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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Review by Marty Bernstein +VIDEO

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle

2012 VW Beetle: THE BEST BUG EVER!

By Marty Bernstein
Senior Contributing Editor
The Auto Channel

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Beetle "Lemon" advertisement

Volkswagen just introduced the third generation of the world's bestselling vehicle, the new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. The question is: Will the newest iterations (there are two new models) of the iconic 73 year old vehicle that set automobile sales records and backed with trend setting advertising continue to resonate with today’s auto buying public?

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Crusin' around DC in a 2012 VW Beetle

Hmmm. As I walked toward the row of various colored new 2012 VW Beetles parked at the company’s U.S. headquarters near Washington, DC during a media introduction, this question triggered a flashback to my first new car – a Beetle.

Specifically, a 1960 VW Bug with a pushback canvas roof and smallish back window, pearl white in color, 1200 cc under 30 hp air cooled rear engine, stick-shift, trunk and spare in the front, no gas gauge but with a lever to use the reserve tank of one gallon, a manifold heater without any fan that was useless, roll up and down windows and very cramped interior beauty that cost, as I recall, $1,500 new.

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Similar to Marty Bernstein's classic bug
It was an oddity in New York City where I lived in the real Mad Men days, but parking was a joy and it made very economical – gas was just .35¢ a gallon -- weekend trips to Philadelphia to visit my fiancée.

The new vehicle I was about to enter – the Turbo Beetle -- vaguely resembled my original and the previous, second generation model called the New Beetle too, the one with the cute little vase on the dashboard. It had been a long time since I was in a Beetle so the new one was astonishing. It is bigger, bolder and better looking than any previous model because it’s longer, lower, sleeker and wider. The result? A sporty, dynamic design for the new 2012 VW Beetle.

    • SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyers Guide

Opening the door provided an even bigger surprise. It was the antithesis of the two previous models. This is more than roomy, it’s spacious, almost sumptuous in a Teutonic sort of way which is augmented with a dashboard that continues the exterior color and is contrasted with a look-like black carbon fiber accent The front seat area is large with good leg room. The seats have good support and are comfortable without being rec-room cushy and even the back seats do provide some legroom, but like most cars these seats are for passengers who are not too tall. There’s a surprisingly big trunk with 15.4 cubic feet of space.

Watch the press conference introduction of the new Beetle

Drivers information -- speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauges -- is easy to read on circular displays and there’s an information display screen that reads and monitors other vehicle operational functions. The console and other knobs and controls have good tactile ergonomic feel and the navigations screen is well integrated into the dash and easy to read and use. Unlike my first Beetle there’s heat and air conditioning!

There were zero safety features, not including brakes, in my Beetle. Time, governmental regulation and common sense have changed all that. Today’s Beetles safety features include a rigid body structure of ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steels in the crash-load paths and seamless laser welds. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is standard, as are driver and front passenger airbags and Side Curtain Protection® airbags in front and rear. The Beetle includes Volkswagen’s advanced Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collision.

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2012 VW Beetle product planning discussion

Two engine and transmissions are offered in the 2012 Beetle. There’s a 2.5 liter 5-cylinder 170 hp and 177 lb torque with a six-speed automatic transmission that’s gets a lackluster 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway rating and uses regular fuel. The other is a 2.0 liter turbo-charged 4-cylinder 220 hp and 207 lb torque mated with a six-speed dual-clutch – which means the driver can switch between automatic and manual shifting without using the left foot. Manual transmissions will be offered later as will a diesel version. Fuel rating is 1 mpg more in the highway mileage category compared to 5-cylinder mode but more expensive premium fuel is recommended.

I was able to test both versions but preferred the turbo 2.0 liter. Both were smooth and satisfying on the test drive through the Virginia’s scenic countryside and historical hamlets. From two narrow lanes to newly laid asphalt two laners to Interstate’s from flat surfaces to rolling hills and long sweeping cures, the Beetles suspension, handling and steering was responsive. terrific.

Watch TACH's exclusive 2012 VW Beetle promo video

The Beetle, which has a starting MSRP of $18,995, comes standard with a split folding rear seat, aux-in for portable audio players, a leather steering wheel, customizable17-inch alloy wheels, and an eight-speaker audio system. And naturally there’s a variety of optional sophisticated infotainment and technological tchotchkes to enhance ones driving experience including Bluetooth, slide and tilt panoramic Sunroof, Fender premium audio system (which is sensational!), three-color ambient lighting, auxiliary glovebox, navigations system with 5.5 inch display, keyless access with push-button start, and leather seating surfaces. There are four trim levels of this model: Beetle; 2.5 Beetle; 2.5 Beetle with sunroof; and 2.5 Beetle with sunroof, sound, and Navi.

VW’s 2.5 Turbo model with the six-speed manual transmission will have a starting MSRP of $23,395, with the option of adding the very nice dual-clutch automatic transmission. Standard equipment of the Beetle is enhanced with standard Bluetooth, iPod connectivity; three-color ambient lighting; larger brakes with red calipers; the auxiliary glovebox; sport seating surfaces; 18-inch alloy wheels; a rear spoiler; foglights; three additional gauges on the dashboard; and alloy pedals. This model can also be augmented with other options: a slide/tilt panoramic glass roof, Fender audio, keyless entry, push-button start, i-Xeon headlights and the ubiquitous LED daytime running lights. This model is in two model options: Turbo with sunroof and Turbo with sunroof, sound, and Navi.

New Beetle owners will appreciate Veedub’s no-charge, as in free, maintenance program. All scheduled maintenance is covered for the length of the New Vehicle Warranty—three years or 36,000 miles.

Bottom Line

What was objectionable or an issue from the first generation Beetle I owned was changed, updated, modified or improved in the most recent model and now the 21st century Beetles have created a totally new Beetle that is the best Bug ever.

It was literally an earth shaking experience too. Honest. While we were at lunch the East Coast Earthquake hit (this was the day) and it sure shook things up quite a bit.

The new Beetle is at Volkswagen dealers is at your local dealer now. The Bugs are back and better than ever. Which is a very good thing.