Project 24V GLI: Part I

Jetta fans had to wait a long time, but VW finally brought back the GLI for 2003. Our Project GLI is equipped with the 24 valve 2.8 liter VR6 and a 6-speed manual transmission. This is definitely a step in the right direction as far as putting the “sport” back into Volkswagen’s very popular sport sedan.

For this reason, VWvortex has chosen the Jetta GLI as one of its first VR6-powered project cars. Throughout the next few months, we will outline many aspects of various modifications for this vehicle and evaluate their effects on the car. We intend to report on how these modifications affect the vehicle’s around-town performance, as well as its ability to negotiate a variety of different road courses.

Our Platinum Grey GLI was recently delivered with the Monsoon Stereo System and a moon roof as options. Because we plan to take this car to the track a few weekends a year, we opted for the black sport cloth interior with the grey inserts, instead of leather interior, as we feel that leather surfaces can be a bit slippery during a spirited drive.

The model year 2003 GLI has a few other differences from the rest of the Jetta model line besides the engine and transmission combination. The GLI comes with 17” Monte Carlo 5-spoke wheels, normally found only on the GTI. At the rear of the car you will notice that Volkswagen has opted for a rear bumper valence with an exhaust cut out for twin tips that was previously only found on the European Bora 4motion model. As we move to the inside you will notice a couple more sporty features – a leather wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel and the sport seats which have noticeably better bolstering than the other Jetta models. A few other model year 2003 changes are the removal of the dash mounted cup holders, the introduction of the new center console, and the change to the double DIN head unit incorporating both CD and cassette.

There are a few thing we feel are missing from the 2003 GLI, as well as some items that we would have liked to have seen executed a little differently. We’d guess that Volkswagen themselves must have agreed with us, since they have recently introduced the 2004 GLI with many of these changes in place. There is one change, however, we find rather controversial, and that is the switch from the 201-hp 24v VR6 power plant to the 180-hp 1.8 turbo motor that is now found in the 2004 GLI.

One of the first things you will notice when comparing the 2003 and 2004 GLI is the lack of visual differences between the 2003 GLI and the rest of the 2003 Jetta model line, other than wheels and badges. The 2004 GLI has several changes when compared to the other 2004 Jetta models. The ’04 has a different ground effects kit, a single tip exhaust and the very noticeable 18” BBS wheels. Certainly, cosmetics will be an area we will pay close attention to when choosing the modifications for our ’03 GLI.

There are also a few interior changes that have taken place in the 2004 GLI. The GLI now includes Recaro front seats with red GLI logos embroidered on them and brushed aluminum trim is used throughout the cabin. We look to similarly upgrade the interior of Project GLI.

Some of the mechanical differences in the two GLIs are the addition of larger brakes and a lower, sportier suspension for the 2004 model. The 2004 GLI has 12.3” front brakes instead of the 11.3” found on the 2003. Both of these areas will be receiving considerable attention on our 2003 GLI, since we are planning to track our vehicle occasionally. There is certainly considerable room for improvement in these areas as will be pointed out in future articles. This is a project car, after all, so we will have lots of ideas to discuss and possibly debate.

We expect the direction of Project GLI to go as follows:

Part 2: Suspension

Part 3: Wheels & Tires

Part 4: Braking

Part 5: Exterior Styling

Part 6: Engine & Exhaust

Part 7: Interior Styling

Part 8: Lighting

The list is subject to change given seasonal needs or release of significant new products or modifications for the car.

We expect to have a lot of fun with this project, both at shows and on various California road courses. Please stay tuned for the exciting updates!

Special thanks to MLP Imaging for the on track photos! Check them out here:

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