Few events offer a better platform for unique automotive builds than the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Vegas, USA. Not just private enterprises, but OEMs also rock up to the event with some big-budget creations in partnership with other part experts to showcase their engineering prowess. While many builds tend to be polarising, taken to the love-it-or-hate-it extreme, there’s always a couple that catches my fancy too. The highlight from the 2022 SEMA show, for me, is the Volkswagen Jetta GLI Performance Concept.

It has all the ingredients that give me the car-guy ‘fizz’. It’s a mid-size sedan with relatively subtle body modification, cool aerodisc wheels and an uprated engine with usable performance. This concept Jetta is inspired by motorsport and pays tribute to the origins of the VW GLI moniker.

Based on a 2022 Jetta GLI, it is fitted with wide front and rear fenders (extra 0.8-inches), all with backside vents to better dissipate unwanted heat and air. It has wider side skirts to match, and the new front bumper has larger air intakes. Around the back, the bumper design is more subtle with new aerodynamic details and neatly houses the twin-exit exhaust setup.

The exterior design theme uses matte black vinyl wrap to intersect with the car’s Kings Red metallic body colour underneath. Truly, a Darth Vader specification. It rides on 20-inch Rotiform’s Forged “GRZ” Monoblock wheels with custom-designed aerodisc covers.

It’s not just about the looks, the Jetta GLI Performance Concept has some serious mods under the skin as well. The 2.0-litre turbo-charged engine has been worked over by RacingLine, adding a new carbon fibre cold-air intake and performance intercooler for better cooling, while an oil management kit helps with the thermal management. Total performance is upped to an impressive 350hp and 504Nm, all of it sent to the front wheels with help from an upgraded clutch. Oh, and it has a six-speed manual shifter too!

This special Jetta GLI also comes with performance brakes with large carbon-ceramic discs. RacingLine also fitted it with its race-bred TrackSport coil-over suspension kit featuring lightweight aluminium bodies and fully-adjustable solid top mounts. As a result, the package is great for the track while also being usable on the road. Furthermore, it has a suite of underbody braces for increased body rigidity and maintaining the right suspension geometry.

Lastly, we have the modified cabin with the usual front seats replaced by a pair of Recaro Pole Position ABE seats for performance-oriented bolstering. The interiors now match the rest of the racing-inspired build while still being comfortable and practical.

While a build like this is not exactly cheap, it’s certainly more accessible than a performance sedan from one of the German luxury brands. Are you as smitten with the Jetta GLI Performance concept as we are? What mid-size family sedan would you base your racecar build on? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons blog for more cool updates from the car world. You can also follow us on Instagram for more automotive content.

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