2012 Volkswagen Beetle TurboPosted on August 26th, 2011
Third-generation bug puts enthusiasts in the driver’s seat
By Nina Russin
Everybody has a Beetle story. As a Midwesterner growing up in the sixties, I aspired to the Beetle’s hippie cache. At a time when Detroit iron dominated American roads, the German Beetle was exotic: as symbolic of the counter-culture as Haight Ashbury and the Summer of Love.
It was also a practical car. Before the days of front-wheel drive, the Beetle’s light weight, short overhangs and relatively high ground clearance made it a good snow car.
When the last of the original Beetles rolled off an assembly line in Mexico in 2003, I felt as if a chapter in my own life had drawn to a close. Although Volkswagen had introduced its replacement, the New Beetle, in 1998, the new model failed to capture the panache of the original “people’s car.”
Third-generation Beetle debuts for 2012
The third-generation Beetle which rolls out for the 2012 model year is a leaner, more authentic model. Designers replaced the rounded New Beetle exterior with a muscular body and a wider footprint.
The 2012 Beetle is slightly lower than the New Beetle, three inches wider and six inches longer, translating to better legroom in the second row. Second-row seats fold flat to create a pass-through, giving the car more versatility for buyers with active lifestyles
A naturally-aspirated gasoline engine and turbocharged gasoline model roll out first, followed by a turbo-diesel version in the 2012 calendar year. Pricing for the base model starts at $18,995, while the turbocharged version starts at $23,395. Prices do not include a $770 destination charge.
The 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated engine in the base model produces 170 horsepower, and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox and 17-inch wheels. An upscale grade with a six-speed automatic transmission starts at $20,895. The fully-loaded 2.0-liter turbocharged model with leather seats, premium Fender sound system and navigation costs $29,095, not including the delivery charge.
The 200-horsepower turbocharged model has an available six-speed manual gearbox for better fuel economy, or a six-speed DSG transmission. The DSG double clutch automatic transmission utilizes friction rather than liquid couplings for crisper shifts and better gas mileage.
Fuel economy estimates for the turbocharged Beetle with the automatic transmission are 20 mpg city and 30 on the highway. However unlike the 2.5-liter engine, the two-liter turbo block requires premium fuel.
Test drive in Virginia
I recently had the opportunity to drive the 2012 VW Beetle turbo in the suburbs of Washington DC and some rural roads outside of town. As soon as I got behind the wheel, I was taken with the new model’s ride and handling.
Not only does the 2012 Beetle look more masculine than the outgoing model; it has the performance to back it up. A rear spoiler is standard on the turbocharged car. Eighteen-inch wheels give the car a thick, firm footprint for aggressive cornering. The four-wheel independent suspension is compliant enough for daily use without feeling mushy.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. The rear glass is on the small side, but I had no problems spotting obstacles while driving in reverse.
The electric power steering system is well tuned to the car, with the precise feedback the brand is famous for. The car’s solidly-constructed chassis translates to a high degree of torsional rigidity, enhancing its performance.
A 35.4-foot turning radius makes the car easy to park on the street, or perform the occasional U-turn. Taking the Beetle around hairpin turns on some of the Virginia back roads reminded me of classic Karmann Ghias: the enthusiast cars of my generation.
Although the turbocharged engine has ample power, there seems to be a dead spot off idle, which may be the result of fuel economizing measures. The car idles at very low engine speeds: under 1000 rpm. Off-idle speeds are calibrated similarly. While this extends the engine’s gas mileage, it also causes some lunking just off idle.
The six-speed automatic transmission on the test car performs seamlessly, transitioning smoothly and crisply between gears. Downshifts are precise without feeling harsh.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did a good job of isolating passengers from road and wind noise. Fit and finish is excellent both inside and outside. Body seams are small and even. The doors shut with a pronounced “thunk,” that comes from an airtight fit. Inside, the instrument panel and upholstery reflect the same level of craftsmanship, making the Beetle feel like a more expensive car than it actually is.
The Beetle’s interior has the simplicity and elegance of good European architecture. Designers listened to customer feedback about issues with the outgoing model, improving operation of the seat adjustment mechanism and Bluetooth hands-free interface.
I found both the driver and front passenger seat comfortable on drives several hours in duration. Seats in back offer enough head and legroom for smaller adults. The front seats tilt and slide forward to ease access and egress to the second-row seats.
All but the base grade come with two gloveboxes. The smaller “Beetle bin” up top is a nod to the original model. Cupholders in the center console are large enough to hold water bottles, as are the mesh pockets in the doors.
I found the gauges and center stack display easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel makes it easier for small drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag and a clear forward view.
The premium Fender sound system produces excellent quality, adding another dimension of enjoyment to travel. Graphics for the optional navigation system are easy to follow, with redundant graphics in both the center stack screen and a digital display in the gauge cluster. Dual-zone climate control keeps both people seated in front comfortable.
With the rear seats in place, the trunk holds quite a bit of luggage. There seems to be enough room for cooler and some smaller camping equipment. The rear seats fold down to extend the cargo floor. Because the pivot point for the seats is higher than the cargo floor, there is a bump which can make it harder to load in large items.
The 2012 Beetle comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. A crash response system shuts off the fuel, unlocks the car and turns on the hazard lights if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
Available xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps improve visibility at night, and make the car easier for other drivers to see on roads with blind turns. All models come with Volkswagen’s complimentary three year/36,000 mile scheduled maintenance.
Likes: A fun, affordable car which carries the spirit of the original VW Beetle into the new millennium.
Dislikes: Slight engine bog off-idle. The pivot point on the rear seats is higher than the cargo floor, creating a bump when the seats are folded flat.
Model: Beetle Turbo
Base price: $27,495
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 207 lbs.-ft. @ 1700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway
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