VW Beetle — Just Plain Fun | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 07 February 2013 16:34

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Volkswagen designers wanted to develop the latest Beetle around the profile of the earliest cars rather than the 1998 New Beetle.

By Steve Schaefer

San Leandro Times

Some cars are just plain fun. Their very presence in your driveway makes you happy. The Yellow Rush 2013 Volkswagen Beetle I recently had was one of those cars.

The original Beetle was Adolf Hitler’s people’s car. Despite those awful origins, the Bug sold in the tens of millions worldwide, finally ending sales in the U.S. back in 1979 (but continuing elsewhere until surprisingly recently).

In 1998, the New Beetle showed up, evolved from a popular concept car. Based on the Golf, it had a water-cooled, front-mounted engine, unlike the original Beetle’s air-cooled rear unit.

The 2012 Beetle was all new, still based on the Golf. In some ways, it’s more like the original car. Beetle maniacs will note the more upright windshield, flatter roof, and completely different taillamps.

020713a2Inside, the car gets an all-new interior that evokes elements of the old favorite. A flatter dash features plastic panels the color of the exterior, which mimic the metal dash of old. There are two glove boxes — and the top one flips upward. There’s even a clever multi-faced surface on the windshield pillars that makes them seem about half of their substantial (safety-enhancing) width. The seats are leatherette covered — just like in my old ’64 Beetle.

The central circular speedometer is old-fashioned, but pretty much everything else around it is 2013. The gauges include an upshift and downshift display, which teaches you to shift at the right time for maximum fuel efficiency.

I drove the remarkable TDI Diesel model. VW offers other engine choices in the Beetle, but the 140-horsepower turbodiesel is fabulous for fuel economy. Its slightly louder sound evokes the ancient Beetle sound a little, too. Diesels have higher torque for their size — this engine generates 236 lb.-ft. of it — so you can roll along at just 1,500 rpm. That means better fuel economy — and quieter cruising.

I averaged a stellar 41.8 miles per gallon over a week of mixed driving. Using the two-way information panel, I tracked individual trips, too. I routinely hit 50 mpg on the freeway on my 30-mile commute. At one point, the display read an incredible 57.3 mpg!

Diesel has never been known as a clean fuel, but with VW’s technology, it manages to get a 7 for Greenhouse Gas and 6 for Smog in the EPA’s test — in the solid middle.

The wide expanses of yellow sunny plastic on my car’s dash and doors made me happy during a cold and sometimes rainy winter week. When you start it up, the car greets you with “Welcome to Your Beetle” on the instrument panel. You only hear the Diesel clatter if you stand in front of the car while it’s running.

On the upper dash, there’s a centrally mounted set of gauges. The left one is for oil temperature, the central one is a stopwatch, and on the right, a turbo boost gauge lets you see what you can feel when you stomp your foot.

Part of the fun for me was shifting the smooth six-speed manual transmission. My ’64 Beetle had a four-on-the-floor with a long, bent handle and a tiny plastic knob, and that was great — in its day. I followed the car’s upshift/downshift guidance much of the time — you don’t need to rev a Diesel — and found that there was plenty of power to zoom up hills, pass on the freeway, and cruise comfortably at 70 mph. Of course, an automatic is available and will likely be the gearbox of choice.

The gasoline Beetles come with other engines. A 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four is standard, with either transmission. For higher performance, you can choose the 2.0-liter turbo, which bumps output to 200 horsepower.

As before, the Beetle is available as a convertible, too. I hope to test one some sunny week in the near future.

Only two minor complaints — the seatbelt rode a little high on my shoulder and the songs on my iPod stuttered when each one began.

Prices start at $20,790 for the 2.5 Beetle with manual transmission. You can add a sunroof, Fender audio system, and much more. My TDI, with only floor mats and a first aid kit as options, came to $24,360. The Beetle is no longer the cheapest VW model, and it comes with a lot of standard equipment, including heated seats, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, cruise control, Bluetooth, and more. All prices include shipping.

The new Beetle is still a hatchback, and although the rear seats don’t fold flat, I had no problem placing a bass back there, so it would work for me as a personal car.

The driving fun, fuel economy and utility make the new Beetle a winner, and should help VW continue its upward sales surge. Sorry, no more bud vase.

 

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