2019, Mar - Apr

Anniversary Theme 

by Cliff Leppke

35th anniversary Jetta debuts at Chicago Auto Show 

The Chicago’s Auto Show organizers claim their show is the largest consumer-focused show. Commercial vehicles are important too. The biggest boast hypes its ample exhibit space, the crowds who attend it, and its role in selling show goers automobiles or trucks.

February’s Chicago-show theme was 30 or 35th anniversary editions: Jetta GLI, Mazda Miata MX-5, Acura NSX and Chrysler’s modern minivan. Subaru’s new Legacy, a midsize sedan, is a notable fresh machine. Limited-run models such as the Alfa 4C deserved a toast as did the NSX. Ford displayed its 2020 longitudinal-engine Police Interceptor Explorer. The latter matters to Chicago; it’s built in Ford’s nearby Torrence Avenue plant. When Ford retools its Chicago facility, it will shelve the front-drive Taurus and current Explorer. Then, the plant produces the 2020 Explorer and Lincoln Aviator. According to a Ford rep, the new unibody Explorer’s rear-drive-style configuration is better tuned to police work. Plus, there’s room for a hybrid power train. This latter version debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi, Porsche and Maserati showcased their vehicles in Chicago, but not in Detroit. Carmakers believe, for the time being, that the Chicago show boosts their vehicle sales. Audi, for example, displayed its wares. Mercedes presented its commercial vehicles. VWoA sent marketing guru Derrick Hatami, two PR aces, its Mexican team contact and brand specialists and ambassadors to Chicago’s show. Hatami says car shows matter to VW. 

VW took the wraps off the 2019 Jetta GLI. With a more powerful variable valve lift 228-hp engine, close-ratio six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed direct-shift gearbox, revised suspension and well bolstered front seats, it’s a Jetta on steroids. It duplicates the original German-made 1984 Jetta GLI’s role as a fun, yet economical-to-operate notchback sports sedan. Remember when the original German-made GLI’s 90-hp engine was hot stuff? Recall how the GLI’s sports seating, revised suspension and finer interior seemed classier than a Rabbit GTI? 

Things change. The Golf GTI is a tad nicer inside than the Jetta GLI. The latter, therefore, isn’t a GTI with a trunk. VW borrowed the go-train that makes the GTI such fun. Check, the brakes and the wheelbase. There’s more room between the front and rear axles. The GLI gets the Golf R’s bigger binders with electric parking brakes. Back-seat drivers will pine for the GTI’s finer rear confines. The GTI has soft rear-door card inserts and rear face vents. The Jetta doesn’t. Plus, VW doesn’t provide a rear power outlet. 

VW product marketing expert Adam Reinhardt told the Autoist that the GLI’s price should closely mirror the GTI’s — starting at less than $30,000. Expect more content in the Jetta, though. Perhaps VW saves a few pfennigs on creature comforts, letting it add other doodads to the GLI. The GLI weighs more than the GTI or Jetta. One reason: the Jetta’s beam-type rear axle is lighter than the GLI’s independent rear suspension. Trunk room and gas tank remain the same, however. Reinhardt says the standard 18-inch-wheel GLI comes in two trims: S and Autobahn. He considers the special 35th anniversary black-roof model set up from S. It and the S have cloth upholstery, which enthusiasts like. Autobahn has heated/chilled leather seating. Aerodynamically, the GLI is slipperier than the GTI. 

Jetta lovers rejoice. The GLI’s trunk lid now opens fully when released. On earlier models, it popped up, but required someone to pull past a detent. If you didn’t, it dropped on your head. VW’s Mexican production expert says VW changed the lid’s hydraulic lifts. Thanks! It’s a head-saver now found on all new Jettas. 

Chicago show extras: Mazda sold its 500-vehicle allotment of 30th anniversary orange MX-5/Miatas. Mazda used the Chicago show to speak to those who relish its cheeky sports car. On the first media day, it unveiled eye-popping orange Miatas. During the second media day, Mazda let designers, who developed the original Miata, share their experiences with fans. VW, in contrast, plugged its U.S. Soccer sponsorship during its second-day lunch. 

Ram introduced its heavy-duty Ram Chassis Cab, Subaru its Legacy sedan, Land Rover its new Evoque. Special editions and tributes ruled. We toasted Alfa’s 4C and Acura’s NSX, saw additional Chevy truck models, the new Land Rover Evoque and Chrysler presented a 35-year-old Plymouth Voyager. Kia offered popcorn and a Telluride talk. Hyundai ended the second press day with wine and cheesecake, which complemented its new three-row Palisade crossover. It and its Kia Telluride cousin, feature finer interior trim than VW’s Atlas. Plus, the Palisade’s mid-row seat moves at the touch of a button — a convenience that trumps the Atlas’ wrestling-match setup. 

Chicago show media enjoyed several more perks.

There’s the concept and technology garage the day before the first media day. Journalists drive new models indoors. I chose an old car — the 1967 Mustang Shelby GT500. Its V-8 mill chirped tires when moving the shifter from park to reverse or drive. Its steering was way too light for accurate directional work. And big feet often pumped the windshield washer fluid. Nothing’s perfect. Yet, the wood-trimmed steering wheel and green metallic paint charm.

Further media perks include a Nissan hospitality room, an invite to a Ford reception, Mazda’s annual pizza party and rocking out afterhours with Subaru at Revel Row. VWCA

Cliff Leppke | leppke.cliff@gmail.com


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Autoist Archive

May-Jun | 2019
From beater Bus to dragstrip demon

The Goblin Works Garage team, part of a UK-based collective that rebuilds vehicles as part of a cable TV series, takes on a 1969 VW Bus.


Mar-Apr | 2019
Anniversary Theme

February’s Chicago Auto Show paid tribute to the anniversaries of four venerable marques, including VW’s Jetta GLI.


Jan-Feb | 2019
Tribute to a mom: How Kathy Janiszewski and a '72 Volkswagen helped inspire a lifelong hobby

From this VW Bus, Kathy Janiszewski emerges with her wedding party in July 1966. She inspired her son, Tom, to follow a passion for VWs.


Nov-Dec | 2018
Commemorative Issue

In commemoration of its milestone 500th issue as publication of the VWCA, the Autoist gets a facelift for the first time in a decade.


Sep-Oct | 2018
2019 Jetta: New, Larger Economy Size

Some things come in small packages, and the seventh generation of VW's popular Jetta sedan delivers.


Jul-Aug | 2018
What's in your garage?

Amid the chaos, a home to vehicular gems and memories.


May-Jun | 2018
GTI AUTOBAHN: VW's latest version is a shopping cart full of enjoyment

Pack 220-hp and 258 ft.-lb of turbo kick under this hot hatch's hood and you've got a grocery-getter with options.


Mar-May | 2018
ARTEON: VW introduces its stylish replacement for the CC model.

Volkswagen’s attention to detail is notable in its new Arteon sedan, which made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show.


Jan-Feb | 2018

Volkswagen has upped the ante by inflating the 2018 Tiguan to almost mid-size capacity. Is it fit for a king?


Nov-Dec | 2017

Hundreds of VWs of every stripe gathered at Foster Park in Kokomo, Ind. for the annual Oktoberfest.


Sep-Oct | 2017
62nd VWCA Convention Wrap-up

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Jul-Aug | 2017
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May-Jun | 2017
Swingin' time is in store for members, guests at 62nd annual Club gathering

Augustino's will get members rocking while the NIVA Club will roll out another lineup of VWs at its annual BugFest, part of the VWCA Convention in St. Charles, Ill.


Mar-Apr | 2017
Will VW See The Light?

VW once again evokes the memory of the beloved Microbus with its new concept called I.D. Buzz, which created quite a stir at the annual auto show in Detroit. (Photos by Tom Janiszewski)


Jan-Feb | 2017
Costly Mistake?

Joe Mayer says he's not out to punish VW over its diesel scandal - he just wanted to make some extra money on a car he thought would be junked. (Photos by Joe Mayer via jalopnik.com.)


Nov-Dec | 2016
WATTS OF FUN . . . . . . Meet the new e-Golf

Here's the car that, when you give it a charge, you'll get one back. In VW's first important pivot from its diesel scandal, the e-Golf provides an opening salvo in the carmaker's goal to electrify its fleet.


Sep-Oct | 2016
61st Annual Convention

What's an anniversary without a cake? This one didn't go far or last long as Club members enjoyed a variety of activities, including a Sunday car show and picnic, part of the 61st Annual Convention.


Jul-Aug | 2016
It's Time To Show Off

A couple of Karmann Ghias are resplendent at the Michigan Vintage VW Club's Festival in Ypsilanti, Mich.  The club held its 29th event in May, while Mid America Motorworks in Effingham, Ill., saluted the air-cooled crowd with a big show in June.


May-Jun | 2016
Windfall for TDI owners?

The scam was on as early as 2008, when this Candy White Jetta TDI Clean Diesel model, embellished with green plant matter, was rolled out.  In case anyone had a doubt, VW added the wording "Not a concept car."


Mar-Apr | 2016
Lost In Translation

VW CEO Mattias Mueller was in the hot glare of media lights at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, providing the company's latest response to the diesel emissions scandal.


Jan-Feb | 2016
VW's Game Plan

VW remains embroiled in a high-stakes game involving government agencies  and hundreds of thousands of owners of diesel models. The company's car on the road of Life has taken a big detour.


Nov-Dec | 2015
Engine with a split personality puts VW on the hot seat

The news in September was beyond belief for many VW and TDI enthusiasts: Volkswagen executives admitted that the company intentionally produced cars that violated clean-air laws.


Sep-Oct | 2015
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Doug Narczewshi from Spring Valley, IL, looks over an assortment of water-cooled VWs on display at NIVA's Bug Fest event, part of the 60th VWCA Convention in suburban Chicago.


Jul-Aug | 2015
1969 Beetle gets a second chance to adorn the silver screen

Crew members working on the film "The Good Blonde" prepare for a shot on the California coast involving a 1969 Beetle owned by VWCA member and correspondent Lois Grace.


May-Jun | 2015
My Mom, the Daredevil

Around 1960, Cliff Leppke had no idea what was in store for him while being ferried about by his mother. Needless to say, his head was up and his eyes were open.


Mar-Apr | 2015
It's Show Time!

The Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association has an activity-packed weekend planned for the 60th VWCA Convention in suburban Chicago.


Jan-Feb | 2015
Diesel Memories

Jack Pavie of suburban Philadelphia had to wait several months to get his 1975 Rabbit diesel, one of three models he enjoyed in the '70s and '80s.


Nov-Dec | 2014
Golf Lessons: Three new models charge up hatchback lineup

The scene at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Va., where Cliff Leppke and other media members ran the 2015 Volkswagens through their paces.


Sep-Oct | 2014
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A morning commute for a 2012 Golf TDI has become a test on how high the fuel mileage will end up. It hit a high mark in July.


Jul-Aug | 2014
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In the VWCA's 59 years of Conventions, the setting in Hudson, Mich. was unique. Just ask VWCA's Tom Janiszewski, the guy driving the orange 1974 Camper.


May-Jun | 2014
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May 25 marks the 15th anniversary of my family's New Beetle ownership experience. It was on that day in 1999 that we took delivery of a brand new red GLS model from Kempthorn Volkswagen in Canton, Ohio.


Mar-Apr | 2014
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There's a saying that everything old is new again, and since the New Beetle's production debut in 1998, that has been the car's underlying theme.


Jan-Feb | 2014
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