Hybrid or diesel? For peak fuel economy in a $30,000 midsize sedan you need one or the other. The Toyota Camry is the most efficient of the five available hybrids (until the 2013 Ford Fusion arrives). If you live in Europe, the diesel world is your oyster. In North America, you have one option for an oil-burning mid-size sedan, the Volkswagen Passat. Which would you pick?
(b.) a television series in which smooth-skinned actors in their middle twenties attempt to portray teens navigating the tumultuous rapids of modern adolescence by the application of close-part harmony; immensely popular when it debuted, but trailed off in the second season when it began getting a little preachy and then there was that part where Rachel was all like, “Finn, I need to let you fly free,” and…
(b.) Some TV show which I have never seen.
(c.) The best car in the current Volkswagen Model range.
Whaddya mean it’s pronounced “Gee-El-Eye”?
Read More >
Volkswagen’s “premium” image in the minds of car enthusiasts is not entirely accurate. From the Beetle to the Rabbit, VW has a long history of making budget cars for the masses. While the automotive press lauded the high-rent interiors and Audi-sourced parts, the Touraeg and Phaeton were mere detours on the road to brand identity. Shoppers wanted a “people’s” VW again, and the result of this outcry is the 2012 VW Passat SEL.
My brother-in-law has gone through some rough spots in his career. Recently though, his situation has been improving. So much so that he got that much sought-after perk, a company car. Last weekend he and the family drove over to my dad’s home. He works for a German company so, guess what? He is now driving around in the latest from Wolfsburg via Puebla, a Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 Comfortline. I grabbed the keys and said see you later.
I was curious about the car. After all, after reading all the international bad press on it, and the usual tiresome panting of the Brazilian press, I wanted to know: Could it be that bad? Read More >
Editor’s Note: Be aware that photos are larger than the usual format.
When I told friends that my European vacation would give me the opportunity to test a few European cars, their reactions fit a certain pattern: “So you’re going to be running around Europe in Porsches and Audis?” they asked. “Can I have your job?”
“No such luck,” I replied. “I’ve got a Hyundai station wagon and a VW minivan lined up.”
And though my friends may have been disappointed, I certainly wasn’t. After all, I expected great things from the Hyundai i40 I had during my first week, and I was actually quite excited to have secured a VW Sharan for week two. After all, I have something of a history with minivans (I drove a Grand Caravan in High School, the only vehicle I’ve ever crashed), and I was looking forward to comparing VW’s new Euro-MPV to its US “counterpart,” the Chrysler-rebadge VW Routan. If VW would rather sell a rebadged Town & Country than the slick little MPV I received straight from Wolfsburg with only 3,500 km on the clock, surely there was a reason. And I was determined to find it out.
I never was a New Beetle kind of guy. But then I am a guy. Unless a cute car handles like a Miata, I’m not interested. For 2012 Volkswagen has redesigned the New Beetle, dropping the “New” and the bud vase (every review must mention this) in the process of attempting to broaden the car’s appeal. And?
Thirteen years after the Mercedes-Benz SLK reintroduced the hard top convertible, the novelty has once again begun to wear off in the face of concerns about cost, complexity, and curb weight. Even high-end manufacturers like Audi, BMW, and Jaguar have fit their latest convertibles with soft tops (albeit multi-layered ones to retain heat and keep out noise). In other words, the retractable hard top has not rendered ye olde ragtop obsolete. This isn’t to say that the retractable hard top is pointless, at least not when innovatively executed. The recently updated Volkswagen Eos remains the best. But would you want one?
How many people would rather have a Volkswagen than a Mercedes? The first-generation Volkswagen Touareg, introduced as a 2004 model, was the product of two unusual events. First, CEO Ferdinand Piech took the brand upmarket (and then some) to challenge Mercedes-Benz—so what if that was Audi’s job. Second, Mercedes, which previously had all but ignored the specific needs of the American market, jumped on the SUV gravy train. So, like BMW, Volkswagen (and Porsche, but that’s next) had to have one, too. Add in some newbie cluelessness concerning how the vehicle would typically be used, and the original Touareg became a luxuriously-outfitted, hyper-complex, 5,000-plus-pound, air-suspended, off-road-capable chunk of a truck with a price tag to match. In subsequent years, VW abandoned its assault on Stuttgart and perhaps learned a thing or two about the SUV market. But would you know it from the redesigned 2011 Touareg? Read More >
After a mere six decades of testing the waters, Volkswagen decided to get serious about the American car market. For the second time. To avoid a repeat of the Westmoreland debacle, this time they’ve designed a pair of sedans specifically for American tastes. They’re also building the larger of the two, intended to lure Americans away from their Camcords, in an entirely new, non-unionized American plant. And so, with the new 2012 Volkwagen Passat, tested here in V6 SE form (earlier, briefer drives sampled the other two engines), we learn what Americans really want—as seen through a German company’s eyes.
The difference between “bold” and “foolhardy” is not always apparent at first glance. While I was driving the GLI around Volkswagen’s Virginia test loop (insert standard narrative devices here: 11/10ths, drive like the wind, straining the limits of machine and man, et cetera) I saw a tall, lithe young woman by the side of the road. She was holding a dog and chatting with a rather fearsome-looking fellow in an old Toyota truck. Without thinking too much, I whipped the Jetta around at the next driveway and returned to the couple. Flashing my hotel room card very quickly and identifying myself as “Jonny Lieberman of Motor Trend magazine”, I convinced the girl to pose with the Jetta. This was intended to be a sort of homage to AutoSpies founder Donald Buffamanti’s habit of photographing all available women, and it was particularly amusing given the very rural circumstances.
At the time, however, there was a very real chance that the fellow in the Toyota would simply step out and maul me like a crazed bear working its way through a deer carcass. I never found out what his relationship to the young woman was — husband? father? cello teacher? dog trainer? — but he didn’t care for me one bit. In retrospect, that little impromptu photo shoot was less “bold” and more “foolhardy”.
The same fine line applies to “forthright” and “contrarian”. After driving the Beetle Turbo, Golf R, and Golf GTI, I steered two examples of Volkswagen’s new Jetta GLI down the same route. Why two Jettas, when I’d driven one each of the other cars? Two reasons: I wanted to try the DSG and the six-speed manual back-to-back, and I wanted to be sure. My drive of the DSG-equipped Jetta GLI suggested to me that it was a better, more enjoyable car than the GTI, but I knew that this “forthright” opinion would come off as “contrarian” to many of TTAC’s readers. After driving the standard-shift GLI, I was sure.
Will you, the reader, be as easily convinced as I was?
Everybody agrees that the Volkswagen GTI is a great car. Except for the US-market MkI, which was underpowered. And the Mk2, which was really underpowered. Don’t the forget the Mk2 16V, which was wayyy overpriced and over-complicated. And the MkIII, which had no business calling itself a GTI, not with that chunky VR6 under the hood and the super-soft factory suspension. The Mk4? I heard it was a bit of a wallowing pig, and everything fell off it. That Mk5 seemed to be a hell of a car, except it was down on power compared to everything else in the segment and it had a large magnet in the front bumper which inexorably dragged it to the nearest VW service department.
If I understand the conventional wisdom, the only GTI which everyone seems to like is the original round-light German-market MkI GTI. And since almost nobody in North America has driven one, it’s possible they are just fooling themselves.
When exactly was the GTI great, anyway?
Anybody here ever go to Catholic school? I sure as hell did. About six of them over the course of seven years. I learned really quickly how to distinguish the nuns who scolded from the nuns who slapped, paddled, or punched. (Sister Andrea! What’s up?) I also learned that kids rarely attend Catholic school alone. They have brothers. Sometimes they have big brothers. I remember one family — the Szolozsis — who had nine sons. Nine sons. If I’d been Papa Szolozsi, I’d have bought a lottery ticket. Anyway, I went to school with the third-youngest. Anybody who beat that kid up had to face the bigger brothers one a time until he either took a beating or whipped ‘em all. Alternately, he could get his bigger brothers involved. Happened all the time, this escalation of big brothers. High school sophomores would knock each other unconscious over fights that had started a week before in second grade, while the two second-graders, who were now best friends forever once more, would dispassionately observe the proceedings.
Since the WRX arrived in American parking lots, ditches, and tirewalls a decade ago, followed by its bigger brother STi and the brother’s rival Lancer Evolution, fans of Volkswagen’s GTI have been put in the position of a the wimpy grade-school kid hoping his European bigger brother would arrive to set things straight. The original R32 turned out to be the kind of reasonable, cultured sibling who would rather talk things out than fight. “Look, I have this wonderful leather interior. Do we have to settle this on the dragstrip?” The second-generation R32 was kind of like having a big brother from the special-needs classes; all the mean kids pointed and laughed whenever he showed up.
Welcome the newest big brother. No more messing around with six-cylinder refinement and nose-heavy dynamics. The new Golf R packs a spec sheet straight out of Japan: cranked-up two-liter turbo, six-speed manual, all-wheel drive. Tell the STi we’ll meet him next to the incinerator at lunch…
On Wednesday, your humble author had the opportunity to drive several of the newest Volkswagens on an identical 14-mile loop around rural Virginia. By adding a few unauthorized extensions to this loop, I was able to walk away from the day with a reasonable understanding of a few different VW models. Naturally, the four most interesting cars were the turbocharged compacts:
- 2012 Beetle Turbo
- 2012 Jetta GLI (tested in both DSG and manual form)
- 2012 Golf GTI
- Golf R (tested in Euro-market six-speed form)
None of these cars can be said to compete directly against each other, but I’ve decided to create an impromptu comparison test between the four. The ranking is solely my opinion and is not the result of collaboration, voting, free long-term
bribes testers or an utterly inexcusable blurring of the already thin line between editorial and paid content Special Advertising Section placement.
The podium positions will be revealed on Monday through Wednesday, but there’s a loser in every group, and today we are meeting that loser: the charming but ultimately outclassed 2012 Beetle Turbo.
“I mean, this car is dead, right? The only people who bought the last one were fifty-year old Sally Schoolteachers, and they’re all sixty years old now. There’s no volume in this car. Can’t be any volume. The buyers are almost dead. And it isn’t fun to drive AT ALL. What would you rather have, this or a MINI?” The fellow shooting the rapid-fire queries at me from the passenger seat as I drove a five-cylinder 2012 Beetle through Northern Virginia was one of those authentic American types: the Straight-Shooting Self-Styled Marketing Expert. I encounter a lot of S-S,S-SME’s on press trips, and most of them are also Self-Deluded Fools. Not this guy. He was smart, he was articulate, and I didn’t have any easy answers to his questions.
The 2012 Beetle is (much) wider and (fractionally) lower. The new styling is intended to appeal to male buyers as well as the aforementioned Sally Schoolteacher. Dynamically and functionally, it’s a massive step past its predecessor. If you liked the old New Beetle, you’ll probably really like this one. The question still remains, however: who’s going to buy one? And why?
Last Monday’s review of the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SE found the large, value-priced German sedan to be roomy but unpolished. Today: the TDI in SEL Premium trim. In this form the “from $19,995*” new Passat gets a bit far from the segment’s mid-twenties sweet spot, with a list price of $32,965. But perhaps the turbodiesel engine and top-of-the-line interior transform the car?
Read More >