VW's Beetle mans up
"Time to man up."
Gone is the dash-mounted flower vase in the latest version of Volkswagen's Bug. Gone too is much of its cutesiness, replaced by a notable degree of sportiness intended to broaden the Beetle's target market by attracting male attention.
The trick here is to lure the Y-chromosome in such a way that it doesn't alienate the double-X buyer, who to date dominate the Bug-owning demographic.
New, sleeker shell
Volkswagen has built a great deal of eye-catching sleekness into the 2012 Beetle without sacrificing its ode to the original rear-engine Bug for which many of us harbour a latent fondness.
Perhaps the purchase of a new turbo Beetle is a means of easing one's repression while also addressing modern-day performance expectations. In many ways, the 2012 Beetle Sportline is a nostalgic version of the highly capable Volkswagen GTI.
So what can those buyers expect?
TSI + DSG = exhilaration and acceleration
The heart of the Beetle Sportline is its turbocharged, intercooled direct-injection 2.0L TSI 4-cylinder powerplant that releases 200 hp to the Bug's front wheels along with 207 lb-ft of torque.
For the record, that's the same engine hustling the GTI into the hearts of driving enthusiasts. And like the GTI, the Beetle turbo is equipped with a 6-speed manual stick or VW's optional 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox featuring shift paddles.
My tester was a DSG-equipped version of the hot Bug, which suited me just fine. The race-inspired gearbox performed lightning-fast shifts without wasting engine revs the way a conventional automatic transmission tends to.
For performance-minded drivers, the DSG is proving its worth although some of us still long for that third pedal and a stick. Nice to know that the Beetle Sportline offers both.
On the road with the mighty Bug
Any doubt about the Beetle's ability to compete in the sports arena is instantly dispelled with a stab of the throttle. The full delivery of torque is encountered at just 1,750 rpm, which is barely off idle, meaning that this Beetle leaps to life from the get-go.
With the early wallop of torque to the front wheels, traction becomes an issue. An all-wheel-drive configuration would elevate the Beetle to Audi performance standards but nonetheless, the vehicle is remarkably fast off the line, and with little torque-steer to detract from the experience.
The thrust of forward momentum doesn't dissipate as the turbocharged Beetle quickly dispatches cog after cog while emitting a deep refined growl that's quite uncharacteristic of a Beetle. Using the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles engages the driver in the performance process, adding to the sensation that something more than a Beetle is at hand.
The "something more" includes exceptional steering response and handling.
Sportline includes 18-inch rubber
Tossed through a series of curves, the Beetle turbo feels just as composed, predictable and tenacious as its GTI cousin.
My tester's Sportline trim set it apart with distinctive 18-inch wheels that projected a beefy appearance and kept the Beetle affixed to the road. Sportline grouping also includes alloy sport pedals, red painted brake calipers, revised front grille, black-out trim, leather seating, carbon fibre cabin trim and a rear spoiler.
Performance-related Sportline assets include dual exhaust, sport suspension, and electronic differential lock (EDL) along with Volkswagen's anti-slip regulation (ASR) and electronic stability control (ESC).
My tester was further equipped with Fender premium audio, navigation and keyless entry with keyless start and stop.
Wrapping the performance Bug
The base 2012 Beetle is the nicely equipped Comfortline edition, which is tagged at $21,975. My Reef Blue Metallic Sportline rocket held an MSRP of $29,025, which I thought was quite reasonable given its level of content and sophistication along with its inspiring performance capabilities.
The turbo Beetle is slightly less expensive than the three-door Golf GTI, and it provides greater content - such as leather seating - for fewer bucks. This makes it an interesting, and financially prudent, alternative to the GTI.
Since manning up, the Beetle has become exponentially more fun and rewarding to drive on those backroads that we so look forward to; yet, it remains a sensible city car with more rear cargo capacity than I imagined thanks to a wide-opening hatch and a deep cargo floor.
The Beetle has manned-up. Have you?
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