Review: 2014 VW Beetle R-Line

Every couple of years, somebody releases a study claiming to show that the average palate can’t differentiate between a good red wine and a cheap red wine, a good red wine and a good white wine, or a good red wine and a tumbler-full of Thunderbird mixed with antifreeze and raw gasoline. Survey says: it’s all the same juice, right?

Previously, amidst the vineyards of the Napa Valley, EIC Pro Tempore / sommelier Jack Baruth decanted a few forced-induction Germanic vintages and ran us through the tasting notes. He left one machine off – the turbocharged version of VW’s Beetle. So what do we think: GTI wine in a rotund bocksbetuel?

Read more
2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, First Place: GTI Mk7

The current GTI has thoroughly earned its reputation as a brilliant, satisfying driver’s car. Under the skin, however, it’s a decade old and in the time since the MkV GTI blew the bloody door off the segment and today the competition has been anything but asleep. The Mazdaspeed3, Focus ST, and Subaru WRX offer vastly more power, while the Fiat 500 Abarth, Fiesta ST, and Mini Cooper S attack from the segment below with a driving experience that is just as involving for less money — or, in the case of the MINI, the same money and more street cred with the lay-dies.

It’s not too soon for Volkswagen to revise the car, and the Mk7 GTI is more than a simple revision. It’s a thorough re-engineering of the Golf from the ground up. This time, weight is down, power is up, and refinement is the watchword. With a formula like that, it’s virtually assured that the civilian-grade Golfs will find themselves back on top of the market, particularly in Europe where people like to pretend that the Honda Civic doesn’t exist. This will be great news to the more than five people who plan to purchase a brand-new Golf late this year or early next. The rest of us just want to hear about the GTI.

Read more
2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, Second Place: Jetta 1.8 SE TSI Manual

Two years ago “Dubbers” around the country from AnimeCon to FanimeCon were shocked by my decision to make the Jetta GLI the winner of the VW Intramural League. My failure to recognize the obvious Euro-superiority of hatchbacks at all times caused the phrase “threw up in my mouth a little” to be used to the point that certain backbone Internet routers achieved sentience just by being forced to repeatedly consider the concept of holding in one’s vomit to express disgust.

If you, like Ender’s “toon”, have mastered the process of elimination, you have just realized that this time we had to let the hatchback win. Was it because it wasn’t a straight GLI-on-GTI scrap, or was it because the Mark VII platform represents a major step forward? To find out, you’ll have to click that “Read More” link below, which will immediately cause TTAC’s advertisers to deposit yet another Brazilian-Rosewood-and-Beeswing-Sipo-festooned Paul Reed Smith guitar into my private vault. So go ahead and do it!

Read more
2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, Third Place: Scirocco R

Two years ago, this bottom-of-the-podium position in the Intramurals was occupied by the Golf R. I slated the car for being both too slow to run with the Japanese rally-reps and too porky to match the FWD turbo Volkswagens on a back road.

The Scirocco R addresses both of these concerns: it’s FWD, light, and as we’ll discuss below, brutally quick. Compared to the Golf R… well, it barely compares. It’s Stilton to the Golf’s Velveeta. And yet it’s in third place, just like its Haldex-twisting cousin. What gives?

Read more
2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, Fourth Place: Passat 1.8TSI SEL

Westmoreland Rabbit! Say it with me: WESTMORELAND RABBIT! The minute Volkswagen announced that they would be building a new-from-scratch sedan in a new-from-scratch American factory, the cries of WESTMORELAND RABBIT were heard across the land, from MIVE to the “Emm Kay Eye Vee” forums. Westmoreland, of course, was the infamous transplant Volkswagen factory that gave us wide-taillight, square-headlight Rabbits with stupid-looking side markers and velour interiors and horrifying quality control and wallowing non-Euro suspensions and the Rabbit GTI, which is usually left out of the “complaining about Westmoreland” narrative. The fact that the “NMS” Passat would be considerably bigger and blander than the Euro B6 or the CC didn’t help matters.

Car and Driver gave the new Passat a first-place finish in its comparison-test debut and then, following certain rules of the industry, dropped it to last place in a follow-up comparison eight months later. Neither result stilled the cries of the Westmoreland Rabbit crowd. The Internet hates this car. The American public, however, loves it and VW’s sales are through the roof this year, largely on Passat momentum. For 2013-badged-2014, the Passat drops the not-quite-evergreen 2.5L five-cylinder in favor of a turbo four-cylinder with a rather odd cylinder head design.

After thirty-five fast miles in the TSI SEL, I was convinced that it wasn’t “Americanized” much at all. Instead, it’s a return to VW’s water-cooled roots…

Read more
2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, Fifth Place: CC R-Line 2.0T

Let’s start with the good news: It’s still possible to purchase a German-made Volkswagen sedan with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. Your humble author did just that back in February of 1998, taking delivery of a 1998 Passat 1.8t and thoroughly enjoying the sleek sedan while it was in my possession. The current Passat is aimed at a different market, and quite successfully so; it’s the “CC” four-door koo-pay that is meant to carry the torch for all the old B5 Passat fans.

Which makes sense, because this is fundamentally an old Passat. An eight-year-old Passat. And that, as you might expect, is a bit of a problem.

Read more
Bi-Polar Suzuki Not Sure What To Do With VW

Suzuki and VW don’t seem ready to officially call it quits just yet. The two companies are still talking, with both sides continuing to see positives in what was to be a partnership on small cars and Suzuki’s domination of emerging markets.

Senior management from both sides, including Osamu Suzuki, are currently in talks to revive the partnership as it could help Suzuki spread their R&D costs over multiple products and give them access to VW technology. Volkswagen wants a greater foothold in India and China, where Suzuki has been wildly successful, a stark contrast to their presence in North America. If talks fail, the courts have some decisions to make.

Read more
The Dream Maker: Meet The Man Who Makes Volkswagen's Concept Cars

Dzemal Sjenar has a dream job: He dreams up cars for a living. For 25 years, the engineer from Bosnia has been developing concept cars at Volkswagen. The concept cars are put on display at car shows, are discussed with journalists, or, in a more formal setting, in “clinics,” where hopefully representative groups of people are asked what they like and don’t like in that concept. If the dream cars evoke the desired feelings, the dreams become reality.

Read more
Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Vs 2013 Jetta Hybrid

“Have you driven the new Jetta Hybrid?” popped up in my Faceache message box. It came from Captain Leslie, an E-3 Sentry driver, consummate professional, a current Jetta TDI pilot (with a manual), and friend from a tour in the Middle East and Oklahoma City. Unable to resist her profile smile, I went in search of the elusive electrically motivated VW in a sea of 2.5L sorority mobiles. As she has saved my ass in the past, I shall attempt to repay the favor. Leslie, skip the Hybrid, get another TDI… but make sure its a Golf…wagon…in brown…with a manual.

Read more
Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible (Video)

Redesigning retro is a herculean task. You need to change the vehicle enough to be worth the effort, meanwhile maintaining an iconic retro theme. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade in their old flashback for the new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. The task is so daunting that few even attempt it. (Just look at the one-hit-wonders: PT Cruiser, HHR, SSR and Thunderbird.) VW on the other hand is different. After all they continued to build and sell the same Beetle with minor tweaks for 65 years straight. If anyone can tweak retro and convince people they need it, it’s VW. Sure enough, 2012 was the best Beetle sales year since 1973. As a chaser to VW’s revived retro-mojo, the Beetle is now offered sans-top and VW tossed us the keys to a brown-on-brown model for a week so we could get our 70s on. Can you dig it?

Read more
Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (Video)

If I say “hybrid,” most people think: slow, efficient, awful-to-drive, Prius, tree-hugger, Democrat and California. Pretty much in that order. The people’s car company however is on a mission to change your word association. In 2011 VW crafted the ridiculously fast supercharged Touareg Hybrid. For 2013, the Germans have some new words for you to associate with “hybrid”: direct-injection, turbocharged, 7-speed, DSG and Jetta. Is this enough to sway Prius shoppers looking for a more engaging ride? More importantly: should you get the Jetta Hybrid or the Jetta TDI? VW tossed us the keys to a dark blue fuel-sipper to find out.

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Golf R (US-spec)

Take the iconic Volkswagen GTI. Add a larger turbo to the 2.0-liter engine to bump the official horsepower rating from 200 to 256. Add all-wheel-drive to mitigate torque steer. The resulting Golf R ought to be hot hatch nirvana. Jack Baruth found something else. But he drove a Euro-spec car. Perhaps VW performed some beneficial tweaks with the Americanized version?

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan SE AWD

Some driving enthusiasts (for reasons that escape me) take their significant other’s tastes into account when buying a car for themselves. Invariably, the s.o. won’t abide a hatchback, but finds crossovers the epitome of automotive style and utility. So our whipped enthusiast wonders which compact crossover they will least regret. Oh, and it can’t cost BMW money. Volksagen, Mazda, and Ford offer the most entertaining hot hatches. What do they offer in something a little taller? Today we examine Europe’s (relatively) affordable offering, the Volkswagen Tiguan.

Read more
Review: 2013 Volkswagen CC

There was a time when “Passat” was German for “budget-Audi.” Even though the A4 and Passat parted ways in 2005, the Passat’s interior and price tag were more premium than mid-market shoppers were looking for. To hit VW’s North American yearly sales goal of 800,o000, the European Passat (B6) was replaced with a model designed specifically for American tastes. This means a lower price tag, less “premium” interior, and larger dimensions. If your heart pines for a “real” Passat, look no further than the 2013 Volkswagen CC. If it looks familiar, it should. The CC is none other than the [s]artist[/s] car formerly known as [s]Prince[/s] Passat CC with a nose job. VW advertises the CC as “the most affordable four-door coupé” in the US. All you need to know is: Euro lovers, this is your Passat.

Read more
Comparison Review: Volkswagen Jetta GLI Vs. Honda Civic Si

Remember 1985? If you were paying attention to cars, then the then-new Civic Si and Mk2 Jetta GLI were on your radar. Which did you prefer? For the 2012 model year both cars are again new. One of them has changed surprisingly little. The other, though it retains some choice bits, has perhaps lost the plot.

Read more
Capsule Review: 1998 Volkswagen Passat, the G.O.A.T.

Sometimes it all comes together, doesn’t it — right before it all falls apart. Lightning in a bottle. Never as good before, never to be equaled afterwards. Duane Allman crashes his motorcycle, the sunburst Les Paul yields to the “Les Paul SG”, the perfected Honda VFR800 Interceptor is replaced by something that looks like the Nostromo’s escape pod, the woman you desperately love goes desperately crazy and desperately calls your wife, that kind of stuff.

The family sedan, too, had its high-water mark, its ’59 ‘Burst, its At Fillmore East. The G.O.A.T. The Greatest Of All Time. Once in history, all the tides converged. The resulting car was fast, spacious, full-featured, affordable, safe, economical, gorgeous, desirable. Hmm. We’re missing one quality, aren’t we? We’ll get to that later.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the G.O.A.T.: the 1998 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8t five-speed manual. Yes, I had one.

Read more
Toyota Camry Hybrid Vs. Volkswagen Passat TDI: Which Would You Buy?

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?

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Take Two
Glee (noun) [\glē\]:
(a.) exultant high-spirited joy; merriment

[s](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…[/s]

(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
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5

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.

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0, Brazilian Spec

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
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Sharan TDI BlueMotion (Euro-Spec)

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.

Read more
2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5

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?

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Eos

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?

Read more
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg VR6

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
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat V6 SE

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.

Read more
Volkswagen 2.0T Intramural League, First Place: 2012 Jetta GLI

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?

Read more
Volkswagen 2.0T Intramural League, Second Place: GTI DSG Four-Door

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?

Read more
Volkswagen 2.0T Intramural League, Third Place: 2012 Golf R (Euro-Spec)

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…

Read more
Volkswagen 2.0T Intramural League, Fourth Place: 2012 Beetle Turbo

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 [s]bribes[/s] testers or [s]an utterly inexcusable blurring of the already thin line between editorial and paid content[/s] 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.

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5

“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?

Read more
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium

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
Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SE

Volkswagen intends to become the world’s largest auto maker. Selling far more cars in the United States would accomplish this goal. Euro-spec cars haven’t been doing the trick, as too few Americans have been willing to pay the resulting semi-premium prices. So VW engineered a new Jetta compact sedan and a new Passat midsize sedan specifically for American tastes and budgets. Confident of the latter’s success, they’ve even constructed an all-new factory in Chattanooga, TN, to assemble it. Should the UAW’s latest targets expect to be working overtime? Today’s review evaluates the 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas Passat in SE trim, while Wednesday’s will compare the 2.0-liter turbodiesel in SEL Premium trim.

Read more
Pre-Production Review: Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-motion

As I noted in an earlier piece on the macro-level issues with EVs, it’s dangerously misleading to assume that electric cars can simply replace internal combustion-engine vehicles without a basic re-think of nearly every way in which we relate to our cars. That’s true in terms of consumer-end issues like refueling grid impacts and “range anxiety” but it’s also true in terms of manufacturer-end issues like development and differentiation. It’s even true for the auto media.

One of the giant re-thinks spawned by EV development is in how manufacturers make their vehicles reflect their brand values and stand out in the marketplace, as the electric motor in (say) a Ferrari EV wouldn’t be as fundamentally different as an electric motor in (say) a Kia. This, in turn, makes reviewing EVs extremely difficult, as they all display similar power attributes, weight challenges, single-speed transmissions and battery ranges. So when you are asked to drive a pre-production EV from a major manufacturer, the major question in the mind of the conscientious reporter is the same as the question that drove the vehicle’s development: how is this vehicle different than any other EV? In the case of the Golf blue-e-motion, the answer to that question reflects the challenges of developing a major-market electric vehicle.

Read more
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

The Touareg TDI is not your father’s Oldsmobile. I know, because I unfortunately drove my father’s 85HP, 1983 Cutlass Cierra diesel when I was a kid. Since my dad was a glutton for punishment, this was not his first unreliable GM diesel; we also had a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser with the infamous diesel V8. After about 30,000 miles, both our diesels smoked like a 60 year old hooker. Since potential clean diesel shoppers seem to fall into the 30-60 year old demographic, this is still the image that diesel brings to mind for many, not the reliable but low-volume European diesels from the 70s and 80s. If sales numbers are any indication however, BMW Mercedes and VW have been changing the tide of public opinion.

Read more
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE

General Motors, Hyundai, and Volkswagen are all hungry for a much bigger slice of the North American compact sedan pie. Their past offerings didn’t do the trick. So all three recently introduced cars much different than their predecessors. Having reviewed the Cruze a few months ago, and the Elantra last week, I was eager to see how the new Jetta, VW’s attempt to give North Americans what we seem to really want, stacks up.

Read more
Review: 2011 VW Touareg Hybrid

As a longtime champion of clean-diesel technology in the American market, Volkswagen’s decision to launch its all-new Touareg with a hybrid version comes as something of a surprise. Not only does VW have a stable of proven, efficient oil-burners to choose from, but the firm has, until very recently, savored its role as a skeptic of EV and hybrid drivetrains. And with the GM/Chrysler/BMW/Mercedes Two-Mode hybrid system conclusively failing to build a market for large gas-electric Utes, it seemed that the era of mass-market hybrid SUVs was at an end anyway. So, does VW’s excursion from its comfort zone make more sense on (or off) the road than on paper?

Read more
Requiem for the A5 Jetta

We’ve seen the writing on the wall for a while: VW is dead set on finally making a profit in North America. In order be profitable, VW has to cut the manufacturing cost of its vehicles. As the Phaeton’s fate showed, America just isn’t ready for a VW that comes with sticker shock as a standard accessory. With the new “economized” 2011 Jetta in the wings, VW tossed us the keys to a 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition for a week as a farewell to the A5.

Read more
VW Launches Aventureiro Version Of Its Most Popular Brazilian Model

Quite of few of you have asked me to do a history of VW do Brasil’s most sold car ever: the Gol. No mean feat, considering the runner-up is probably still the Beetle. I’m currently working on a history of the car (that I hope will be up soon), but as an appetizer, let’s check out VeeDub’s latest Brazilian offering. If you happen to like it, it’s an intriguing piece of work. If you don’t, you’ll probably think it’s just confused.

Read more
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta

In spite of its name and the fact that it’s the one of the largest automakers in the world, Americans tend to see Volkswagen as something of a niche manufacturer. Certainly Volkswagen’s reputation in this country is for making cars that conform to our ideas of “European-ness.” Unfortunately for Volkswagen, relatively few Americans want to spend extra for the taut suspension, high-quality interior and refined ambiance of a European car. So, with the 2011 Jetta, Volkswagen decided to give America what it was asking for: more car for less. Sounds hard to resist, right?

Read more
Review: 2011 VW Polo 1.2 TSI

Polo players don’t drive German superminis, in the same way Dustin Hoffman never pulled over near a Hollywood studio in a Chevy Celebrity. So, who does drive a Polo? The same people who drive a Golf – only ten years younger, with a bank account ten grand shorter. And until last year, these people have been a little alienated from the VW customer circle – with a new Golf recently introduced and the older Polo getting a little long in the tooth.

Read more
Brazilian Brawl: Battle of the Mighty Mini Pickups

Having some time on my hands, I ventured out again into cardealershipland. Wanted to get my hands on the mini mites that inhabit many an urban Brazilian cowboy’s dream. You know, the call of the sertão (that’s what you think we call the pampas.) In the left corner, all the way from Italy, but made in Brazil, the long-time favorite and market leader Fiat Strada Adventure Locker. In the right corner, the Teutonic tiny titan, the all new VW Saveiro Cross. As the long names suggest, these are the top of the line offerings from each maker. Both offer cheaper, less equipped versions for the daily grind and/or work routine. So hold your cavalos, vaqueiro, I mean, hold your horses, cowboy! Which one comes out on top?

Read more
Review: 2010 Volkswagen GTI

During a recent visit to Houston’s Johnson Space Center, I stood at the business end of the mighty Saturn V lunar rocket and contemplated many things. On the surface, I found myself excited and awestruck at the spectacle of the raw power represented by this engineering landmark, but introspectively, I also felt a twinge of sadness, realizing that I was now an adult and quite obviously not the astronaut I one day hoped to be.

It’s funny how reality sometimes smacks you like that. My youthful (space) flights of fancy also included plans to own a daily driver capable of an 11-second quarter mile, but today I drive a car capable of pulling a trailer and carrying six adults. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s never accelerated to sixty in under nine seconds. Time, along with an inconvenient concept called “real life,” end up teaching us that raw power isn’t really everything. In the end, we often find ourselves settling for many things that would have sorely disappointed our younger expectations.

However, before I blast off into a fit of nostalgic anomie, I should mention a fabulous little coping mechanism called the 2010 Volkswagen GTI. Yes, the original hot hatch and its segment-founding “you-can-be-responsible-and-still-have-fun” formula remain thankfully intact—when you get behind the wheel, your life will almost assuredly suck less. Unless you are an astronaut. Who owns a Ferrari.

Read more
Review: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Take Two
Review: 2009 Euro Wagon Shootout: BMW 535xi Wagon, Mercedes E350 Wagon, Volvo XC70 T6, Volkswagen Passat 2.0T Wagon
Review: Used Car Classic: VW Beetle
Review: 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC
2009 Volkswagen Routan Review
2009 VW Jetta SportWagen SE Review
2009 VW Tiguan SE 4Motion Review
2009 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TDI Review
2008 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI Review
Volkswagen Jetta Review
Volkswagen R32 Review
Volkswagen Polo Review
Triple White New Beetle Convertible Review
Volkswagen Passat Review
VW Rabbit Review
Volkswagen Touareg TDI Review
Volkswagen Eos Review
Jetta Tdi Review
  • MaintenanceCosts All I want is one more cylinder. One more cylinder and I would happily pay the diesel fraud company almost whatever they wanted for it.
  • SPPPP US like Citroen - nothing moves.
  • Jeff S Corey--Thanks again for this serious and despite the lack of comments this is an excellent series. Powell Crosley does not get enough recognition and is largely forgotten even in his hometown of Cincinnati although the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Airport has 2 Crosley cars on display. Crosley revolutionized radios by making an affordable radio that the masses could afford similar to what Henry Ford did with the Model T. Both Crosley and Ford did not invent the radio and the car but they made them widespread by making them affordable. I did not know about the Icyball but I did know about Crosley refrigerators, airplanes, cars, and radios.
  • Oberkanone C5 Aircross is the only vehicle that would have any appeal in North America. Can't see it doing well with Citroen badge, maybe a chance with Chrysler badge.
  • Oberkanone 1921 thru 1936 are the best