When one’s first introduction to a new car is at the manufacturer’s seldom-visited proving grounds — in a desert, no less — and said vehicle is completely skinned in a camouflage optical art wrap, impressions tend to be skewed. Even more so when one of the exercises, when finally let behind the wheel, is to drive onto a 7.5-kilometre-long, high-banked oval and jam the gas pedal into the firewall.
So, it is with absolute certainty I can tell you the new, seventh-generation, 2019 Volkswagen Jetta — in every regard a fairly innocuous four-door sedan — will, with four full-sized adults aboard, exceed 200 km/h (a measured 204.4 km/h, to be exact). Do what you will with that bit of trivia, other than attempt to replicate that speed on any road.
The surprising-for-the-time fact was that under the hood resided not any sort of breathed-on performance engine, but a tiny 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. The exercise was made more impressive in that the Jetta was rock steady at that elevated speed, the ride no more dramatic than a typical zip along the 401.
All this happened a little more than a year ago at VW’s test facilities in Maricopa, Ariz., a couple of months before the car’s official debut. And this is now my first time in the production version. Quite frankly, stripped of its camouflage, it’s not a model that initially blows one away.
Styling, despite VW’s designers intent to make a bolder statement with the car, doesn’t stray that far from the mainstream. Fans, though, will notice the larger trapezoidal grille, crisper lines, more chrome and LED lighting.