Continuing on my theme of rare European treats, here’s a Jetta you don’t see every day. While the market may have seemed fairly saturated by the 2000s with all-wheel drive wagons – including Volkswagen’s own Passat Variant 4Motion – that didn’t stop VW from bringing a new generation of small wheel drive five-doors to customers. Of course, there had been a Mk.3 Golf Variant Syncro available with the VR6 previously – I looked at one a few years ago:
4WD Week: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Variant 2.9 VR6 Syncro
The Syncro name was dropped for the 4th generation and fell in line with the new 4Motion branding shared with the Passat. However, while the Passat’s longitudinal drivetrain borrowed Audi’s B5 quattro system, the Mk.4 was of course transverse. As a result, the Mk.4’s Haldex system was shared with the Audi A3 and TT. The Golf Variant was also renamed the Bora Variant, and thus was born today’s car. Engine revisions mid-run led to this model: the 2.8 V6 4Motion Highline. While the car is branded “V6” and if you open the engine bay it even says “V6” on the beauty cover, it was in fact a 24 valve variant of the 2.8 liter narrow-angle VR6. Dubbed the BDF and rated at 201 horsepower, that made this a little all-wheel drive pocket rocket 5-door, and just like the R32 we saw it could be mated to a manual transmission:
While the last few VWs have been a bit strange in some way or other, each held a specific subset of people absolutely obsessed with them. The same does not seem to be true of today’s Mk.III Jetta GLX VR6, which is strange to me since it has the hallmarks of a potential collector.
Purists decried the arrival of the “grown up” A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled – that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLi models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLi had been, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Volkswagen Jetta III, as it was known in the US, was introduced at a time when US sales were at their lowest and it appeared as if VW was considering pulling out of the US market. This generation Jetta became the best selling Volkswagen by the time the production run ceased in 1999. It was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so it’s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days:
The year is 2019 and we are full into an era where a first generation Porsche Cayenne can be had for the cost of a German Shepherd puppy. Seriously these, along with its hunky cousin Volkswagen Touareg, are trading for shockingly low prices thanks to the classic formula of low demand, low quality and higher than normal repair costs at a higher than normal rate. Buying one of these now is a gamble that I don’t think anyone is really ready for because while money can fix anything, you can’t buy more time from the inconvenience that these things can cause. If you wanted to snag one for a pure hobby knowing that this is going to be a bumpy ride, there is one special build that is worth looking out for: the 6-speed manual.
For whatever reason, Porsche brought over a handful of 6-speed manuals mated to their 240 horsepower version of the 3.2 VR6 in the 5,000 lb. base model Cayenne. I’m sure every dealer who were allocated these had thoughts about not setting the parking brake and letting them roll away given how hard these were to sell when new. While Porsche also brought the 6-speed manual in the GTS model, that one was mated to a 405 horsepower V8 and sold as a performance model, so it made sense in a way. Here we are now some 14 years later and a handful of these bounce around on the used market in conditions you would expect an old Porsche SUV to be in. Everything is sticky, it smells like crayons and the center carrier bearing probably needs replaced again. Still, this example up for sale in Chicago might have you thinking about it if you are just crazy enough.
Update 11/11/18: This Jetta is listed as sold at $1,486.
Update 11/8/18: After being listed as sold for $1,977, this Jetta GLX VR6 is back on the market again for no reserve.
There’s something really special about the used Volkswagen market that you just don’t get with other cars. There are stories – stories of plans hashed over a few too many PBRs, stories of hard luck and bad decisions. A fair chunk of the time the cars appear with hurt feelings – or just “hurt” and “feelers” in Volkswese. Listings leap into “I was planning…” and proceed to outline a SEMA build-off from someone who clearly is neither Chip Foose, nor has the budget to be. Even when they’re not, hilarity can still ensue.
In short, you just don’t get the type of entertainment from a Porsche listing that you do from a VW. Today’s listing is a 1997 Jetta – but the seller assures us that this is “not your typical Jetta”. That must mean that everything works, it’s not rusting, and it has some residual value? I kid, I kid. What drew me to this listing, though, were two things. First off, Jetta GLX VR6s are getting harder to find, and this one both looked reasonably clean at first glance and was being offered at no reserve with a semi-useful description and set of photos.
But those photos are the key here. Not only did this seller manage to line up the Volkswagen to take pictures with signs indicating it’s pointing the wrong direction on a one-way, further investigation reveals that they’re not on a road at all – they’ve parked straight in the middle of a bike path. In front of a Meineke, which I’ll fully admit I was amazed to see was still a thing. But the coup de grâce must be the giant hanging “CHECK ENGINE” sign. Is there a more appropriate way to depict a dark green Jetta from the 90s?
Still, it is a VR6…
I continue to be a bit grumpy about the Corrado market. Recently I recounted my story of encountering the Corrado G60, deciding ultimately that today it’s not the car I lust after. In part that’s because of its more desirable replacement, the SLC. Yet I have issues with that model as well, speaking back in July about not only how these cars were expensive when new, but often nice examples have pretty ridiculous asking prices vis-à-vis what you’re getting compared to alternatives today.
That brings us to today’s 1992 Corrado SLC. It presents better than most on the market today with only 74,750 miles. It’s a nice color combination of all black and wears the original BBS wheels. Unusually for these cars, there’s even what appears to be a pretty solid history of maintenance and a detailed hand-written log. Sounds great? Well, then there’s the price…
I have yet to look at a Golf R32 in 2018. It’s not for lack of examples; any given day, there are usually about 10 or so for sale on eBay and plenty more via Volkswagen-specific fora. But it’s the crazy asking prices that usually put me off from the first generation. I just can’t get on board, especially as Golf R prices have dipped down in to the low 20s. Heck, there are two Golf Rs below $20,000 right now. It’s therefore pretty hard to stomach the high teen ask on many first-gen R32s even with many hundreds of thousands of miles. They’re not the E30 M3, after all. Not even close.
So how do you get into an affordable R32? One way is to consider the second generation. Perhaps it was the styling, perhaps it was the DSG-only transmission, but even a very clean 2008 Golf R32 comes to market generally under the asking prices of the first generation. Still not your bag? Well, then you could get into this no reserve first gen – but a warning, some assembly is required…
When it launched in the late 1980s as a replacement to the ancient Scirocco, the Corrado was Volkswagen’s attempt to appeal to the Porsche crowd. With the supercharged G60 motor that may have been somewhat farcical, but when VW dropped the narrow-angle 2.8 liter VR6 into the nose of their 2-door Coupe it became more of a reality. Though on paper it didn’t have much more power, the VR6 was better suited to the design and weight of the Corrado. Zero to 60 plummeted nearly a second and top speed went up to a then-impressive 137 mph. But it was the all-around flexibility of the motor that proved the winner; torquey at low revs yet happy to head towards the redline, the Corrado finally fulfilled the promise of being a budget P-car.
Unfortunately, there was a price to pay. The base price for a Corrado in 1992 was nearly $22,000. Add a few options in and you were paying more than you did for a Porsche 924S four years earlier. To put it into even more stark perspective, the base price of a much quicker, nicer, more efficient, better cornering, better braking, more technologically impressive and significantly safer GTI today is only $26,415 some 26 years later. As a result, Corrados and especially the SLC have always held a cult status and higher residual value than the rest of the lineup. Today, as they head into collector status, many have been priced out of the market – a trend I’ve looked at several times, with asks of $20,000 and occasionally even more. So it’s refreshing to encounter a reasonable condition driver-quality example that’s priced within the reach of the group these cars appeal to:
What is the price for rarity? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, enthusiasts will sometimes go to extremes to have something just a bit different than the norm. Take today’s Golf. Like the 1989 Volkswagen GTI I looked at a few weeks ago, something odd will stick out to the brand faithful that will probably go unnoticed by nearly everyone else. First off, for the U.S. market, the VR6 was limited to the GTI range. This looks like a GTI with the dual chamber headlights and foglights, VR6 badges and BBS wheels. But another minor detail then rears its head – or, in this case, rears its doors. That’s right, this is a 5-door Golf VR6 from Europe. Look closer and you’ll notice items such as the textured flares, deeper chin spoiler and fender mounted directionals that differentiate ROW A3s. So what will getting into this rare-to-see VW cost you today?
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!
Update 2/6/2018: After selling in November for $2,250, the new owner of the Candy White GTI is selling it with an uninstalled turbo kit asking $2,900 now.
Tired of seeing high prices for Corrado SLC VR6s? Today is your day, because nearly all of the fun offered in the 6-cylinder Corrado was also slotted into the GTI. For a hair under $20,000, you got the same thrilling 2.8 liter VR6 mated solely to a 5-speed manual. Did you want an automatic? Well, then buy the Jetta. Sure, that motor and the bigger body of the Mk.3 meant it was quite a bit heavier than the previous GTIs had been – by 1995, the ‘hot hatch’ had bulked up with 700 additional lbs of super-weight gain Mk.3000 versus the A1. But faster? Without a doubt. With nearly double the horsepower of the original U.S. market model, 0-60 was sub 7-seconds and you could hit 130 flat out. Coupled too with VW’s ‘we don’t care if you think it’s broke we’re not going to fix it’ styling attitude, the Mk.3 might have not looked as slinky as the Corrado, but underneath it was still a Golf and as such, practical.
So while the Corrado pretended to be a Porsche, the GTI remained the answer to the ‘what if’; you wanted a Porsche, but you a) didn’t want to (or couldn’t) pay for a Porsche, and 2) you occasionally needed a car that you could actually use to transport things other than your smile. This was the recipe that made the first two generations successful.
It was no surprise then that the third generation GTI remained a niche hit for Volkswagen even in relatively dire times for European imports. While finding a nice GTI VR6 can be quite difficult, it was a bit of a Thanksgiving treat to see two pop up in my feed. So which is the winner?