RawAutos recently had the pleasure of toying around in the new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo for a week. Fun, frugal, and willing, it’s much better than the last one… just not as good as the original.
When Volkswagen first e-mailed me to let me know they’d be dropping off a 2012 Beetle Turbo, let’s just say I was a little saddened. I was hoping for something with the letters GTI in it. But that’s neither here nor there at this point.
I had been out of town for a few days and upon arriving at my house, the new Beetle was waiting for me to immediately pick apart. As always, I grab the keys, do my ol’ dealer walkaround -the check for dents, dings, scratches, imperfections, personal opinions on style, etc.- I notice that I really like this new design theme. I’d seen the new Beetles on the road, but never really took the time to stop and take a real gander at them. With my walk-around, I also noticed the overall muscularity of the body and shape. This is starting to be less of a sad week ahead and instead I raise an eyebrow to the potential mischief I’m going to try and find with this car. Hmm…
The Beetle was never really a good looking car, let’s be honest. Even the original wasn’t necessarily attractive, but was just ergonomic in its design. The next gen Beetle, the previous generation to the current model, was just downright ugly, in my opinion. Again, though, it was simple and thought out to provide as much interior volume possible for such a small car. It was also very much a feminine car. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, to quite Seinfeld. I should say my cousin has a ’99 Beetle with a manual and she loves it, as do her three female children.
The Beetle Turbo that I had, however, is actually quite striking. Seeing it on the road I’m interested in looking at it. It’s not something I’d seek out, yet it’s appropriate to take a second glance. With the previous Beetles an extra look was never needed.
Opening the driver’s door and sliding on to the leather seat I’m greeted by a well thought out interior, proportional steering wheel, and big gauges. And when I say big, I mean it. The fuel gauge is almost the same size as the speedo. I’m not really sure why Volkswagen made the Beetle’s gas gauge so large, because you’ll hardly ever need to look at it. While I didn’t get out on the highway much -I was incredibly sick the week I had the Beetle Turbo- I did drive enough around town to average roughly 24 mpg for city driving, but more on that in the driving section.
As I got behind the wheel and started to look around I feel the comfort of the seats is just perfect; the seats could be a tad more bolstered, but the overall feel and driving comfort is just right.
Without a doubt, my favorite part of the Beetle Turbo is the Fender stereo system. For a car costing right around $30,000, I’ve never heard a better sound system. The Harmon Kardon system in my M3 is quite good, and at the price it could be a bit better, but it has rather good abilities. A Beetle being in the 20-30,000 dollar range, Fender provide one of the best sounding systems I’ve heard in any car of any price range. So to say Volkswagen and Fender have a great working relationship is an understatement.
The Fender system in the Beetle Turbo is so good that Volkswagen put a CD in the player with a list of music ranging from Hip-Hop, Jazz, Rock, all the way to great Blues music. Being a Blues musician, as well as a semi-Jazz trained guitarist, I look for the right sound. To say I’m anal about it would be putting it lightly. I don’t want just bass and treble to play with; I need the mids, too. Fender gives you an eargasm with great sound. If you’ve never listened to Junior Wells’ -arguably the greatest Blues harpist ever- version of Use Me by Bill Withers, you’re seriously missing out. If you haven’t heard Buddy Guy’s 74 Years Young, you haven’t let your ears hear the world through someone who’s lived a life of Blues like few others. Buddy is one of the greatest musicians ever, period. Let alone one of the greatest Blues guitarists.
After I get my sight-seeing done, it’s time for the initial drive; just an around the block affair. That is, before the tire squealing were to happen in the Beetle Turbo.
A quick drive to the local highway to get to some nice back roads seemed a must, and definitely something very easily done. Pulling power getting on to the highway is very good, and then passing power once you’re on the road is good, too, provided you wait a second to drop down the one to two gears needed. All the while you’re sitting in the most comfortable seats this price range has to offer.
Getting to the back roads I was worried the Beetle Turbo’s suspension and transmission might not be up to the task, to be honest. Front-wheel drive can be a lot of fun for some types of hard driving. Unfortunately there’s always this thing called understeer that throws your fun under the bus. The Beetle? Not like that, thank God. Once I’m on the b-roads I’m having a good time. The DSG transmission is letting me down, but the twin-turbo inline-4, making 200-hp and 207 lb-ft of torque is a blast! I leave the gearbox in the lowest gear possible to hear that inline-4 that doesn’t sound like any four-banger I’ve ever listened to. Instead of a gritty four-cylinder, it sounds like a punchy inline-6 with great torque. Even better, starting from a stop the front tires can be made to squeal like a man in a hardware store. Even better, mashing the gas pedal as you throw the car into a slow 2nd gear corner produces wiggling at the rear in the right amount of flair. Not too much, but just enough to let you know you’re having a grand time.
Throughout this whole even the steering wheel stays perfectly in your grasp, but I could go for a little more feel and feedback. At slow speeds the wheel is a bit light for my taste, but may just suit most people fine. As you go faster it gets a little heavier and starts to feel about right.
I’m not much for dual-clutch, or any autotragic gearbox for that matter. VW’s DSG is nothing special, in my most humble of opinions. Although the transmission was fun to play around with, because the paddles on the steering wheel make it a little more entertaining when trying to have a good time on some back roads.
With that said, I’m not sure I’ll ever enjoy DSG, I’m sorry. The biggest problem, for me, is the fact that the Beetle’s Turbo feels like it’s going to conk out on you when starting off because of the gearbox; it’s quite odd. As a regular driving transmission, it acts like any automatic should, and it does achieve good gas mileage. Unfortunately, it makes the Beetle a bit less engaging to drive.
For a young college student the VW Beetle would be perfect. The interior space wouldn’t be, at least when moving in to your dorm. But going home to visit, or going on a short to medium distance road trip with some friends to see your favorite band, the Beetle would be great. Even for a guy.
In The End:
In the end the VW Beetle Turbo is a great car for the money. Is it better than a Mini Cooper? God no, but it doesn’t have to be. Where the Mini will always be the sporting driver’s preferred choice, the Beetle will always have a lot of heart that hits you the right way. It’ll never be the first round draft pick, but it will most certainly be that second round choice that miraculously turns into a big star.
So for you Football fans out there, Tom Brady was taken as the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. But he’s won 3 Super Bowls and been a two-time MVP. The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo has proven to me that it has plenty of talent to win that special spot in any person’s driving heart.
My Beetle Turbo was a pre-production car with no sticker to show me the price. A call to VW’s PR team cleared this right up. My car, which you can buy now, was the top of the line Turbo model with navigation and sunroof. If you were to buy this car you’d be getting Xenon headlights added to the package for $30,095, not including the $775 destination fee. If you were to equip a manual instead of the DSG (RawAutos recommended…) you’d be out of the dealer for $28,995, again, not including the destination fee.
[Photos by Corey Privette]