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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Review by Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Longer, lower, wider, faster.

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor
The Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Sixty-seven years ago in 1945 the “Volkswagen” went into production, eventually becoming know simply as the Beetle. From the Beetle we got a Super Beetle. Then after a long hiatus, and 60-plus years after the first, along came the second-generation New Beetle. Now were back to simply Beetle in its third iteration.

There are variations of the front wheel drive 2012 Beetle, and in the case of my tester it was a Beetle Turbo complete with 200HP and a duck-tail rear spoiler reminiscent of that which first appeared on the iconic Porsche 911 in the early 1970s. My driving agenda for the Beetle Turbo included a trip to visit another American as well as global icon just like the Beetle, namely Harley-Davidson.

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The Harley-Davison Museum is in Milwaukee, about an hour and half north of Chicago. The road trip would offer plenty of opportunity to use the Beetle’s Turbo.

The dual-overhead-cam, 16-valve, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the Turbo makes 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, delivered from just 1700 rpm. With the DSG transmission, the Turbo gets EPA-estimated fuel economy of 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway; for the Turbo with six-speed manual, the figures are 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

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Lot’s of discussion has been had regarding the masculinity or femininity of this third-gen Beetle. From the driver’s seat the interior is very pleasing and functional. The leather seats, flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, and Fender Premium audio are quite masculine in my view, but will equally satisfy an enthusiast-driver of either gender. My road trip gave me the opportunity for a few full throttle accelerations from stop, for example leaving a toll booth. The steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for the rapid-shifting DSG transmission make the Beetle Turbo even more of a blast to drive. Zero to 60mph acceleration is in the very respectable 6.4sec. range.

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A few weeks after my test drive stint in the Beetle Turbo the very same car reappeared at the MAMA Spring Rally put on by the Midwest Automotive Media Association, of which I am a member. We have a story on that event here on The Auto Channel. A part of this rally included an autocross event and I had the opportunity to drive the Beetle Turbo on a very tight circuit and wring out its sport tuned suspension carrying 235/45R18H tires on 8 inch wide alloy wheels.

The Turbo Beetle has a larger diameter 23-mm anti-roll bar up front. Turbo models have a different rear suspension using a multi-link independent design, with coil springs, telescopic dampers, and an 18-mm-diameter anti-roll bar.

Turbo Beetle models have standard anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake pressure distribution (EBD). Additionally they have larger 12.3-inch-diameter vented front discs, with red calipers, and 10.7-inch-diameter rear discs.

And, Turbo models features the XDS® cross differential (limited-slip) system that electronically monitors input from various wheel sensors and, in the event of slippage, transfers extra torque to the wheel or wheels with the most traction

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The Beetle Turbo is offered in three trims. Starting at $23,395, the Turbo has the 200-hp TSI® turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual transmission, 18-inch aluminum-alloy “Twister” wheels, front foglights, gloss black exterior mirror housings, and a rear spoiler. Inside, the Turbo has alloy pedals and a leather-wrapped shifter knob and brake lever. The six-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission is an $1100 option.

Next, the Beetle Turbo with Sunroof and Sound adds the panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, Keyless Access with push-button start, the Fender® premium audio system, and a highline trip computer. The base MSRP is $26,395

And lastly, the topline Beetle Turbo with Sunroof, Sound, and Navigation starts at $27,995 and adds leather for the seat coverings, door trims, and dashboard, as well as the RNS 315 Navigation system.

Watch TACH's exclusive 2012 VW Beetle promo video

The Beetle Turbo is covered under Volkswagen’s no-charge Carefree Maintenance Program. All scheduled maintenance is covered for the length of the New Vehicle Warranty—three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Additionally, all current Volkswagen vehicles use synthetic oil, which eliminates the need for a 5000-mile oil change, and allows owners to go farther between scheduled oil changes.

The Turbo Beetle is very city friendly with its 168.4inch length and 15.4cuft trunk, much larger than that of the New Beetle’s 12cuft. The 14.5 gallon fuel tank will give you 435 miles of driving on a weekend road trip. The seating is for four. I thought the outside mirrors to be slightly small and wished the large sunroof opened further, but understood it is restricted from moving rearward by the smallish roof panel. The Fender audio puts out a great sound and the ability to change the color of the door-panel speaker grill surround between red, white or blue illumination is kind of neat.

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On a historical note, if by chance you should have interest in knowing how the first Beetle came into being, the recent released “Thinking Small” by author and cultural historian Andrea Hiott is rich and rewarding in its historical detail. Especially of interest are insights into the three persons most responsible for the Beetle’s being…Hitler, Porsche and Nordhoff.

The first-generation Beetle sales amounted 21.5 million cars, making it the most popular car manufactured off a single platform of all time. Today Volkswagen offers a very broad product range around the world with various models and powertrains to suit its global customers.

As VW says of its Beetle: Still turns heads. Just faster.

© Larry Nutson