Third-generation VW Beetle is best bug yet
BY AL VINIKOUR For Sun-Times Media December 28, 2011 12:53PM
2012 VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE
ENGINE: 170-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 20 city/29 highway
BASE PRICE: $20,895
AS TESTED: not available
Many people would think the most successful single car design in history was the Ford Model T. And many people would be wrong. The Volkswagen Beetle overtook the Model T for that honor on Feb. 17, 1972.
Volkswagen is marketing its third-generation Beetle in the United States with two models: the Beetle and the sporty Turbo. (In car year 2012 it will produce a TDI clean diesel that likely will be the most fuel-efficient Beetle ever made.)
Unlike the previous generation with its domelike high roofline, the 2012 version is much more streamlined. Even though it’s only 0.5 inches lower it emphasizes the 6 inches of added length over its predecessor. It’s also 3.3 inches wider.
To say the 2012 Beetle is a hoot to drive is like saying the Concorde was fast. Though it’s not like strapping yourself into an F-15, you are basically entering a fun house. The seating is extremely comfortable with its leatherette surfaces. A leather steering wheel faces an instrument panel of three round gauges (tachometer, speedometer and fuel) that tells you everything thing you need to know. A multifunction display is integrated in the speedometer and among its contents is one of my favorite things: a digital speed readout. (It will realistically answer the question, “How fast was I going, officer?”)
The dashboard is really slick. My test vehicle was a brilliant red and the color ran across the dash panel from door to door. A really nice touch. Along with the standard glove box there’s a kaeferfach (where do Germans come up with these words?), or “Beetle bin,” that folds upward. It has a grippy surface that’s ideal for holding coins for tolls or other things that might slide around in a tray.
Audiophiles won’t feel left out. Standard equipment is an eight-speaker audio system and a Fender premium audio system is available. Switching stations took some getting used to because there weren’t any intuitive buttons. There’s an available navigation system that’s top drawer. This certainly isn’t your grandpapa’s “people’s car.”
I know what you’re thinking. A car this small has to be a two-seater, doesn’t it? Wrong. It seats four and I can attest to being among three largish adults who rode in it at the same time. Granted, the front seat passenger (me) had to be pulled a “bit” forward to accommodate the legs of the full-sized adult sitting directly behind me, but it’s entirely possible and feasible.
The Beetle’s strut-type front suspension with a lower control arm and an antiroll bar along with torsion beam rear suspension with coil springs and telescopic dampers give it an all-day ride. Except for maybe the guy in the rear seat there will be no fatigue or discomfort driving this vehicle on a long trip. It’s apparent that VW engineers did their homework. All 2012 Beetles have standard antilock brakes with electronic brake pressure distribution. It sits on standard 17-inch wheels and also has an available 18-inch option.
I’ve saved the best for last: the powertrain. Standard is the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that’s mated to a six-speed automatic. It puts out 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. We put a lot of miles on this particular Beetle and for driving enthusiasts or just plain commuters, the engine/transmission combination proved itself adequate for any kind of terrain one calls home.
The other power plant is the 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine bolted to the DSG six-speed dual-clutch automatic. (Five- and six-speed manual transmissions will be offered at a later date on both models.) It produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This lets the 3,000-pound vehicle scoot along nicely.
Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates aren’t bad, either. The 2.5-liter model figure is 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway; the turbo gets 22/30.
Then there’s the price. The suggested retail price for the basest of the base 2.5-liter with manual transmission is $18,995. However, let’s face it – few, if any, will order it this way. A nicely equipped 2.5-liter with automatic transmission will begin at $20,895. The top-of-the-line 2.5-liter with sunroof and navigation lists at $25,195. The 2.0-liter Turbo starts at $23,395 and the loaded one begins at $29,095. Destination is $770 additional.
For some cars the third time may be the charm, but VW got it right with the first two generations of the Beetle. The third-generation 2012 Beetle carries on that fine tradition. From my experience with the 2012 Beetle, and the experience of my journalist colleagues, it looks like there’s going to be another bug infestation on U.S. driveways and highways.
You Might Like
- Beetle Convertible debuts with sportier style
- Lexus ES350 maintains luxury feel
- Jeep Wrangler Sport a dual-purpose SUV
- Click & Clack: How to replace a car’s interior
- Chrysler Group makes substantial investment in Ohio machining plant
- Chevrolet Equinox a distinctive and comfortable crossover
- New Ford Explorer Sport a high-performance SUV