Volkswagen Beetles were built from 1938 to 2003, and over 20 million have been manufactured and sold worldwide since the inception of the car in Germany. A man named Porsche designed the car, and along with the rear engine placement, the car was air cooled, without liquid coolant or a radiator.
What is commonly called a “New Beetle” with coolant, a front engine, and front-wheel drive, has been marketed on and off since 1997. Such a car is what I picked up at General Mitchell Airfield in Milwaukee to drive on a midwest vacation. It was a 2016 Turbocharged Sandstorm Yellow metallic unit with “Dune” equipment specified, including a rear spoiler, raised suspension, ten-spoke polished alloy wheels, exclusive bumpers and air intakes, black exterior cladding, aluminum pedal covers, and special badging and decals.
Power for my front wheel drive test car was supplied by a 1.8 liter, 170 horsepower (184 lb. ft. of torque) four cylinder gas engine with an EPA mileage rating of 25/city, 34/highway, 28 combined MPG. The fuel tank capacity was 14.5 gallons. The transmission on hand was a six-speed automatic, and it seemed sturdy and somewhat enjoyable. For having a turbocharger, the engine had a definite grumble to it, belying the high RPM turbo operating in the power department. Turbochargers whir at about 150,000 revolutions per minute – roughly 30 times as fast as the engine. They are nice in Colorado, spinning faster at that altitude and mitigating power loss that can be associated with naturally-aspirated (i.e. fuel injected) engines. I can’t say I hated having turbocharged power in Illinois and Wisconsin – the technology is just great.
Inside the four passenger Volkswagen, a Fender premium stereo was on hand as well as heated cloth and leatherette buckets with yellow piping and stitching, Bluetooth connections, pushbutton starter, flat-bottomed steering wheel, rear view camera, and satellite radio. The theme inside was tasteful and coordinated well with the outside styling. Beetle “Dune” looks was great, featured a wider track, honeycomb grill, LED tail lights, and while on our trip several tourists stopped by to comment on our ride.
Acceleration of the 3,093 lb. VW was great fun, road manners were on target, and handling/guidance were fine, as well. It’s a pretty quiet sedan and visibility is fine. List price was $25,065.00 for the 2016 that I drove and that included freight. The only optional uncharge was for the Sandstorm paint, at $250.00. The Volkswagen Beetle has a niche market and doesn’t sell over 400,000 per year (in the U.S.!) like the old days, but still has a nice following and a fan in this reviewer.