Jetta GLX wagon

The GLX comes loaded with luxuries such as traction control, a Monsoon stereo system, fully adjustable heated leather seats, power sunroof, 16-in. alloy wheels, and the list of standard equipment goes on.

The GLX wagon carries a 2.8-liter V6, putting out 174 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant is packed with more oomph than the specs suggest. For example, while sitting at a stoplight, I felt the need to dust off a surly teenager in the next lane, smugly glancing my way in his Mitsubishi Eclipse. When the light turned green, I left him far behind. Score one for the soccer moms.

Unfortunately, our test vehicle came equipped with an automatic transmission (an $875 option). The standard manual transmission would have been much more fun.

The Jetta wagon uses an independent MacPherson-strut front suspension with coil springs, telescopic shocks, and a 23-mm stabilizer bar. An independent torsion-beam axle in the rear also uses coil springs, telescopic gas-pressurized shocks, and an 18-mm stabilizer bar. I drove the wagon over a particularly nasty set of railroad tracks and am happy to report it handled them with no bone-jarring impacts. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is responsive, and helps the wagon take sharp turns with little effort. The steering is crisp, with no sloppy slipping. The GLX wagon stops quickly, without excessive dive, thanks to front-vented disc brakes and rear solid-disc brakes equipped with standard ABS. Sixteen-in. tires are standard. Our test vehicle rode on optional 17-in. alloy wheels and a sport-tweaked suspension (add an extra $600).

Putting aside the sporty handling and luxurious ride, let's talk cargo space. The 34 ft3 behind the rear seats handled groceries, a folding bookcase, and other odds and ends with no problems. The 60/40 split rear seats fold down if more space is needed. But, talking about space, the center console, which doubles as an armrest, contains a ridiculously small storage compartment. I managed to fit my sunglasses and nothing else. Happily, compartments on the driver and front passenger doors were larger and more accommodating.

Mileage figures are 19 mpg/city and 26 highway. My calculations, while less than perfect, agree with these numbers. So what's the price tag for this well-equipped wagon? Surprisingly, an affordable $25,400. After adding the rather unnecessary optional equipment (automatic transmission, 17-in. wheels, and tweaked suspension), our test vehicle came to $26,875. All in all, not a bad price for a luxurious, sporty wagon.

Sherri Koucky