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  • 2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    Posted on July 31st, 2014 ninarussin

    Fun for the long run

    By Nina Russin

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    As feel as if I have fallen down on the job. The purpose of doing an extended test drive is to put in some serious mileage: begin with a full tank of fuel and finish with the tank almost empty. However after a week and several hundred miles in the Volkswagen Beetle TDI, the fuel gauge shows the tank over half full.

    Anyone who has been in a car with me knows that I’m a right brain kind of driver. I have a bit of a lead foot. Emptying out a fuel tank is never a problem for me. So what happened’

    The culprit was the TDI’s 600-plus mile range, thanks its 41 mpg highway fuel economy. Add the engine’s 236 foot-pounds of torque available at 1750 rpm, and the Beetle becomes fun for the long run.

    Readers who want a greener alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars and don’t want to pay the premium for hybrid technology should take a second look at diesel. The new generation of common rail diesel engines has reduced CO2 emissions as compared to gasoline, and average between 25 and 30 percent better fuel economy. That’s a statistic both sides of the brain can feel good about.

    Base price for the Beetle TDI test car is $27,495 excluding the $820 delivery charge. Volkswagen specs out its models to include popular convenience features- in this case a sunroof, Fender audio system and navigation- in the MSRP. It makes pricing easier for the consumer to understand and reduces haggling at the dealership.

    A carefree maintenance program adds two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance. Other standard convenience features include Bluetooth interface, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, split folding rear seat, keyless entry and start.

    Test drive in southern Arizona

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    By mid-July, average daily highs in Phoenix are 110 degrees, so most residents do what they can to get out of town. Although Tucson is located 100 miles to the south, it benefits from an additional 1000 feet of elevation. Mountains surrounding the city reach as high as 8,000 feet.

    Tucson also gets a steadier flow of the seasonal monsoonal rainstorms that cool the town off in the early evening. As a distance runner Tucson is my quickest escape route when training plans include long runs.

    The week I had the Beetle was a particularly brutal one for heat. Although the official highs mid-week were 114, the ambient temperature meter on the car reached over 120 degrees.

    On Saturday my husband and I packed up our running shoes, hydration packs and headed south. By the time we reached Tucson the temperature meter in the car had dipped below 100, which to us felt like a cold snap.

    Those readers who remember the diesel cars of the 1980s need to wipe their bad memories clean and take another look. Gone are the black exhaust fumes, diesel tick and turbo lag. Were it not for its exceptional fuel economy, it would be hard to distinguish the Beetle TDI from its gasoline-powered siblings.

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    The test car comes with the six-speed manual gearbox. Although the dual-clutch automatic transmission is easier to live with in rush hour traffic, I always feel more involved with the car when I’m pushing a clutch pedal.

    Its abundance of low-end torque makes the Beetle TDI ideal for stop-and-go driving. I found it easy to get to the front of the back on highway entrance ramps. Once up to speed, I plunked the gearbox into one of the large overdrive gears and had plenty of power to keep up with traffic.

    The third-generation Beetle has more in common with the original car than the New Beetle introduced in the late 1990s. It is lower and more aerodynamic than the car it replaces, with engine and transmission combinations that should appeal to driving enthusiasts. New for 2014 is a GSR performance variant. A new 1.8-liter gasoline engine replaces the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter block from 2013.

    The Beetle’s short wheelbase and electric power steering enabled engineers to give the car an excellent turning circle: just under 35 feet. Owners who need to park on the street should have no problems fitting into the average parking spot.

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI

    The test car did not come with a rearview camera. It isn’t a problem in vertical parking lot spaces, but would be a nice option for parallel parking and monitoring cross traffic.

    Visibility to the front and sides of the car is quite good thanks to its big greenhouse. I had no problems adjusting the driver’s seat high enough to provide a clear view out the front. A height-adjustable steering wheel enables smaller drivers to keep it out of their way.

    Seventeen-inch alloy rims provide an ample footprint for high-speed motoring. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.

    The four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts with coil springs up front and a multi-link setup in back. I was driving on smooth roads, but this type of suspension should do fine on uneven road surfaces in the upper Midwest.

    Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so passengers can converse on the highway or enjoy the audio system.

    Retro interior

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI Interior

    Volkswagen Beetle TDI Interior

    Designers incorporated some popular features from the classic Beetle into the current model, to give owners a taste of the car’s heritage. The Beetle bin glovebox is one example. The instrument panel is the same color as the exterior, adding some spice to the design.

    All TDI models come with three additional gauges at the top of the center stack that display oil temperature, a clock with stopwatch function and turbo boost. Both the gauge cluster and center stack displays are easy to read at night and in bright sunlight.

    I found the driver’s seat comfortable for short drives but a bit short on lower lumbar support for our two-hour trip down to Tucson. The controls are easy to reach and intuitive to operate.

    Because the Beetle has a small trunk, designers made the rear seats collapse to extend the cargo floor. I would not call the Beetle bicycle friendly but it does have enough room for some camping equipment.

    Standard safety

    The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle comes with front and side airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and tire pressure monitoring. An intelligent crash response system shuts off the fuel, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lights if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.

    The Beetle received a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Volkswagen builds the Beetle TDI at its Puebla, Mexico assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish and fun-to-drive car with exceptional fuel economy and green footprint.

    Dislike: Lack of lower lumbar support for the driver’s seat.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Beetle TDI with sunroof, sound and navigation
    Year: 2014
    Base price: $27,495
    As tested: $28,315
    Horsepower: 140 Hp @ 4000 rpm
    Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 28/41 mpg city/highway


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