New Beetle From Volkswagen

By: Benjamin Hudson

On the road, the New VW Beetle provokes similarly utopian responses. Described as a retro car, the new beetle is like the aggressive modern car on the road.

In a press conference, Dr. Ferdinand Piech, chairman of Volkswagen and grandson of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the Father of Volkswagen vehicle, wasted no time in firmly asserting that Volkswagen, the fourth largest carmaker, has become a "world" company rather than a strictly "German" company. And to prove his point, he announced that the New Beetle, being built not in Germany but in Mexico, will be sold first in North America fully six months before it goes on sale in Europe.

The German media people, however, at the car's press introduction, were not amused.

In initial form, the New Beetle has two core VW Golf engine options, a 2.0-liter inline four and the 1.9-liter TDI turbo diesel. The New Beetle power train remained its style and character as that in its 1939 forebear. There is an exception, however. In the front-engine, front drive New Beetle is everything backwards.

In other aspects, however, this little car's lineage points straight back to the original pre-WWII "KdF-Wagen" or that also "Kraft durch Freud Wagen," or Strength-Through-Joy car.

The KdF was notable for its thrifty, reliable, intensely unexciting power. Even in "hot" 1972 Super Beetle form, 60 mph was a long way away over the horizon and patience, which is an essential part of the driving experience.

The New Beetle's power train reproduces those same qualities, but in an updated way suitable to the era. The 2.0-liter is smooth but an otherwise pedestrian package of 115 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 122 lb/ft of torque at 2600 rpm. It delivers a top speed of 112 mph and leisurely 0-60 acceleration claimed by Volkswagen at 11.5 seconds. Like earlier Beetle engines, this four-cylinder's power curve is dead flat, delivering little more than heat and noise when run up to the 6500-rpm redline.

According to car enthusiasts, the 1.9-liter TDI turbo diesel package proved to be something of a surprise. The diesel's hard-chugging off-the-line performance is strong, and at interstate speeds its torque pulled away from the gas engine on even a slight incline. Not only that, the turbo diesel quieter this time. The gas engine has considerable induction noise and just a generally high level of thrash.

Dr. Piech says in about a year, the New Beetle gets a five-valve turbocharged inline four of 150 horsepower.

The New Beetle is available with either the aforementioned five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. But the one standard in Beetle tradition is strictly observed. Like driving one of the '70s Beetle automatics, in the New Beetle nothing has changed. It is automatic, while advantageous in bumper to bumper sludge, spreads a very cold, very wet blanket over whatever enthusiasm the stock engine can muster.

Each part of the New Beetle is built to fit the modern day concept of cars.

During its extraordinarily short development cycle, VW spent a $560 million bringing the New Beetle to Main Street.

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