For those consumers of a certain generation, the Volkswagen Beetle might be associated with Herbie the Love Bug or memories of Goldie Hawn at the wheel of her sunshine-yellow convertible Beetle, fleeing the murderous albino in the comedy hit Foul Play. Ringling Brothers entertained us for decades with the tradition of cramming an unbelievable number of hapless clowns into a VW Beetle, earning it the moniker of ‘clown car.’ Well, no more. The 2012 Beetle reveals a distinctly more masculine body design than the bubble style that evolved over the last 70 years and commands a newfound respect.
First commissioned in the 1930’s and produced as the “people’s car” by Ferdinand Porsche, the Beetle test car was designed to mechanically operate as simply as possible. Since then, with a brief interruption during WWII, it has functioned as a symbol of dependability. Volkswagen has maintained the integrity under the hood, but refined the interior and body style to be “an icon, reinvented - for the 21st century Beetle".
Afficionados of the cutesy compact can expect an entirely new, redesigned Beetle that is wider, lower, much more sporty and aggressive. The body style is more coupe than roling greenhouse. ”You don't change a car like that on a whim,” Volkswagen of America CEO Jonathan Browning was quoted in New York. “The 21st-century Beetle is a great leap forward.” The Beetle still retains the image of a ‘fun’ car, but the 2012 is more of an adult version. It appears that the Bug has broken through its chrysalis to become a much more appealing grown up. Not bad for a car starting at $17,595.
The greater number of edges and creases in the body style give the 2012 Beetle a tougher road presence and legitimacy. The bubble roof has been deflated and smoothed out to more closely resemble its 1938 predecessor. The turbo version of the refined Beetle features a rear spoiler and is also offered in black, as a way of ‘sexing up’ the new image even more. The MSRP for this sporty model starts at $24,950. Only 600 copies of the Special Edition Black Turbo will be produced, and pre-orders can be placed online through a special partnership with Amazon.
The glass dome feel of the interior has also given way to a decidely more masculine styling. Thankfully, the bud vase is a thing of the past. The injection of testosterone is evident , but not so much as to be a put-off to female buyers. One package even comes with black interior and red accents, perfect for students heading up to Athens or the diehard BULLDAWG fan. What’s even more telling about the target consumer refocus; the new commercials have a guy jetting around in the Beetle, and he’s not packing a picnic basket or a bundle of daisies in the seat next to him. It’s retro cool and lighthearted.
Esoterics aside, what really matters is under the hood, and the 2012 Beetle is sporting some major mojo. When I pressed the gas I didn’t exactly get whiplash, but I was shocked at the quick response and acceleration. Handling is tight and the pick-up commendable, making the Beetle an ideal option for darting past all of those cumbersome, gas-guzzling SUV’s on the roads. After all not every driver, male or female, feels the need to compensate for whatever shortcomings with an outsized vehicle. As you would expect from Volkswagen, the Beetle comes in either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficient MPG ratings begin at 22 in the city and 29 on the highway.