VW unveiled a Jetta R coupe concept back in 2010 at the Detroit Auto Show, but VW hasn't really done or said anything about it since. But honestly, it really shouldn't be that expensive for them to develop and make, and I think a business case can be made for it in the American market.
The mechanical parts already exist, meaning development costs would be low. It could utilize the 296 hp 2.0l turbocharged engine from the Golf R and Scirocco R, and it could be offered in AWD. It could be offered with either a manual or a DSG gearbox. The interior could be made with the same soft-touch materials offered in the Golf R, and it could be offered as either a coupe or a sedan. I personally think that coupe looks fantastic.
If it was brought to market, it would be priced close to, or slightly less than the Golf R, a bit over $30,000. This may look like Audi territory, as the A4 starts at $33,800 before options. However, the A4 makes only 220 HP, and our theoretical Jetta R would make around 296 hp, which is significantly more. This wouldn't be the people's version of an A4 then, that's what the GLI is, which is about $10,000 less than the A4. This would be the VW equivalent of the S4, and that makes me salivate.
Let's face it. As much as we love hatchbacks around these parts, America has not had a love affair with them. Americans see them as city cars for young people, and the hot versions are for twenty-somethings who have been in the work place for a few years. People here think that sedans are better looking, and if they are going to spend $30,000 on a car, they would want to buy something they think looks nice.
The Golf R starts at $34,795 MSRP, and an options package could push it as high as $37,000 so let's say you're in your early thirties, married, with a young kid or two, and you have $37,000 to spend on a sporty car, and you, like your red-blooded neighbors, don't want a hatchback. The Jetta R would ride like the Golf R, so it wouldn't be too harsh, but it would still be sporty, and similar performance figures (0-60 in 5.3 seconds with the manual and 4.9 with DSG). It would have the same level of options as the Golf R, notably the same flat bottom steering wheel, bucket seats, soft touch plastics. Higher end VW interiors have always been a strong point of VW's, and this would be no exception. You know, something like this:
So let's take a look at the competition. First up, there is the new Subaru WRX STI. This car will offer 305 hp, with AWD, and a 6MT. It will do 0-60 in about 5.0 seconds, and handle well without a doubt. However, Subaru interiors have never been at the same level as a Volkswagen's, and I don't expect this STI to match the Golf R, and by extension the Jetta R interior. Furthermore, as cool as that wing is, it is ostentatious and dare I say, childish. You'd look ridiculous getting out of it while wearing a suit. If you're not willing to get a hatchback, you wouldn't want to get this. It's expected to start at $36,500, which could be almost two grand above our base Jetta R, before options. The Mitsubishi Evo falls into the same category as the Evo, and so it would not appeal to this person who is a wearer of suits. The Jetta R looks like a better option.
As I mentioned before, the Audi A4 starts at $33,800 for a CVT equipped, FWD version with wheels, paint, and most importantly, four interlocking rings on the front of the car. You get 220 hp out of the 2.0L I4 turbo. If you would like a manual transmission and AWD, that will cost you an additional $900, and if you would like the automatic (why would you?) it will cost you an additional $2,100. If you would like navigation prepare to shell out an additional $1,950, heated seats will run you $750, and the S-Line package adds another $1,600. It'll be difficult to stay in budget and walk away well equipped, and performance won't be on the same level as the Jetta R. Audi interiors are quite nice, so I imagine even the base level A4 would be nicer than the Jetta R's interior, but I think the A4 is meant to appeal to a different kind of buyer. Our buyer would walk away from the A4, satisfied with how he could drive it to a big job interview wearing his best suit, but unsatisfied with the performance. He would also feel similarly about the CLA250 and the ATS.
Then there's the BMW 228i, which has 240 hp, and looks pretty great too. It starts at $32,100, and you can reasonably equip it under $37,000. It has less power than the Jetta R, but it will handle very well with it's rear wheel drive. The interior will be comfortable for you and your wife, but the rear seat will be cramped, and your kids will complain on longer car rides. A sedan version of the Jetta R would solve this, and a sedan version would definitely be the easiest for VW to create. Even the coupe version would probably have better rear leg room than the BMW 228i.
So where does that leave us? I can't think of anything that really fits into this mold. The Jetta R would fulfill a niche in the market that doesn't exist right now, and I think it could definitely be profitable. Many companies are looking to build cheap performance these days, and I think Volkswagen would find it very advantageous to be the first to make an affordable "adult" performance sedan with high horsepower and a comfortable interior. They've even thought about it. It won't be very expensive to develop, and its something I believe people would want. VW has proven that they can make quality Golfs, and this could prove to the US that they can make a quality Jetta too.
So VW, if you are listening, please make this. We don't get the Scirocco R, give us the Jetta R.
What do you think? Would a Jetta R be successful? Is there anything else that fulfills this niche?
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