Unlike the New Beetle of 1998-2010, Volkswagen’s latest generation Beetle is not a 16-year old girl’s car. The latest iteration of the Beetle falls somewhere between the last generation and a Porsche 911, offering a more masculine, mature and refined experience.
Our recent test of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo took us up windy canyon roads, flogging its 2.0 liter turbocharged engine like a dog smiling all the while. Freeway jaunts in the confines of its solid sport seats and taut chassis reminded us why German cars are so sought after. Fuel mileage made us respect it even more.
The top performance model currently with 200 horsepower and a 6-speed DSG gearbox, the Beetle Turbo is EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. When mashing the throttle in the mountains you won’t get near that as its power curve is so salaciously addictive.
In day-to-day driving however a light foot can net you significantly higher mpg as we found. On freeway stints we were able to manage 36-38 mpg at 65-70 mph with the air-conditioning on. In our week of testing we achieved 34.5 mpg combined city and highway over about 300 miles.
This is of course well over the EPA estimates and was achieved with a deliberate foot. The robotic manual DSG transmission in normal mode is your buddy for efficiency, shifting up fast and crisp. Take-off is a but gruff at times as is the case with most robotic manuals, but switching it to sport mode takes that edge off.
In the hills we found the transmissions sport mode to be so well done. Going from corner to corner with the throttle down it holds it in your gear with a death grip. Shifts are immediate and up-shifts only occur when you lift the throttle or hit the red line. Well done.
Handling brought more comparisons with the last generation Beetle. Where the old car was slow to the touch and fludgy in the corner carving department, this new Beetle is downright exuberant. The chassis is shared with the current VW Golf/GTI which means excellent steering feel and feedback, responsiveness in the corners, and solidity at speed.
Throwing the Beetle Turbo hard into a tight curve brought on a progressively soft scrub the limits that gave the car a sense of predictability and refinement. It was difficult to get the chassis out of sorts and fluttered, it seems always on top of its game. The only point at which things got awry was under full throttle on rough patches where a hint of torque steer presented itself.
The cabin of our tester was outfitted with handsome cloth sport seats that feel like they have Recaro lineage. The dash, instrument cluster and center stack are all well set for serious driving with simple to use and understand controls. The standard audio system was a joy and offered up sound quality equal to that of optional systems in other cars we have tested, making us wonder how awesome the optional Fender system must be.
Fit and finish inside is top notch all around with nary a gap or rough edge that makes you shake your head. The body color dash and steering wheel applique are a nice touch too. Unlike the last generation Beetle, rear seat passengers of six feet can enjoy excellent head room. The roof-line while much lower in appearance still allows the driver to wear a cowboy hat, which we figure most Beetle owners will….not.
Exterior styling of the Turbo is enhanced with a rear deck spoiler that carries the window’s black treatment out a short bit more. The large 19” wheels and tires fill out the openings well and give a hint of retro without over doing it. The 2012 Beetle gives homage to the New Beetle bit in a way that that feels more grown up and upscale.
As our tester was a Launch Edition, the pricing was relatively reasonable. Coming in at $25,720 including destination charges, our Beetle Turbo was basic with no additional options. You can step up to more equipped models of course, and a six-speed manual is on the way soon.
The takeaway here is that while your 16-year old daughter will probably still love the 2012 Beetle Turbo, its now a car that dad can drive without feeling like the world is snickering at him. Best of all you can have your performance when you want it and still get phenomenal gas mileage the rest of the time.