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 theyve
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 ü berBeetle
is the result of careful demographic research, and that engineers whished the S
to appeal to a larger audience without alienating the New Beetles core of consumers.
Or, in other words, the New Beetle is a chick car, and VW wants to put more dudes in the
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 theyre
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 theres one thing guys cant get enough
of, its 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,
theres 30 additional ponies pumped out of the Beetles 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 theres 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
Ss 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 shouldnt.
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 mans 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
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 Ss interior seem honestly
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 spoilers 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 Ss 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 Ss 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: its cute, its fun,
and its user-friendly. And since guys want to date women with those qualities, they
just might go for a car that has them as well.