Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo: The bug is back, and with more testosterone

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo
The Beetle's new design is sharp, clean, and slightly more sporty and masculine. Photo by Curtis Reesor.
It almost goes without saying, but few cars were more of an estrogen bomb than the previous-generation New Beetle. It oozed cute. It spewed feminine. It was more popular with women than the 3:00pm Dr. Phil timeslot. However, the latest generation Beetle, and especially this Turbo version, is set to add some more males to the Beetle buying public.


Everyone we showed the Beetle to thought VW did a great job redesigning it. Even the manliest of men said it looked less like a “chick car.” Another universal comment I got was that it looked like it had a few drops of Porsche DNA. (My stepmom said she thought it looked like a Porsche that ate too much.) I agree on all accounts. The car rides on big 19” wheels wrapped in wide 235/40/19 tires, and has an aggressive, slightly raked stance. A few other agreeable exterior touches include the rear spoiler, the VW emblem that doubles as a hatch release, and fog lights.

Refreshing a retro-inspired design is no light task. You have to make something look new while still retaining the original “old” look, so kudos to Volkswagen for pulling it off. This Beetle Turbo definitely has an edge to it that the last Beetle didn’t have. No need to hand in your man cards at the door fellas—there’s no bud vase, and there’s plenty of turbo boost on this bug.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo interior
The Beetle Turbo's interior is a standout in terms of design. The Fender stereo is one of the best on the market.
I’ve always admired VW for their interior design, and the Beetle Turbo impresses on many levels. The first thing that struck me were the seats—oh those gorgeous seats. And not only are those heated leather seats aesthetically pleasing, they’re very supportive and comfortable, too. Truly fantastic. The previous Beetle’s back seat wasn’t a great place for taller people as they’d often bump their noggins on the rear hatch’s glass or roof. That has been remedied with the ’12 Beetle—plenty of headroom (and legroom) back there. Overall visibility is good, too, by the way. Also of interior note, is the steering wheel. I expected a bit fatter, chunkier wheel from the turbo model, but the leather-wrapped wheel does fit in the hands nicely and has a host of audio, cruise, and shifting controls. Gauges are very clear and easily readable, and quite attractive. Other notables include three-color ambient interior lighting, push-button ignition, and a sunroof that takes up nearly the entire roof (more on this in a moment).

It would be a great injustice not to point out the Beetle Turbo’s audio system, which is by Fender. Yes, that Fender—the legendary guitar/amplifier company. I think this has to be the best factory car audio system I’ve heard to date. No matter how loud, no matter what music genre, the stereo kept it pumpin’. Crisp highs, deep lows, and ear-ringing volume were all possible. Phenomenal. My only complaint is the touch-screen head unit is somewhat cumbersome to use. Another infotainment highlight, however, was the navigation setting, which was also the best I’ve used to date. Simple, clear, and straightforward, the navi unit repeatedly got us from door to door without incident.

The interior is not without fault, however. Mercedes and I thought much of the shiny black plastic parts, which looked great, would likely end up scratched over time. Plus, that black plastic finish was found on the tops of the doors by the windows; we thought that on hot, sunny days, that black area might get ├╝ber hot (think scorched arm). Also, some of the interior hardware felt flimsy, such as climate control knobs and glovebox handle. Additionally, the driver’s window has some funkification; when raising the window, it’d randomly stop in the middle and go back down. Finally, the power sunroof opens up less than 9”, even though nearly the entire roof is glass. Really? It seems hardly worth opening as it didn’t provide much air circulation. Cool as a glass roof? Yes. Good as a sun roof? Not so much.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo driving
The Beetle Turbo has plenty of get-up-and-go, and it handles well, and rides confidently. Photo by Curtis Reesor
The Beetle Turbo is essentially a GTI with a Beetle body on it. It has the same 2.0-liter gasoline-direct injected engine making 200 horsepower and 207 ft./lbs. of torque put down through the company’s DSG dual-clutch transmission. The power is definitely there, and the car squats down under full throttle. Shifts are quick and can be done automatically or manually using the shifter or the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Despite the grippy 19” tires, wheel spin is pretty easy to come by from a stand still. The traction control quickly kicks in to quell that. Unfortunately, it also quells the performance, and there is no way to disable the traction control. It also took a while for me to get used to the throttle response, which seemed a bit delayed. Maybe it’s just the turbo. Speaking of, this turbocharged bug is EPA rated at 22 city and 30 highway MPGs on premium fuel.

In the handling department, the Beetle is quite competent thanks in part to those aforementioned 19” wheels and tires. When pushed, however, the car does tend to lean and feel softer than was expected. Highway ride is very good; this is where you feel as if the car was tuned to do 120 MPH on the autobahn. It feels rock solid at speed, which is confidence inspiring. Stopping is handled by four-wheel disc brakes with good feel.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo rear
The Beetle Turbo's back end looks great, especially with the dual exhaust outlets and spoiler. Photo by Curtis Reesor
As I said earlier, everyone agreed the car looked more masculine and seemed to have a little Porsche DNA. People also though it was quite pricey: Our Beetle Turbo tester with sunroof, sound, and nav came in at $29,865, which includes $770 worth of destination, three years of scheduled maintenance, and roadside assistance. I would’ve liked to have gotten xenon headlamps with this, and really wish the sunroof would open more than 9”, but so be it. The Beetle Turbo has a world-class interior, admirable performance, and a unique style that is sure to attract more men and continued support from the fairer sex. However, at nearly $30,000, there are quite a few other hot hatches to be had. The Beetle continues to be distinctive and European. However, it's sportier, more handsome, and more serious than ever.

1 comment:

Charles ~ Humble Mechanic said...

I LOVE this new Beetle! It is such a change from the last NB. I am really looking forward to all the cool modified ones coming.