The Truth About Cars » New Beetle The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:01:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » New Beetle Vellum Venom: 2012 VW Beetle Turbo Sun, 13 May 2012 10:38:53 +0000 Please believe: car design school is a frickin’ bizarre place. The phrase “I’m surprised you are here and not in medical school” was thrown in my face several times at CCS.  And this verbal diarrhea came from people who take your tuition and are supposed to help you become a designer! But can’t I, a fairly smart South Asian dude, be more than what you assume?

Or do stereotypes exist for a reason? Like the beliefs held about the vehicle in question?

The newest VW Beetle reminds me of that old “Design School Sajeev.”  This Vee-Dub wants a change of pace from the stereotypes, and it’s done a fine job. After all, it spent far too much time as a stereotypical girly car…it needed a touch of beefcake for the next redesign.


Two worlds collide: the soft and girly demeanor of the Beetle remains, but there’s a nod to toned muscle in the bumper’s lower half.  The nose is downright chiseled! And while the Beetle should never have a “Bunkie Beak” like the works of Mr. Kundsen, adding some tonal quality to the Beetle’s otherwise undefined bumper is a thoughtful touch. Even better, the muscles have a bit of chrome trimming that gives it an-oh-so subtle smile.


The foglights integrate nicely into that smile.  And the bumper looks even better from a lower view.  Children will love this.  I imagine it saying “Hi” like the advertisements for the original Dodge Neon. It is undeniably cute, but not nearly as prissy as before.


Thrusting forward.  The front clip itself is more than a little manly while the squared off, beveled hood adds more definition than before.


The Beetle’s schnoz is definitely growing up in the same manner as our first Vellum Venom subject: the Porsche 911. Check them both out from this angle.


The headlight’s eyelids are a little touch of retro flair that I truly adore.  They are super-duper brand honest, and integrate very well into the headlight’s overall design.  I love it when custom touches from the aftermarket receive a hat-tip from the OEMs, decades later. Nice job!


And the layers, textures and bullet like thrust of this lighting appendage work nicely with the bumper’s imagery.  It’s about time that our love of plastic headlight castings really highlighted a brand, a model, or a design studio’s creativity.  I first noticed it on the uber-pricey headlights of my HID-equipped Lincoln Mark VIII…and now it is everywhere! Technology FTW!


Yes indeed, the bumper is squared off and tougher, but the same is true for the green house.  Note the hard, not organic bend in the A-pillar at the roof.  This leads to a roofline that is no longer Astrodome-like.  Which is far more mature than the last Beetle. Also note the bigger, meatier door. Even the fenders look a bit, well, hunkier?


Someone with more design experience than myself should chime in: what is this center panel called?  It’s not a fender, or a hood. Rather, it is a cowl cover. Whatever, this hunk of metal that covers the cowl has three dynamic cut lines and one very, very static line.  I would aim the cowl/A-pillar/Door seam with a downward trajectory so it hits the base of the DLO (daylight opening) instead. This gives a little more flow and excitement from up close. Maybe even from a distance!

Oh, and congrats for not having DLO FAIL with pointless black triangles.  This is one time where German engineering and Design can rightfully claim a victory.


My apologizes to the VW fanbois, as I can’t remember the name of the original wheel design that inspired this hoop.  You’d see this black and silver wheel spoke on everything from Beetles, Buses, 911s and 914s in the 1970s, and they translate well into the Dub generation.  My only beef is the interrupted outer rim, those slots need to be pushed back so the design can “breathe” a bit.  Job well done still, and I like the side marker’s matching curves against the wheel arches.

While I didn’t photograph a Bug with the retro wheels of the base model, I found them oversized and therefore out of proportion.  Big discs are a pleasant nod to the past, but these Turbo wheels work better.


I assume this bodyside molding seeks to emulate the original’s classic running boards, and I guess that’s cool.  I woulda gone more retro, with a fluted/ribbed top and a matte black finish. This is one time where if you’re wanna stick out, you might as well be LOUD and PROUD…son!


Like the hood bevel, the green house sports a hard recess around its perimeter.  While I think the bevel is too long/deep at the quarter window, this is a significant improvement over the previous New Beetle.  Now this roof is stylish, not soft. Perhaps rear seat headroom also improved, from the looks of it.


I quite like the meeting of quarter panel, fender and hatchback: the lines are fast and a touch on the muscular side. The Turbo’s spoiler helps too, in a proto-911 kinda way.  The biggest improvement from this shot is most certainly the taillights. The dull, flat and fruity circles from the last model are history, now the Bug has a bit of deep and complex techo-industrial chic from the rear. And their larger size is in better proportion with the rest of the package.

If there was a bit more tumblehome (google it) to the green house, we’d have a more honest Beetle.  Then again, whatever I am seeing here doesn’t look like a stereotypical Bug.  It looks like a bad ass little compact car.


I wish the spoiler extended further down the hatch, and stuck further out.  It would be a good “F U” to the rest of the world, adding to the masculinity seen elsewhere on the coachwork.


The rear bumper continues the theme from the front, deeper/lower and more masculine.  Also note the squared off hatch corners with a hard bevel. Combined with the fender’s ability to give the Beetle more tumblehome than actually available, you have a mature redesign of an absolutely childish original.  And with the bigger taillights in the right proportion, can I call this wee beastie a “Butch Machine” and get away with it?


Back to my deep and complex techo-industrial chic remark: these lighting pods are such an improvement over the previous design.  Note the prominent “U” theme, complete with clear lights with the same vanishing point. The design is rich and deep in these pods, and they point to a well executed little vehicle. While not the cheapest small car on the planet–or especially reliable, in TTAC’s Piston Slap terms–this new VW Beetle simply appeals to me in every place where the original failed. This one is totally okay for a manly-man type of dude to own.

And thank goodness neither of us went to “Medical School.”

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5 Wed, 21 Dec 2011 19:51:48 +0000

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?

The new (not New) Beetle’s body is less far-out styling exercise, more faithful yet also better resolved and altogether more attractive update of the form-follows-function original. Except dimensionally, where a page has been ripped from Harley Earl’s decidedly contra-Bauhaus “longer, lower, wider” car design philosophy, with changes of +7.3 (to 168.4), -0.5 (to 58.5), and +2.3 (to 71.2) inches, respectively. Most notable among the now bent curves, the Beetle’s roof no longer traces a continuous arch from fender to fender. There’s enough of a flat roof surface for a much larger glass panel, but not enough for this panel to open even halfway. Disregard the brochure: “panoramic” it’s not. Paint the bug “autobahn appliance silver” and shoe it with wide, low profile treads (235/45HR18s, to be precise), and only men least sure of their manliness should feel uncomfortable driving this car.

The interior is similarly less style for its own sake and more a blend of the original’s minimalist aesthetic and today’s standard VW issue. Though the herringbone pattern in some of the off-black leatherette and the audio display graphics are kind of nifty, those seeking cheery, bubbly fun are much less likely to find it here. The potential for whimsy largely departed with the bud vase. Fans of functionality will adore the extra glove box and three-dial HVAC controls, though.

When I spoke of men being comfortable in this car, I was speaking figuratively. The hard, flat front seat put my seat to sleep, while the hard flat door-mounted armrest made my elbow wish for the same. The view forward is more confidence inspiring than that in the previous car, since the 2012’s windshield is much more upright and you no longer have to gaze across a vast expanse of instrument panel to see through it. But unless you’re especially long of torso it’s first necessary to crank the seat way up to avoid feeling trapped, Kafka-style, in the big bug body. Only the windows seem small. The new car arguably comes by its high belt and small windows honestly, as postwar Beetles weren’t exactly fishbowls. But the large feel from the driver’s seat? That’s new. No such novelty in back—it’s still a tight fit for adults, though the rear glass thankfully isn’t overhead. Cargo volume similarly remains in modest supply, though the hatch opening, no longer a fashion victim, is usefully larger.

I’m oddly fond of the much-maligned low-revving 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine in its latest 170 horsepower, 177 pound-feet iteration. Very torquey, it pulls strongly up to 40 miles-per-hour or so, and then more than adequately up to highway speeds, while sounding more substantial than a four (if not remotely like an air-cooled boxer) in the process. Too bad the six-speed automatic transmission, in a not terribly successful attempt to earn good EPA numbers (22 city / 29 highway MPG), is more than capable of lugging even this engine. Want to shift for yourself? You’ll save $1,100 with the five-speed manual. Or spend more and get the 200-horsepower 2.0T / six-speed stick combo.

Hopefully the steering and suspension are tuned differently with the turbo. The 2.5’s hydraulic power steering (vs. electric-assist with the 2.0T) communicates well as loads build, but feels sluggish and a touch sloppy on-center. Little happens during the initial quarter turn. The chassis feels stable but not at all agile. As with the second-gen Scion xB, the oversized feel of the 2012 Beetle really takes a toll. Frisky personality like that of a MINI or 500? Not at all. You could be behind the wheel of any 3,000-plus-pound German driving appliance. The car is all business.

Aesthetically, the 18-inch wheels are perfect for the car. Since those big shiny discs are hubcaps, the rims probably aren’t as hefty as they look. But they do feel as hefty as they look, pounding across all but the most minor road imperfections. Though the suspension tuning is hardly GTI athletic, the ride is jittery more often than not. Chassis refinement is uncharacteristically lacking for a VW. What were the engineers aiming for? To put a positive spin on it, those seeking sharp handling and those seeking a smooth ride will be equally satisfied.

The price of the bespoke body? Easy to figure, since the new Beetle is essentially the latest North American Jetta underneath. Okay, maybe not so easy, as the Jetta 2.5 isn’t offered with the 400-watt Fender audio system or 18-inch rims. The tested Beetle, loaded up with automatic, sunroof, and nav, lists for $25,965. A Jetta without the aforementioned bits but with enough other things to be worth a $680 feature-based price adjustment (according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool): $25,065. So figure about $1,580 for the bug body, larger rims, and rocking audio system. Not bad if the rest was good. A similarly equipped (but 121 horsepower) MINI Cooper costs nearly the same as the tested Beetle after adjusting for feature differences.

German coachbuilder Gunter Artz once highly modified a few Golf bodies to fit over Porsche 928 mechanicals. Driving the result must have affected severe cognitive dissonance. The same is the case, if in a less desirable direction, with the 2012 Beetle. Even butched up, it looks like it should be fun, or at least feel somehow special. Perhaps like a less mini MINI. Instead the latest Beetle drives like an American-spec Jetta with gangsta windows, sloppier steering, and less polished suspension. I actually enjoyed driving the Jetta mit 2.5 more. The Germans have never understood our American fondness for the car that, for them, can only have painful association with their immediate postwar condition. This might explain why, after masterfully crafting a more functional, more attractive, and more broadly appealing update of the iconic exterior, they phoned the rest in. The result certainly isn’t a bad car, but also isn’t the distinctive experience it could have been. The abandoned better idea: Think Small.

Volkswagen provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: And The Beetle Goes On Edition Mon, 18 Apr 2011 14:20:24 +0000

What was old has become new… again! After letting the old New Beetle languish on the market for a remarkable 13th year, VW has revisited its ’90s retro hit with a longer, lower, wider update on the new Jetta’s platform [The 2012 Beetle is 71.2 inches wide (3.3 inches wider), 58.5 inches tall (.5 inches lower) and 168.4 inches long (6 inches longer)]. The engine options are largely the same as the Jetta’, with TDI, 2.5 liter five-cylinder and 2.0 Turbo mills on offer, with a 200 HP range-topper offering an electronic limited-slip diff and dual-clutch gearbox.

Convertible and Hybrid versions should be coming down the pipe shortly, but for now all VW wants to talk about is the Beetle’s return to an original-style profile, its status as a “new original” and its ability to “respect the past while looking to the future.” Which is all well and good, but no matter how well the New New Beetle may tickle the Boomers’ retro sensibilities, it’s got nothing to to do with original Beetle’s values. If anything, the New New Beetle should do some of its best work by making at least a few sub-Boomers just a little bit nostalgic for the late 1990s, a simpler time when retro cars didn’t even have to be faithful to the original as long as they offered a plastic flower vase. Now those were some special times…

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