SAN FRANCISCO: Who
would have thought that peace and love would get tough? I mean, I was there. VW Beetles
were what we drove. Power to the people! Yeah, right on. So what if they were slow? Hey
man, were not into your middle class, American, chrome studded boats!
The original Beetle was the
anti-car. It was cheap to buy, cheap (and easy) to fix, and went just about anywhere. It
was also cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and slow. Did I mention that it was slow?
No matter, it was revered by millions. Still is.
So last year Volkswagen,
thinking Retro, decided that what the world needed was a new Beetle. But this being now
instead of then, Volkswagen decided that the new Beetle should invoke the memory of the
old Beetle without making us suffer with its shortcomings. Hence, the New Beetle.
New or not, it certainly is
cute. Where the Old Beetle was cute because it was ugly, the New Beetle was designed to be
cute. Perhaps thats the biggest difference. The old was designed for function, the
new is designed for form.
To me the new Beetle is a
caricature of the old, almost a cartoon rendition. But thats just me. People
everywhere love the new Beetles looks, so once again, Im in the minority.
Now, just as the world has
accepted the new, cute, cuddly Beetle, VW has gone and unleashed the sleeper of all
sleepers - the Beetle 1.8 T. The T stands for Turbo. Now forget cute and cuddly. Think
Im not sure why, but
VW uses a slightly smaller engine in the 1.8 T. Instead of the 2.0-liter, SOHC, two valve
per cylinder, four cylinder, this is a 1.8-liter, DOHC, five valve per cylinder,
turbocharged and intercooled, four cylinder. The 1.8 makes 150 hp and 156 ft-lb.of torque
instead of the 2.0s 115 and 122. More than enough to make you notice the difference.
The real sneaky thing is
most people wont know this until theyre starring in disbelief as that cute
little Beetle disappears into the distance. It was kind of neat to wave bye-bye to those
kids in their lowered Japanese hot rods after they smirked at the old man in
the cartoon car. Hey kid, laugh at this!
Love it or hate it, the
Beetle does have character. I dont especially like the exterior but I found the
interior interesting. How do you make an instrument panel and dashboard stand apart from
the crowd? Well VW has. From the smiley face steering wheel (I swear, thats what it
looked like to me), to the sound system and heater controls, everything looks unique.
Im not sure about the blue tinting used for the lighting, but even that looks
Outside there is very
little to differentiate the 1.8 T from the base Beetle (better for stealth operation).
With the exception of a small aero wing above the rear window that automatically raises as
you hit warp speed (actually it comes into play around town), the exterior is the same on
Then theres the
seating position. Drove me nuts. Not that things werent easy to reach, no. Its
just that when I turned my head to look out the left side window I was looking at the
B pillar. This is because in order to have a stubby front deck lid like the
original, the engine (dont forget, the New Beetle is front-engine,
front-wheel-drive) actually nestles further back (thats one reason for the dashboard
thats as big as Nebraska), so the front seats are in the middle of the car. You get
used to it but it was strange at first.
So, If you find the New
Beetle interesting, but you dont relish the idea of driving a replica of the old,
slow Beetle, the Beetle 1.8 T is for you. And surprisingly, the 1.8 T is a tad more frugal
than the 2.0 in the city. Fuel economy is 25 mpg city and 31 highway.
As tested, the 1.8 T GLS
(it also comes in an upscale GLX version) went out the door for under $21,000. That
included alloy wheels and a partial leather interior package.
Whats a real kicker
is that the Beetle 1.8 T is essentially the same vehicle as the new Audi TT Coupe. Sure,
the Audi makes a few more horsepower (30 more) but it costs a lot more (add another
$10,000 plus). Now I happen to think the Audi is better looking, and it has a lower center
of gravity, but the Beetle makes more people smile. And we all need more smiles in our
life, don't we? By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
VW Home Page
Byline: By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: Flower Power with an Attitude
Topic: 2000 VW 1.8T Turbo Beetle
Word Count: 776
Photo Caption: 2000 VW 1.8T Turbo Beetle
Photo Credits: VW PR
Series #: 1999 - 66