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2002 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo S

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SAN FRANCISCO:  Finally, there is truth in automotive packaging. Walking around the 2002 New Beetle Turbo S, you may notice that this bulbous Bug seems a little edgier, with slightly more aggressive front and rear fascias, and that its blocky alloy wheels and their low-profile tires hint at a bit more handling panache. Overall, you get the sense that Volkswagen has endowed this particular Beetle with a little extra beefiness. That, in a nutshell, is exactly what they did.

Unlike most cars in this segment (the Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally immediately springs to mind), the Turbo S lacks the usual useless TV tray-style wings, garish graphics and belly-scraping body kits that carmakers are compelled to add in an attempt to fool you into thinking that they’ve actually made their cars any sportier.

VW, on the other hand, has made a minimum amount of modifications to the Turbo S model, choosing to quietly inform interested passers-by that this is not an everyday Turbo. They would have you believe that the understated berBeetle is the result of careful demographic research, and that engineer’s whished the S to appeal to a larger audience without alienating the New Beetle’s core of consumers. Or, in other words, the New Beetle is a chick car, and VW wants to put more dudes in the drivers’ seats.

Yes, 60 percent of New Beetle buyers are females. And, alas, the key demographic in the pseudo sports car market is males aged 18 to 34. Perhaps this is because women are far less likely to be fooled into thinking they’re behind the wheel of a sports car by liberally applied "racing" stripes or a few pointy plastic bits. Whatever the reason, if you want to correctly target the "active lifestylers" (whatever that means), you have to go for the guys.

If there’s one thing guys can’t get enough of, it’s power. In this area, VW did not disappoint. Well, actually, they did disappoint everyone who knows about the Europe-only New Beetle RSi. But for everyone else, there’s 30 additional ponies pumped out of the Beetle’s 1.8-liter inline four thanks to better breathing, timing and a less restrictive dual exhaust setup.

For those of you keeping score, that means 180 hp is on tap in the Turbo S, with an accompanying 11 lb-ft jump in torque (which now totals 173 lb-ft). Though this may not sound like much, thanks to the fact that there’s now a 6-speed manual transmission included in the deal (vs. the usual 5-speed), 0-to-60 mph times improve from a humble 8.2 seconds to a positively peppy 7.4 seconds.

Not enough muscle for you? Well, perhaps the S’s laundry list of included equipment can help sweeten the deal.

Making its first appearance in a Beetle of any generation is Electronic Stability Control, which is said to help save your bacon in skidding situations by countering your wildly inept swerving motions by reducing power and selectively applying the brakes (with standard ABS) to whichever of the 17" alloy wheels (unique to the Turbo S) are spinning when they shouldn‘t.

Speaking of wheels, in the Turbo S they are more firmly planted to the ground thanks to stiffer springs and shocks. These in no way make this New Beetle handle like a new Ferrari, but they do take care of some of the wiggle and wallow that have haunted all Bugs since the dawn of time.

Not all of the changes found on the Turbo S are hidden from view, however. Recognizing the average man’s strong attraction to shiny things, Volkswagen has stolen a page from the Audi TT styling manual and added various bits of dimpled aluminum accents to the interior, including to the rim of the bud vase. (Though the fact that having a bud vase at all is very un-masculine apparently escapes VW gurus…)

These pieces, in conjunction with a sharp black and gray leather interior scheme (featuring heated/power/leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and stainless steel pedals), make the Turbo S’s interior seem honestly sporty.

Connoisseurs of sports cars, however, might find the fact that air conditioning, power everything (including windows, mirrors and sunroof), and a great eight-speaker Monsoon stereo and CD changer fly in the face of the "high power, low weight" sports car formula. Your humble author, however, had discovered other items with which to find fault. Though I may be in the minority on this one, the switch to bright white illumination throughout the cabin really ruins the mellow vibe that the groovy purplish/cobalt bluish lighting found in other Beetles conveyed.

Even more jarring is the loud "whomp" sound that accompanies the rear spoiler’s retraction. I find it incredible that no VW engineer noticed the fact that it sounds like a watermelon being smashed against the rear window every time the spoiler retracts, especially given the fact that the aforementioned engineers went so far as to design a "turbo noise filter" to quiet the miniscule increase in noise made as a result of the Turbo S’s higher engine intake volume.

All in all, however, the biggest problem facing the Turbo S is the fact that buyers, both male and female, can find more "sporty" cars (even a few that offer genuine performance) that have none of the "cute as a Bug" stigma that plagues the New Beetle. Adding insult to injury, Volkswagen already builds a pair of New Beetles for "guys": the Golf and the Jetta (both of which offer more body styles, better utilize their interior space and offer a wider range of interior and exterior appointments).

And Volkswagen not only offers the Turbo S’s 180 hp four in the Golf and Jetta; it goes one step further and makes the VR6, a silky six cylinder powerplant that packs 200 horsepower, available as an option--for less money! But then again, the reasons why the Turbo S may succeed in the marketplace are the very things that made the New Beetle a smash hit in the first place: it’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s user-friendly. And since guys want to date women with those qualities, they just might go for a car that has them as well. By Andrew W. Davis  AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Volkswagen Home Page

Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Adding a Little Beef to the VW Beetle
Topic:  2002 New Beetle Turbo S
Word Count:   1101
Photo Caption:  2002 New Beetle Trubo S
Photo Credits:  Volkswagen Internet Media
Series #:   2002 - 11

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2002 Beetle Turbo S

Download the original image file here:  2002 Beetle Turbo S 28k

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