Calling it the sportiest, most fuel-efficient Beetle ever built, Volkswagen has finally taken the wraps off of their latest version of the iconic, rounded coupe. From the beginning, VW’s engineers had the difficult job of designing, in their words, “a new original”. Get it right, and the Beetle lives as one of the most popular cars of all time; get it wrong, and your design team is forever known as the “group that killed the Beetle”. The only way forward was to pen a car that respects the past but looks towards the future, so VW’s design team started by basing the new design on the very first Beetle.
The first thing you notice about the 2012 Beetle’s design is that it’s more than arch on arch on arch. The new car is longer, lower and wider, and better integrates the front and rear fenders into the design. The faux running boards are an homage to Beetles of the past (like the ’67 I learned to drive a stick in), and the edgier lines remove quite a bit of the “cute” factor that plagued the second generation cars. The last generation Beetles were almost cartoon replicas of what a car should look like, but the new, third generation car carries a certain attitude with it.
Backing up that stance will be several engine, transmission and suspension options. The base engine will be VW’s 2.5-liter, inline five cylinder, good for 170 horsepower and 177 ft lb of torque. Buyers can get this mated to a five speed manual or a six speed automatic, and the manual’s fuel economy is rated at 22 MPG city and 31 MPG highway. If you want better fuel economy, VW will offer the new Beetle in a TDI variant, good for 140 horsepower and 236 ft lb of torque. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or VW’s six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the TDI returns up to 29 MPG city, 40 MPG highway. If that’s not fast enough for you, a 2.0-liter TSI version will be available, good for 200 horsepower and 207 ft lb of torque. Transmission choices will be either the six-speed manual or the DSG gearbox, and fuel economy is rated at 30 MPG highway. A sport suspension will be offered, and all TSI-equipped Beetles will include VW’s XDS (cross differential system) limited slip differential.
An advantage of the 2012 Beetle’s stretched design is greater interior room and more luggage space. The interior of the new car is definitely more on the sporting side than the outgoing version, but touches like a body colored dashboard tie the car back to its origins. TSI-equipped cars get a faux carbon-fiber dash, but I’ll reserve judgement on this until I get a chance to see it in person.
Look for the 2012 VW Beetle to appear in dealer showrooms in September or October of this year.