs along the way.
Model: Golf GL
Engine: 2.0 inline four
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 46,360 mi
Impressive 1998 Volkswagen Golf GL with a reserve below NADA. Only 46,000 miles on this gas saving classic. 5-speed transmission, gorgeous color combination, total gas miser. In a condition that is sure to impress you. Look closely at these untouched pictures and you will be amazed that this Golf is over fourteen years young. This is one great Golf GL! The exterior White finish is glossy and in tremendous condition with no dings or dents. The interior Grey cloth seating is soft and supple and extremely comfortable. There are no rips, tears or stains and the interior is odor free. This Golf GL will provide you with years of safe driving & enjoyment. Offered at a price that will not break the bank, this gas miser along with its great reputation for performance & dependability will supply its new owner with solid and inexpensive transportation.
The dealer states the reserve is below NADA, which would set the price at just over $3,500. Almost $5,000 is pretty steep for most Mk3 Golfs, this one included. I’d suspect $4,500 might be a good value to place on this car, as it is a bit over clean retail but accounts for the cleanliness and low mileage. With crank windows, a manual transmission and few electronic accessories, this car harkens back to more basic times and has me pining for my 1998 GTI 2.0. I miss that car, not because it was terribly fast, stylish or luxurious. Rather, it was honest, reliable transportation.