Volkswagen Reveals Redesigned Beetle – Driver’s Seat – WSJ

Volkswagen AG
2012 Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen AG unveiled its redesigned Beetle (call it the new New Beetle) today, and as expected it looks a bit sportier and more aggressive than the previous model, which has been around since the 1998 model year.

But really, it isn’t much of a departure from its predecessor, and after the hype-heavy buildup that started last year, the new car is a letdown. Why not just say you’re going to make minor tweaks to the car’s appearance, revamp the suspension and just roll with it. I was halfway expecting the return of, well, maybe the Karmann Ghia.  

But a car with the Beetle’s signature shape is limited in how sporty and aggressive an image it can project. Even the original Beetle, the people’s car, was largely regarded as an automotive parody in the U.S. And for the last 13 years the New Beetle has been a caricature of that parody. It looks like the original but has none of the mechanical features that largely necessitated the old Beetle’s shape like a rear-mounted engine and cargo trunk up front.

The 2012 Beetle come with a 2.5-liter five cylinder gasoline engine, a 2-liter diesel or a 2-liter turbocharged gas engine. Transmission choices include a 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic or 6-speed dual-clutch version, depending on the model.

The long-running New Beetle was more of a Rabbit or Jetta in disguise — a retro gimmick that sacrificed function in the name of form. A lack of useable interior space was a longtime problem with the Beetle, especially for anyone who had to ride in the cramped back seat. While never a huge seller, the Beetle has put up fairly reliable numbers for VW. The company sold 55,842 Beetles in 1998, its first year on the market. Last year it sold 16,537.  

In November Volkswagen used “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as a platform for launching the redesigned Beetle roughly a year before it was to go on sale. Winfrey showed a silhouette of the 2012 Beetle, and then said she’d give one to each member of the studio audience — 275 cars in all.