What is the best sports sedan?

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Answered by: David, An Expert in the Cars - General Category
Best Sports Sedan Under $30,000 -- The VW Wolfsburg Jetta

When the term “best sports sedan” is mentioned, many auto enthusiasts conjure up the image of the BMW 3-Series sedan, the de facto alpha dog in this category. But, what if you could have 90% of the beemer’s performance at a highly discounted price…and still be driving a German car?

Enter the Wolfsburg Edition Volkswagen Jetta 2.0t. This may be one of the biggest sleepers in the sport sedan landscape, but I doubt its virtues will go unnoticed much longer. Could the turbocharged Jetta be a “BMW killer for the frugal enthusiast? With the Wolfsburg costing about $23,000 and the BMW 328i at about $35,000, this is a serious price difference. Read further and decide for yourself whether the extra $12,000 is worth it.

The turbocharged Jetta is available in just one incarnation, the Wolfsburg Edition. What you get is the frugal enthusiast’s dream come true. Sold as a “kit” with few options, it offers standard items car enthusiasts lust for: nice engine, sunroof, upgraded radio, air conditioning, a great suspension and 17” wheels with 225/45/17 tires…all the important stuff. “So, what else can you get?” Mr. Enthusiast asks. Well, you can choose automatic or six speed manual transmissions, and that’s about it .

What don’t you get in the Wolfsburg is: leather, climate control, wood trim, fancy wheels, premium stereo and ground effects. Can you live without these? I certainly can.

The Wolfsburg Jetta uses the acclaimed 2.0L turbocharged engine, voted “Best Engine in the World” by Wards Automotive three years running, beating out the likes of the hand-built Ford Cobra engine, the BMW twin turbo 3.5, the Mercedes turbo diesel and other luminaries Brainchild of Audi engineers, this little powerhouse is used in about nine cars in the VW-Audi group.

The 2.0t develops 200 hp with 202 pound-feet of torque. That’s serious torque for a two-liter sport sedan, pilgrim. When driving the Jetta, this engine feels like, sounds like, and behaves just like a V6 on steroids. The speedometer pegs at 160 mph, perhaps slightly optimistic, but not far off. A limiter on this pocket rocket is set at 130 mph by the factory; however, based on tachometer readings I observed at 60 mph in 6th gear, it could easily do 145. Yep. The 0-60 time is slightly higher than the GTI, somewhere in the low sevens. Sixth gear is extremely tall, allowing low revs on the turnpike and low noise. The ride at high speeds is very relaxing and reminds you of a heavier car, not the lightweight Jettas of the past. With the new Jettas, you feel anchored on the road and secure. BMWs, by comparison, handle slightly better, are slightly faster but are not as comfortable behind the wheel.

Is the “cheaper” BMW 328i (230 hp) at about $35,000 worth the extra $12,000? Only the purchaser’s bank account can decide. Does the Jetta “kill” the beemer? Well, no; it doesn’t bury the 328i. But for my money, the Jetta wins this matchup based on performance and price. By far the Wolfsburg Jetta is the best sports sedan for the money, by a comfortable margin.

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