Sunday, January 27, 2013

New VW Beetle Even More Fun

Sure, I'd love to own it.
Some cars are just plain fun to have. Beyond the driving experience, their very presence in your driveway and your presence inside them makes you happy. My recent week with a Yellow Rush 2013 Volkswagen Beetle was memorable for the joy of it.

We all know that the original Beetle was Adolf Hitler's idea of a people's car. Despite those 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, with a water-cooled, front-mounted engine (unlike the Beetle's air-cooled rear unit.) Based on a concept car, it gave some identity to the VW brand for years.

The 2012 Beetle was all new, still based on the Golf. It retains all the styling cues, but in some ways is more like the original car (although the engine remains in front, with a radiator). Beetle maniacs will note the more upright windshield, flatter roof, and completely different taillamps.

Inside, the car gets an all-new interior that evokes elements of the old favorite--a flatter dash, with plastic panels the color of the exterior, 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. They even provided me with leatherette seats and doors--that's the material my old '64 Beetle had.

A central circular speedometer is old-fashioned, but pretty much everything else around it is 2013. For example, while driving, I noted the up- and downshift display. It's part of teaching you to shift at the right time for maximum fuel efficiency. The secret, though, was that I had the remarkable TDI model. VW offers other engine choices in the Beetle, but the 140-horsepower turbodiesel is fabulous for fuel economy--and it's 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 easily drive along at just 1,500 rpm. That means better fuel economy--and a quieter driving experience.

Mileage is just one of the delights of Diesel motoring. I averaged a smile-inducing 41.8 mpg over the week of mixed driving, but using the two-way information panel in the dash, I tracked individual trips. I routinely hit 50 miles per gallon on the freeway on my 30-mile treks to work. At one point, the display read an incredible 57.3 mpg!

Unfortunately, Diesel is running a little more than premium gas at the moment, unfortunately, and despite technological advances in clean Diesel fuel and engine efficiency, it is not the absolute cleanest way to generate mobility. It still manages to get a 7 for Greenhouse Gas and 6 for Smog in the EPA's test--in the solid middle.

My yellow car was a real joy to drive. The wide expanses of yellow sunny plastic on dash and doors made me happy during a cold and sometimes rainy winter week. The car starts right up--and greets you with "Welcome to Your Beetle" on the instrument panel. The Diesel engine is not silent, but you only hear it, really, if you stand in front of the car while it's running. Inside, it's essentially silent.

On the upper dash, there's a centrally mounted set of gauges--quite sporty looking. The left is for oil temperature--important in a Diesel and part of a "real" sports car, too. The central gauge is a stopwatch, presumably for timing your quarter-mile runs, but I never used it. On the right, a turbo boost gauge lets you see what you can feel when you stomp your foot. Of course, if you're going to maximize fuel economy, you'd best keep from going to the turbo well too often.

Part of the fun for me was using the smooth and accurate six-speed manual transmission. Granted, manuals are a dying breed in the U.S., but my '64 had a four-on-the-floor with a long, bent handle an a tiny plastic knob like a drawer pull, and that was fun--in its day. I followed the up/down 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. Of course, an automatic is available and will likely be the gearbox of choice.

The gasoline Beetles come with other engines. The standard engine is a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four, 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. This model, which just appeared, looks like big fun, comes in some interesting decade-themed models ('50s, '60s, '70's) and promise even more fun on sunny days.

My only complaints were minor. The seatbelt seemed to ride a little high on my shoulder and it is not adjustable for height (although the seat is). Also, the songs on my iPod stuttered when each one began. 

Prices start at $20,790 for the 2.5 Beetle with manual transmission. Prices go up from there. You can add a sunroof, Fender (yes, the guitar company) audio system, and much more. My TDI, with only floor mats, the unusual heavy duty trunk mats with "CarGo Blocks" and a first aid kit as options, came to $24,360. That may sound like a lot for a Beetle, but the car is no longer the starting model of the brand, 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 Beetle is 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 driving pleasure make this one a real favorite, and should help VW continue its upward surge of sales.


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Sandra R. said...

Did this beetle have the built-in flower vase on the dash? Flowers go great with the beautiful viola music from the cd player. :)

Byron Walters said...

I do have to agree with you. Although most people would love to have cars built for speed and style, I think there is a small part in all of us that just draws us towards cars for their decorative or whimsical qualities. Like getting a Beetle. They’re vintage and hippie, and we all want one. :)
Byron Walters