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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

2023 Volkswagen GLI

This week we are reviewing the 2023 Volkswagen GLI. Our vehicle was assembled at the Puebla Plant in Mexico with an MSRP of CAD $35,532.00.

Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Although it may be a controversial opinion, we found the VW GLI more enjoyable to drive than the GTI. That said, the GTI is a more popular seller for the VW group, hence getting all the goodies first. For example, the GLI Mk8 still runs on the 228 hp/engine while the GTI has upgraded to a 258 horsepower engine. However, the 7 Speed DCT or the manual transmission paired with the heritage engine provides ample power for the vehicle's weight. VW emphasizes the price of the GLI to keep it relevant in a dying segment. Surprisingly VW has yet to make the jump to present us with performance SUVs in North America. Most likely to keep the Audi brand competitive. However, it could be an opportunity to connect with the passionate Volkswagen fan base.

Fun Factor: 7

The Manuel transmission gets you to 100km/h from a still stand in just 6.1 seconds compared to 6.5 seconds in the automatic we tested in real life with winter tires. The gap between both with summer tires will probably be a tenth of a second. The controversial part is that the GLI feels much nimbler around corners compared to the GTI. While the GTI has a rich history when driving, it's important to feel connected and engaged, and the GTI has lost some of its spark. When something is so good and predictable, it becomes less interesting. The GLI stands out in terms of the feeling it gives off; it creates a unique sense of connection. It will not react the same way around each corner. Finally, the base GTI is priced similarly to the well-equipped GLI with a few HP less, which in everyday use felt barely noticeable.

Can it Family: 7

Seating is delightful in the GLI; the seats are well cushioned, giving you more aggressive bolstering on the sides without being bucket seats. The sporty seats in the front have also been replicated in the back. Talking about the rear seats, they come heated standard. As for the front, they're heated and cooled. The cabin has plenty of natural light thanks to its large windows and panoramic roof, making it bright and providing excellent visibility for everyone inside. It's a great space for the whole family to enjoy.

Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Fuel-Friendly: 7

Fuel economy is similar to the DSG or the manual, with an average of 7.9L/100km. There is a slight difference in the city, with the automatic version having a gain of 0.1L/100km (9.0L/100km DSG). However, that gain is lost on the Hwy where the manual has the upper hand by a marginal 0.1L/100km (6.4L/100km manual). During our 400km test, we averaged 10.5L/100km, with an average fuel economy on the Hwy of 7.4L/100km. During our test, outside temperatures oscillated between +1c and -11c, affecting fuel economy.

VW GLI engine bay
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

HWY-warrior: 8

The GLI comes with IQ.DRIVE provides various safety features, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist, and Autonomous Emergency Braking that also monitors pedestrians and cyclists. Overall a very comfortable place to be on long road trips. The torque steer is almost nonexistent, thanks to the LSD (Limited slip differential). In sport mode, you hear pumped-in engine sound and crisp handling.

Karaoke Friendly: 8

Not often a fan of the BeatsAudio normally, however the tuning of it within the GLI is bang on. The six speakers and sub do a fine job for the family to jam to any tune. With no surprise, the steering wheel buttons do not provide a favourable experience with the infotainment and cluster. We often pressed these buttons, accidentally changing the setting we didn't want to use during driving. Luckily other controls have physical buttons, such as the heated seat and the HVAC. Using them is enjoyable compared to other VW products we tested; I am talking to you, ID4 (hyperlink). We also get wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto in addition to wireless charging. Some manufacturers can't get it right, but the GLI makes it all work.

Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Baby-friendly: 8

Car seat installation is usually effortless in traditional sedans, meaning car enthusiasts with children will enjoy it even more. The GLI offers two lower latches that are exposed. We didn't have any issues with the installations. Even rear-facing car seats provided decent space for passengers in front. Kids are able to get in & out of the vehicle without any assistance. The only issue we found was the belt buckles to be placed narrowly inside the bench. As a result, children may encounter more difficulty when trying to buckle themselves.

Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

City Cruising: 6

Although the DSG may feel slightly slow in traffic, the start/stop feature performed exceptionally well, even in cold weather conditions. The excellent visibility also made driving around town more enjoyable. Our only suggestion would be to add a hybrid powertrain to improve fuel economy in urban areas even more.

Why would we buy the VW GLI, or what we liked about it?

It might be the best bang for your buck in the performance segment without having to pay the GTI premium. It has plenty of space for the family. It comes fully equipped at standard. You get the choice between the manual and the automatic.

2023 VW GLI
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Why would we not buy the VW GLI, or what did we not like about it?

Inside the trunk area, you notice that the chassis wasn't fully painted which doesn't scream premium. The buttons on the steering wheel are too sensitive. Only offered as a FWD version.

Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

VW has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with VW Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion of the car referred to above.

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