2019 Volkswagen Jetta prototype first drive: stress relief Page 2

The upmarket version—which will probably be badged a Jetta SEL—was hardly transformed when put into Sport mode. The steering required a hint more effort and the gas pedal more eagerly sent right foot inputs to the powertrain. Though VW isn’t ready to discuss specific power output for the 1.4-liter, the current Jetta’s 150 horsepower provides a fair estimate. Erb says that the new model’s weight won’t deviate much from the outgoing car’s sub-3,000 pound curb weight.

The 1.4-liter was as refined in the Jetta prototypes as it is in the automaker’s Golf lineup. There’s no excess of power, but the turbo spooled up quickly with only a distant whistle.

In short, the Jetta is a German sedan, albeit one scaled down to a compact car price point.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta prototype

2019 Volkswagen Jetta prototype

More aspirational

VW shows more confidence in its upcoming Jetta than in the outgoing model, at least as far as aspirational equipment is concerned. Although we weren’t privy to exact specifications, we sat on real leather seats that were both heated and ventilated, and we noticed a memory function for the driver’s power-adjustable throne. Even the spendiest 2018 Jetta features synthetic leather upholstery with limited power adjustment.

Beats-branded audio supplants the current Jetta’s Fender unit and, like its siblings, top-spec variants will feature a digital cockpit that replaces an analog gauge cluster with a configurable LCD display.

Some of these features require the MQB architecture’s wiring harnesses. A more advanced automatic emergency braking system, active lane control, automatic post-collision braking, and adaptive cruise control that can both bring the car to a halt and start it up again in traffic without driver input will make their way to the Jetta.

One feature that MQB isn’t designed for is a large, high-capacity battery. That’s the domain of the automaker’s MEB architecture, which will underpin an entire lineup of electric cars due in 2020. MQB is designed to accommodate hybrid and plug-in electric car powertrains, though, so it’s safe to assume that VW will try another Jetta Hybrid.

Despite promising first impressions, the Jetta must clear a big hurdle. Just about any crossover will find buyers, making the Tiguan and Atlas launches feel like a walk in the park. A sedan, on the other hand, Erb has real reason to furrow his brow this time.

VW provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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