Prepare to be beetle juiced
July 7, 2014
I know what you’re thinking. EDGARdaily
is a lifestyle site for men and normally we write about supercars, muscle cars and executive limos, so what’s the story with this VW Beetle?
￼Fair question, because it’s no secret that the reincarnated version of the iconic VW Beetle, correctly referred to as the VW New Beetle, was tilted at women when it first hit the market in 1998.
The methodology worked because the New Beetle sold a storm, especially across the United States where its waiting list stretched literally for years while guys preferred the Golf GTI.
However, what if you merged the Golf GTI and it’s brawny 2-litre, turbocharged engine with the Beetle and wrapped it in a new body that was less comic book and more custom street rod, had a more universally accepted interior and handled rather well? That’s pretty much the 2014 Beetle we’ve recently driven.
I was prepared to accept a few snide jokes or wayward comments during my two-day drive in the new Beetle turbo along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but the truth is, it was quite the opposite.
As we stopped at tourist attractions along the way such as the Hearst Castle, Pizmo Beach and Stearns Wharf, the cars grabbed attention as you would expect from any new model but there was no shortage of guys in pick-up trucks who wanted to ask questions and stick their heads inside for a quick peak.
The truth is, with its lower ride height and wider track not only over the previous model, but generally in relation to quite a few of its competitors, it hugs the road like the sports hatch it is. Throw in the 210bhp GTI turbo engine and dare I say it, it was a fun toy to boot around the ocean-hugging highway.
With each grey-haired retiree I passed cruising in their rental Ford Mustang convertible down the coast road, I felt more comfortable punting the Beetle turbo with its clean surge of torque that is no doubt aided by its direct injection, variable valve intake timing and the long stroke-narrow bore layout of the always rewarding, EA888 four-pot engine.
Which means it loves to overtake with plenty of punch and sounds great too. Top speed is quoted at 227kmh and it gets from zero to 100kmh in 7.3 seconds.
While there is a manual version on offer, the Middle East will only get the DSG six-speed, dual-clutch auto, which is fine by us as it’s always been the preferred choice, especially among city traffic and in some cases on the open road, it was more adept and ready to respond than the three-pedal version.
Even with the R-Line’s sports suspension, the Beetle is pretty comfortable whether it be cruising the city streets or on the highway. Bumps and ruts in the road were taken in their stride and while you will notice the road’s imperfections, as you should in a car with sports suspension, there was no harshness to speak of.
Road noise was noticeable but it wasn’t intrusive, so all things considered, the Beetle was a pleasing long-distance road trip companion.
California has been the spiritual heartland of the Beetle since the swinging Sixties and the West Coast of the US has had a love affair with the little Bug ever since.
Volkswagen houses one of its key design studios in Santa Monica in a skunk works warehouse that has no name above the door, just rows of shiny new Volkswagens in the parking lot. That part is a bit of a giveaway, admittedly.
While the previous Beetle paid homage to the original classic with its retro-inspired themes and then added a smiley mouth shape and bubble profile, the company's design whiz kids have taken the 2014 version down a completely different path.
The smiley face has gone as has the perfectly round profile shape for the cabin and in its place is a flattened roof with narrower, rectangular side windows which they say have been inspired by the chop-top, Californian hotrod scene from the 1950s.
Lower, wider and flatter is the mantra for the new shape and if you look closely, especially around the rear tail lights from the three-quarter angle, there’s also a deliberate hint at recent Porsche 911 styles as well. Seriously.
You sit noticeably further down inside which helps enormously with the car’s handling, so when you include the turbo engine under the hood, this West Coast team of sketchers have done their best to shake its previously girly image.
Equally important for this team was to tackle the interior and bring it into line with current tastes so out went the vase and the quirky nuances of the former generation and in comes a sophisticated, modern interior that’s in keeping with Volkswagen’s corporate look.
There was no risk-taking when it came to the interior aside from three cool gauges sitting atop the dash in the centre for oil temperature, turbo boost and a clock. If you’re familiar with modern VWs inside, then you’ll be at home with this.
Details: visit VW.com/models/Beetle