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2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle Review

Don’t be so quick to judge By ,

The Volkswagen #PinkBeetle debuts for 2017 both as a replacement for last year’s Beetle Denim and a way to reinvigorate a car that is due for an update very soon. It’s quite pink and, when you think about it, a pretty great example of the Beetle’s ethos.

First of all, what’s with the hashtag?
As much as we poke fun at the name, this model is officially called “#PinkBeetle,” with the hashtag and all. That’s because when it was originally displayed at the 2016 New York Auto Show, it instantly became a social media sensation of sorts, and the idea to release it was born. 

Really, though, the whole point is to add a little funk to a model that both has a lot of it as part of its modus operandi, but also needs a bit of a shot of life as sales have been declining lately. The “pink” isn’t even officially called pink, but rather “Fresh Fuchsia Metallic,” as if Volkswagen is self-consciously saying: “We like the idea of a pink car, but we’re not saying we’d ever officially put pink as a colour choice in the brochure.” So, while the exterior colour definitely has pink overtones, it’s definitely more SEMA than Barbie. That’s probably a good thing, because if VW executives really think they’re going to move all 200 of these (100 coupes, 100 convertibles), then plastering it in pink pastel might have been a little too much, even for the hippest of Beetle buyers.

Inside, the story is a little different as the pink theme is a tad more subtle. For starters, the classic tartan seat trim (the only available option) made famous by many Golf GTI models over the years has found its way here and gotten a bit of a makeover in the process. Instead of the usual black, grey, and red design we’re used to seeing, the red gets switched to—you guessed it—pink, and the overall shade is a little brighter than previous. In addition, as is the case with all Beetles, there are body-coloured accents on the dashboard, door panels, vent surrounds, and even on the steering wheel. You’ll know you’re in a #PinkBeetle, that’s for sure. 

What is it, really?
Other than the pink treatment, the 2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle essentially starts life as a Beetle Trendline, and adds neat stuff like special 18” wheels, bi-xenon headlights, dual-zone climate control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and a Fender premium audio system that includes eight speakers plus a subwoofer. It’s a $6,900 extra over the base trim if you order the coupe; $3,500 if you order the convertible. The latter gets additional features such as blind-spot detection and a larger media display screen. 

It’s a funky way of getting the extra features, too, as much of what the #PinkBeetle adds can be had on a regular Beetle Classic for an additional $3,450. It’s refreshing how a special model can be purchased for not that much of a premium over a similarly equipped version from the regular lineup, especially if you’re considering a drop-top. 

So, it doesn’t drive that differently, then?
Not particularly, but that’s not a bad thing. The Volkswagen #PinkBeetle makes use of the same 170-horsepower 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder as many other VW models, and it remains one of the best engines available on the market today. 

The German automaker is no stranger to small, turbocharged powerplants, and the #PinkBeetle is quick off the line—even with the tester’s DSG automatic—and cruises relatively comfortably even at highway speeds. The progress is accompanied by a surprisingly vocal soundtrack to boot, one that’s a little off-beat like an old-fashioned Audi 5-cylinder. That’s mostly if you’re really hoofing it, though: By their very nature, turbocharged engines are rarely the most vocal, and the #PinkBeetle is no exception when cruising, giving off more of a “buzz” than a “roar.” 

Having said that, most people who buy a Beetle—in #Pink form or otherwise—probably have a few items on their priority list that sit higher than a compelling exhaust note, like good interior room. Never has a flat-bottom steering wheel been so unneeded. In a practical sense, anyway, as the chasm between your legs and the steering column looks more fit for a bus-sized steering wheel than a race car-sized one. Still, it’s here because it looks cool, which really is what the Beetle is all about.

Some buyers want a good stereo, and the Fender unit in the 2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle is most definitely that, sounding crisp and clear even when cruising with the top down. They’ll rely on an intuitive, slick media interface while they’re at it, and although the graphics aren’t the most modern-looking, said interface is responsive and the integration of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is seamless. Plus, the whole shebang is surrounded by metallic pink, which actually distracts from the fact that the on-screen graphics themselves are a little old-school. Or maybe they look more old-school because of their surroundings. Either way, the pink works.

Finally, #PinkBeetle customers will likely want a good ride. Cars like these are very often used in town, after all, and so they must deal with city obstacles like sunken manhole covers, speed bumps, and the like, which the #PinkBeetle provides. It partly has to do with the fact that the Beetle now uses the Jetta’s platform as opposed to the Golf’s, and the longer wheelbase that comes with that, making for a less bouncy ride than previous. 

The car also boasts a lower centre of gravity thanks to a slightly chopped roofline in coupe form. And, because VW knows how to make nimble cars, it can make itself useful on the twisties, too, should you ever venture out of your hip, urban environment. Yes, things get a little squishier when you transition to convertible mode, but it’s not as apparent here as it’s often been in cars that start life as a coupe, get beheaded, and become convertibles. It helps that the Beetle is a fairly light vehicle to begin with.

But pink? Really?
Volkswagen will tell you that the Beetle is often about making a statement—a stylistic statement, retro statement, lifestyle statement, whatever—and what better way to do so than to go whole-hog-hip and come out with this? 

Is the #PinkBeetle suited for me, in particular? Well, I didn’t feel quite as self-conscious while driving it as I thought I would, but if I were to go for a special Beetle, then the Dune version would be more my cup of tea. It’s not as rare, but it’s a little huskier, a little more rough-and-tumble, and does a good job of mixing the sporty (with its Beetle GSR-like graphics) and the tough (with bulky wheels and beefier bumpers). 

Still, I’m sure Volkswagen won’t have any problem selling the #PinkBeetle. Every. Single. One. 


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