Review: 2013 VW Beetle TDI

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Cars are not simply about getting from Point A to Point B. Cars can define a time in history, influence our culture, even change our perception of what we want, or expect from a car. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Volkswagen Beetle stands in an elite group of one of the most significant automobiles of the 20th century. Yet, the Beetle rests a bit uncomfortably from the very country who invented it. And this is where automotive culture kicks in. The history of the Beetle is well known. Adolf Hitler asked Dr. Ferdinand Porsche to design a simple, affordable car, with the intent of offering German families a new car in their driveway. Here in the US, the Beetle is often associated with the counter-culture in the Vietnam era, was blessed with a brilliant advertising campaign, and, simply put, was just a great little car that was practical, efficient, and dripping with personality.

The last old school Beetle sold in the USA was in 1979, but remained in production for years to come in foreign markets. The Volkswagen Golf is now VW’s best seller, offering a sporty ride and superior build quality. So, then, why the Beetle? In all seriousness, this is actually a sensitive subject. Contemporary Germans see the Beetle as a symbol of a Nazi regime, during a very dark chapter in the history of their country. In America, however, we had no such misgivings for the Beetle. Far from it. And Volkswagen knew it. In 1994 in Detroit, VW unveiled Concept 1, a re-imagined Beetle, to gauge public reaction. The car was a sensation. And Volkswagen knew they had to build it.

For the model year 1998, Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle. And buyers, in North America at least, went nuts for it. Waiting lists. Dealer inflated pricing proved the demand was strong. And demand came from buyers young and old. Baby Boomers wanting to recapture memories of their youth, as well as younger buyers attracted by the whimsical styling. The problem with the New Beetle though, was for a car with retro roots, where do you go from there? What is the follow up act? Yes, Beetle Turbos and a convertible followed, as well as some special editions, but after the initial fury, with little in the way of development, the New Beetle carried on largely unchanged (save for a minor refresh in 2006) for a staggering twelve years. To go on that long without much change is unheard of, and it seemed as Volkswagen lost interest in the New Beetle, so did buyers, and the sagging sales figures prove it. Although there was a Final Edition, the New Beetle ceased production in 2010, and even us Beetle-crazed Americans did not seem to notice, or care.

But, Volkswagen had not given up. At the 2011 New York International Auto Show, The Garage met the new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. There was nothing awful about the New Beetle, but there was a major issue-its perception as being a chick car. Cute, petite curvy lines, and a bud vase on the dash all pointed to the fairer sex. And few men want to be seen driving a car that most dismiss as a chick car. The Beetle addresses that stigma head on while not alienating the New Beetle faithful. The bud vase is gone, and face it, it is not a Beetle without some familiar curves, but the Beetle cuts a more aggressive look, appearing lower, wider, and slightly more aggressive than the car preceding it.

With the new Beetle (it is no longer New Beetle), VW delved further to the original car rather than refining the Concept 1. This approach seems to have worked, as I received several compliments about the car-from guys, so it is clear the differences are significant enough that the average person can tell, and that is important to VW’s efforts. Another clever twist is VW going into its old paint catalog and resurrecting some familiar, vintage hues. Our test car was finished in a distinctive Denim Blue, which certainly set it apart from the crowd. For the more conservative buyer, VW does offer colors in line with modern tastes, so fear not. Our car was fitted with nondescript 17″ alloys, a shame, since I have seen the latest Beetle rolling on cool looking reproduction dog dish style wheels, which would have perfectly complimented our car’s retro paint color.

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Anyone who has driven a modern VW will be instantly at home in the Beetle, but as expected, the Beetle offers far more flair. Upper door panels and dash painted to match the exterior brighten things up, which was welcome in our Titan Black interior. A two tier glove box is unique, and again, a nod to the original Beetle. Passengers are greeted with an airy cabin with plenty of room for all. Fit and finish and build quality are on par with what we expect from a VW built for a global market, as opposed the latest crop of dumbed down and cheap feeling American VW’s. But perhaps the crowning achievement of the Beetle interior proves you can be retro, funky, and functional at the same time, a point completely lost on the interior designers of the MINI Cooper.

The Beetle is available with an array of engine choices, starting with the base 2.5L inline five cylinder, a 2.0L turbocharged four, and our test car’s 2.oL TDI-a turbocharged diesel. This is an engine The Garage has sampled before, and its smoothness, punchy torque and excellent fuel economy continue to impress. We cannot overstate just how far VW has come along with diesel technology. Throw out your perception of the loud, smoky diesels of the past. Had I not told people this was a diesel powered car, they never would have know it. It is that good. And with EPA mileage figures of 29/39 MPG city/highway fuel economy figures, that is near hybrid levels but with a far more engaging driving experience. Beetle TDI buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or DSG manual automatic. Our test car was fitted with the DSG, which generally worked well, but some buyers might be miffed at the lack of shift paddles.

The Beetle TDI is a great little car, and in VW fashion, well, you are going to pay a little extra. While a base 2.5L Beetle comes in at just under $20,000USD, the most inexpensive TDI with a six-speed manual starts at $23,495. Our test car included the Sunroof, Sound and Navigation Package, which included a Fender premium audio system with XM satellite radio, panoramic sunroof, heated seats, Bluetooth, and push-button start. Including destination along with a couple minor accessories, our Beetle TDI rang in at $28,360. That’s a good chunk of change for a Beetle, but for a funky, diesel powered two door hardtop, from a price standpoint there is not much to compare it to.

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I am glad VW decided to go another round with the Beetle when it seemed as they had all but forgotten about the car. And for all the retro-inspired cars out there, the Beetle easily qualifies as one of the most practical and easiest to live with. Yes, a MINI Cooper will outhandle you, but the Beetle has ergonomics you can actually understand at a glance. The Fiat 500 may have more charisma, but the Beetle has a backseat that can actually accommodate real humans, as well as far superior luggage space. The Beetle proves that you can be fun without compromise. Sure, it gives up a few things to the MINI and Fiat, but when it comes down to a car you own and live with year in, year out, what the Beetle has on offer makes it the most practical choice.

The latest Beetle won’t generate the hype and madness as when the New Beetle arrived, even though it is a vastly superior car. We’re accustomed to seeing Beetles back on the road. Of course, VW is coming out with a Beetle convertible, but what the future holds from there is unclear. Why, you ask? This is not a car VW needs to make. They have the Golf for Europe, and the Jetta for America as their respective best sellers. For now, the Beetle is new, but will VW wait another twelve years before another overhaul? We shall see, but for now, the latest Beetle is definitely worth a look for anyone in the market for a practical car with a retro touch.

VW Prices Beetle TDI

In case you hadn’t heard, Volkswagen has redesigned the Beetle with a slightly more aggressive, and less feminine shape than before. The Garage recently sampled the new Beetle, and you can look forward to our review in the near future. While the new Beetle has been available with the familiar 2.5L five cylinder and 2.0L turbo four, the Beetle TDI is now making its debut. The 2.0L TDI has 140hp, but prodigious amounts of torque. Equipped with a manual transmission, VW claims a Beetle TDI is good for 32/41MPG city/highway. The Beetle TDI can be had three ways, and we’ve broken it down for you below.

Beetle TDI: $23,295USD

The starter Beetle TDI comes standard with one-touch power windows, leatherette seating, Bluetooth, multi-function steering wheel, keyless entry, push button ignition, SiriusXM satellite radio with an iPod cable and 17″ alloys.

Beetle TDI w/Sunroof: $24,895

The sunroof package adds-guess what-a panoramic sunroof and touch screen audio controls.

Beetle TDI w/Sunroof, Sound and Navigation: $26,195

The top-spec Beetle TDI, additional features include GPS Navigation and premium Fender audio system.

All Beetle TDI’s come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. If you can’t, or won’t shift for yourself, a six-speed DSG dual clutch automatic is available for an extra $1,100. The prices shown do not include the $770 destination charge. The 2013 VW Beetle TDI will be on the showroom floor in August.

VW Presents Alltrack Concept for New York Auto Show

The Garage will be covering the 2012 New York Auto Show this week, and the sneak previews of what we can expect to see continue to pour in. The latest is a concept from Volkswagen named the Alltrack. In case you hadn’t guessed, the Alltrack is essentially a jacked up Passat wagon, but there is more to it than that. The current Passat, a car tailored to American tastes and built in Tennessee is a fine car, but I lamented the loss of the Passat wagon.

So, you may ask, what’s the deal with the Alltrack? Volkswagen’s take is the Alltrack bridges the gap between passenger car and SUV. Hardly a new concept, as Subaru invented the notion of a raised passenger car capable of light 0ff-roading with the Outback. Audi later added panache and a heap of power with its awesome Allroad, which is no longer available in North America. Now that the current Subaru Outback has essentially become a crossover, there is a hole for VW to fill with the Alltrack.

The Alltrack concept is powered with VW’s proven 2.0L TDI diesel engine, paired to a six-speed DSG transmission. VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive is included with special off-road programming. At a push of a button the Alltrack is capable of making numerous adjustments for confident off-road travel at speeds up to 18mph. A raised ride height and the addition of a steel-plated solid underbody guard gives credence the Alltrack is a legit candidate for going off-pavement. Beefy fender flares, matte chrome window surrounds, mirror housings and grille trim offset with silver anodized roof rails all add up to one classy wagon.

Volkswagen has no immediate plans to sell the Alltrack in North America, but hear this. The Alltrack is coming to the 2012 New York Auto Show because VW wants to see how the public reacts to the concept. And this is where you, the reader comes in. If you attend the show, dig the Alltrack, tell them! If you cannot make it, call your dealer. Contact VW directly. Let them know Volkswagen should import the Alltrack-they want to hear from you!

VW Sets Pricing for 2013 Passat CC

Volkswagen has redesigned its stylish four door ‘coupe’ for the 2013 model year. And by ‘redesigned’, it’s strictly cosmetic-mechanically, the cars are carryover. Which is not a bad thing. Passat CC buyers can again choose from a 2.oL turbocharged four rated at 200hp mated to either a six speed manual or dual-clutch DSG, or a 3.6L VR6 rated at 280hp with a six-speed automatic and the option of front or all-wheel drive. I reviewed the 2010 Passat CC, and two years later I still believe it is the finest mid-size sedan Volkswagen has ever crafted. The 2013 Passat CC hits the showroom floor this Spring, and you can be sure The Garage will be eager to review the latest CC. For now, we’ve broken down models and pricing for the Passat CC.

2.oT Sport: $30,250USD

VW notes the base Passat CC is available by order only, so in other words, the least expensive CC will not be sitting on dealer lots. The Sport is also the only model available with a manual transmission. Standard equipment includes 17″ alloys, bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, heated power front seats, auto climate control and an eight speaker HD radio.

2.0T Sport Plus: $32,850

The least expensive Passat CC you will actually see on a dealer’s lot. Additional standard features include 18″ alloys and navigation.

2.oT Lux: $35,355

The top-spec four cylinder CC adds brushed aluminum trim, power sunroof and ambient lighting.

VR6 Lux: $37,730

We’ve now graduated to the the six cylinder Passat CC. The DSG is replaced by a conventional six-speed automatic. Additional features on the VR6 Lux include heated headlight washers, a rearview camera, and leather seating.

VR6 4Motion Executive: $41,420

The top of the food chain for the Passat CC, and VW’s flagship sedan in North America. Building up from the VR6 Lux, you now get all-wheel drive, paddle shifters, driver’s seat massage, Park Distance Control, premium Dynaudio sound, and a power rear sunshade.

I’ll admit, there are plenty of people out there who get a bit antsy at the notion of a $40,000 VW. But as far as swanky German four door coupes are concerned, the Passat CC is the steal of the century once you compare it to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Be sure to watch this space as we await a review of the new Passat CC.

Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

As a hard-core Vee-Dub fan, and owner, 2011 was a rough year. The all-new, made for America Jetta left me bitter, but the Jetta GLI made me feel much better about my beloved VW. With the all-new Passat, I was again nervous about what to expect. VW’s ambitious plan to seriously increase sales in North America has found the venerable brand literally repositioning itself in the market. In addition to being an all-new car built with the American buyer in mind, the Passat is also made in America, at VW’s brand spanking new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With VW’s sights aimed squarely at the heavy hitters in the mid-size sedan market, the question is, has VW managed to maintain a German accent with this new, American-made Passat, or have they gone vanilla on us? Read on to find out.

I have always been an admirer of the Passat, chiefly because the car was unique, and stood so far apart from the competition. With the new Passat, VW wants to be a major player, not the default sedan for the slightly off-beat. The 2012 Passat is more homogenized than previous generations, which may disappoint some of the VW faithful. During my week with the Passat, I kept reminding myself of VW’s mission-compete head on with the Camry, Fusion, and Accord. In that light, the Passat seen here makes sense. it comes off classier and more serious in appearance than its competition. In other words, it’s German heritage shows. The Passat is a big car, and has a suitably bold grill, oversize (but not gaudy) VW emblem, and enough chrome to not shout bargain basement. It’s not exciting, but the Passat is a fairly handsome car from any angle.

With the cabin, I held my breath, bracing myself for lousy materials and a cheap appearance. Thankfully, that was not the case. The Passat sports a handsome cabin, and where your hands touch, the materials feel of good quality. Roam around though, and the hard plastics are there. The fake bark on the dash, doors and console do a lot to warm up the atmosphere of our otherwise all-black interior. The seats are comfortable, if not rather flat for a German sedan, but again, VW is asking us to shift our perception of the Passat. Gauges are easy to read, and the controls for audio, climate control and navigation are pretty intuitive. Our Passat was equipped with a Fender premium audio system that delivered fantastic sound. Another stand-out feature of the Passat was its class-leading rear seat legroom. I’m 6′ 1″, and sitting in the rear felt like I was in a full-size car.

In the engine room, buyers have plenty of choices. You can opt for the standard 2.5L inline-five, rated at 170hp, with a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic. Unique for this class, a 2.0L TDI diesel engine is also available, with the option of a six-speed manual or DSG automated manual. At the top of the food-chain in a 3.6L V-6, rated at 280hp. The 6-speed DSG is the only tranny available here. Some Passat loyalists will be disappointed that 4Motion all-wheel drive is no longer available. Speaking of availability, the Passat wagon has also been dropped. It’s front-wheel drive, four door sedan only, folks. Our test car was equipped with the 2.5L I-5 with the automatic. As the owner of a 2010 Jetta with the same drivetrain, I was skeptical how a car of this size and weight would get around, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Passat is no sports sedan, but I found the ride and handling to be competent, if not sportier and better sorted than its rivals.

The most basic Passat rings in at $19,995USD. Although the Passat line has been simplified greatly from last year, there are still multiple configurations. Our Passat was an automatic 2.5 SEL Premium, the top of the line trim level. Standard features included dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth, 17″ alloys, sunroof, power heated front seats, Fender audio, and Navigation. Including destination, the total MSRP comes to $30,665. That’s a good chunk of change for a car with only 170hp, but similarly equipped four cylinder Accord and Camrys are priced about the same. If it were me, I’d spend an extra $100 for the base SE V-6, although I’d lose the leather , interior accents and navigation, but hey, that’s what smartphones are for, and that extra 110hp more than makes up for what you are giving up.

There is a minor controversy stirring around the Passat. Consumer Reports sampled a Passat from VW’s press fleet. I should add that Consumer Reports is based in Connecticut, as am I, so the cars I review here are the same cars Consumer Reports samples. The story is, after sampling a press car Passat, CR went out and purchased three Passats, and noticed something different. The press car’s trunk had two plastic covers on its hinges, while the Passats bought from the dealer had only once plastic cover to protect wiring, the other hinge was bare metal. Minor? Yes, but Consumer Reports raises the question if this minor difference was spotted between a media car and a car sold to the public, is VW making any other changes the naked eye cannot see? We may never know.

I feared the worst with the new Passat. As a car enthusiast, nothing strikes fear in my soul more than when a respected German automaker says ‘we’ve tailored it specifically for the American market’, which is a direct translation to “We are giving you a watered-down, dumbed-down product.” Overall I am pleased with the new Passat, and before you accuse me of going soft, hear me out. To understand the new Passat, you need to understand what VW is doing here. For generations, the Passat has appealed to a tiny sliver of the market, with a reputation of providing a fun driving experience and an interior that rivaled luxury car makers. Yet a car packing that much charisma found a very tiny audience here in North America, where compared to its nearest rivals, the Passat was simply smaller in size and higher in price, two huge turn-offs in the mass market.

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat changes all of that. Priced and sized closer to the competition, this is VW’s most serious effort at breaking into the ultra-competitive North American mid-size sedan market. I’ll take the Passat’s more serious demeanor, classier appearance and more sporting nature over the Accord, Camry or Altima. These qualities, along with being the sole automaker offering a diesel engine, superlative rear seat room, and a peerless audio system make the Passat a true alternative to the normal go-to cars, while retaining its German persona (mostly). And the market in the US of A has responded. Compared to 2010, total annual sales for calendar year 2011 for the Passat are up a shattering 124%. Yes, us car guys loved the smaller and pricier Passats of yore, but the masses who outnumber us prefer a larger and inexpensive Passat were heard by VW, and they have answered with their checkbooks. Good for the buyer, good for VW, I would insist anyone in the market for a mid-size car drive a Passat before buying any other car in its class.