Review: 2013 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

Monday November 25th, 2013 at 11:1111 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Drag race Champ, Build Solidity, Creature Comforts
Gripes: Inconsistent Brake Response

Most of the vehicles available for review show so few miles on the odometer that it’s difficult to envision problems that might develop down the road. This Touareg, however, arrived so late in the 2013 model year that it was already showing more than 10,000 miles of accrued travel. The benefit of driving such a relatively high mileage test vehicle is that it allows you to judge how well it wears its mileage. In the case of this VW, you could never tell it had travelled more than ten thousand miles if you didn’t sneak a peek at the odometer. The ingot like chassis had not developed so much as a single squeak. The massive doors still shut with the authoritative click you expect from a Zippo lighter cap. Lovely 5-spoke alloy wheels showed nary a curb scar thanks to the protective shielding afforded by the bulging sidewalls of the Michelin GreenX radials (265/50R19).

Unlike so many car chassis based crossover SUVs, the Touareg feels more like a truck than a car. For starters, you step up into the spacious cabin, which, by virtue of its height, affords you a commanding view of the road and traffic patterns. This visual superiority trumps any information conveyed by the lane departure warning systems that are all the rage today. Our test Touareg was not equipped with any of these annoying contrivances, nor did it need them thanks to the excellent 360 degree vision available from the driver’s seat. Touareg’s truck-like attributes also manifest themselves in the 7,700 pound tow capacity of this chassis. Although you can’t quite fold the 40/20/40 split rear seats flat, you can still gain 64 cubic feet of storage by tilting them forward. With rear seats erect, the Touareg still provides 34 cubic feet of space in its sizeable aft compartment. The key fob allows you to open the aft hatch, and a button near the liftgate lets you automatically shuts the lid.

VW only offers the Hybrid power train in its top model Touareg. At a base price of $62,575, you’re not wanting for anything in the comfort or luxury department. Beautifully upholstered front leather seats feature 12 way adjustability and 3 stage heating. The steering wheel is heated, as are the outboard rear seats. Deep door pockets, a vast glove box, and sizeable center console and dash face compartments all help keep clutter under control. Each front seat commands no less than 3 memory positions for favored seat position. Standard fitment on the Hybrid is an RNS 850 touch screen navigation and radio control panel. This graphic interface also provides rear vision when reverse gear is engaged. An enormous power sunroof remains eerily quiet even when open at freeway speeds. Bi-Xenon headlights swivel to illuminate turns at night. Standard Climatronic heat and air conditioning reacts swiftly to input changes and effectively distributes air on demand to individual tastes on separate sides of the cabin.

If you get the idea that this Touareg is just about enjoying an elevated level of indolence, you’re missing the point. What this VW really has in spades is power, lots of power. For starters, this is the world’s first supercharged Hybrid. A 333hp supercharged V6 combines with the added 47hp kick of an electric motor to produce 380hp and a whopping 428 pound feet of torque. When you slam the right pedal home, the Hybrid hurls its 5,000 pound curb weight forward like a Tim Lincecum fastball. Aided by an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Hybrid Touareg is never lacking for grunt. The only fly in the ointment is getting the ferociously fast rig stopped. Unfortunately, the regenerative brakes on our test vehicle felt spooky and inconsistent. This seems to be the hallmark of hybrids which transfer brake heat into energy.

The Touareg Hybrid is a remarkably sporting proposition. Thanks to its Goliath twin engine power train, it will run circles around lightweight sports cars, while looking after your every need with palatial solicitude. It’s really quite a bizarre combination of attributes, well worth the lofty asking price.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

  • Engine: 3.0 Liter Supercharged V6 + electric motor
  • Horsepower: 333hp + 47hp = 380hp
  • Torque: 428 lbs.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 20 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $63,450
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Wednesday October 16th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Best Hybrid For Enthusiasts
Gripes: Poor Brake Feel

“There are Hybrids and there are Turbo Hybrids” intones the commercial for VW’s latest offering in the Hybrid field, concluding that this Jetta is “The first Hybrid that you’ll actually want to drive.” For once, the advertising is right. Given this Jetta’s proclivity for balanced handling, gratifying surge, and seamless transitions between gas and electric modes, the Jetta Hybrid is way more fun to drive than a Prius or a Volt. This Jetta’s turbocharged, 140hp, 1.4 liter, inline 4 will stuff you smartly into your sport seat when the auxiliary electric motor kicks in to generate a combined output of 170hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.

Despite the fact that VW has slapped a set of ultra hard (Treadwear rating: 500) ContiSportContact 205/50R17 tires on distinctive looking sluice-gate alloys, the Jetta Hybrid grips the pavement surprisingly well. Just one quick blast through a set of S-curves will convince you that the Jetta is geared more to driving fun than any other Hybrid currently available. Adding to the enjoyment is a real, 7-speed DSG transmission, with manual override available at the flip of the stick. With most other Hybrids, you must contend with the disconcerting whine and bumpy shifts of a continuously variable transmission. On the minus side, the Jetta’s regenerative brakes feel grabby and imprecise, a first-generation Hybrid trait that other brands have long since eliminated.

Thankfully, VW has spared you the self-congratulatory encomiums so prevalent in other Hybrid instrumentation. You’ll see no falling leaves to document wastefulness here, no confusing charts requiring you to take your eyes off the road. If you need to regale yourself with such corroboration, look elsewhere because this VW barely bothers with such self-aggrandizement. Instead of shrines to virtue, you’ll find a simple 10,000 rpm tachometer, which also doubles as an engine status indicator with colored zones for “charge” (green), “eco” (blue) and “boost” (white). Indeed, the cockpit of the Jetta is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from this company: top quality materials, expertly assembled into an environment that stresses keeping your eyes on the road rather than on the dash.

To be sure, there’s a standard touchscreen navigation system, but because that screen does not subsume all other control functions, you needn’t bother with it when you just want to adjust temperature or fan speed. For those needs, VW provides good, old fashioned ribbed knobs that look great, and work better than any touchscreen embedded pictograph. In keeping with the businesslike demeanor of the driving environment, the steering wheel is fat rimmed, with recesses cut at 9 and 3 o’clock for thumb grips. Understated matte aluminum appliqués to the door panels and dash look just right in this Bauhaus minimalist cabin.

Of course the bottom line to the Jetta Hybrid equation is neither Euro centric design, nor turbo zing, nor gearbox splendor, but its EPA/DOT Fuel Economy rating of 42 MPG City and 48 MPG Highway. The Combined figure of 45MPG is so good that the government estimates your annual fuel expense at just $1,250. Compared to the average new vehicle, the Feds claim you’ll save $5,350 in fuel costs over 5 years. Our bit to run the Jetta Hybrid dry ran out of time because we simply couldn’t drive enough miles in 1 week to do a real mileage check. Suffice it to say that after driving it almost daily, we still had half a tank left with an estimated mileage range of 250 miles still showing.

The Jetta Hybrid is a remarkably stout product. Braking issues aside, it generates the same kind of driving enthusiasm you’ve come to expect from other VW products. There’s a basic honest and consistency at work here that will not disappoint longtime enthusiasts of this brand.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

  • Engine: 1.4 liter in-line 4, turbocharged + electric motor
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 42 MPG City/ 48 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,010
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo

Saturday October 12th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Kal Kustom Leather, Turbo Scoot
Gripes: Annoying Trunk Release, Poor Top-Up Vision

The latest Beetle may look like the familiar face you’ve known forever, but don’t be fooled by appearances. First of all, this Beetle is built in Puebla, Mexico rather than Wolfsburg, Germany. Although clothed in sheet metal designed to deceive you into thinking this is a rear-engine, rear–wheel-drive derivative of Dr. Porsche’s original 1930s design, the second generation New Beetle (Newer Beetle?) is in actuality a front-engine, front-wheel-drive Golf GTI successfully masquerading as a very Old Beetle. Thus, you can validate your nostalgia quotient for traditional VW values without sacrificing comfort or performance to outdated (rear-engine, air-colled) engineering principles.

Under the front hood of this diminutive convertible lies the same turbocharged 4 cylinder engine you find in so many VW and Audi family products today. When VW stopped producing their jewel-like V-6 motor several years back, the 2 liter turbo became the default GTI engine. Now, with direct injection, it’s found its way into the turbo Convertible, where it produces 210hp, 207 lb.-ft. of torque, and returns overall fuel consumption of 24 MPG. Coupled to a delightfully responsive set of 6 closely spaced ratios in the manual transmission, the Beetle Convertible will scald back road apexes with nearly the same aplomb as a GTI. Although the Convertible gives up some structural rigidity to the hardtop GTI, the loss is hardly discernible when you’re close to the limit of adhesion. The fat contact patches of standard 235/45R18 Hankook Optimo H426 tires help this drop-top stay planted through the twisties.

VW has done a commendable job of fettling the convertible with appropriate go-fast hardware. Five spoke alloy rims, which look like updated versions of the classic Porsche Fuchs wheel, decorously display the low profile Hankook tires. Inside the cabin, the aluminum brake, clutch and throttle pedals provide rubber strips for better adhesion. The matte aluminum of the pedal faces match the same trim used on the instrument cluster face, the door grab handles and latches, and the trim ring surrounding the shift mechanism. A carbon fiber emulation faces the dash front, while matte pebbled vinyl surfaces the dash top and door panels. Piano black plastic door panel tops add some 40s era pizzazz to the interior, but the real star is the stunning, bi-color seating. The front buckets feature wide whale ribbed red leather seating surfaces set off by black leather bolsters on all sides. As a finishing touch, VW trims the black bolsters with double stitched red thread. The rear buckets match the fronts. The net effect is jaw dropping, especially considering that all this custom tailoring is part of the base package.

You can tuck a couple of adults into those rear buckets, and they won’t mind the crowded leg room so much if the top is down. But the rear seats produce claustrophobia when the heavily padded top is up. The small back side windows and rear glass panel also inhibit vision and make parking a chore with top up. Those of you who recall the days when English roadsters like the MG and Triumph came fitted with tonneau covers will get a kick out of discovering the same archaic piece in the Convertible’s trunk. It’s designed to hide the roof apparatus when the top is down. It takes a good 5 minutes to install, and will bring back fond memories of an earlier era of motoring.

At $32,665 delivered, the Beetle Convertible represents solid value, GTI-level driving fun. It also admits you to an enthusiastic ownership group that sets VW apart from any other car company. This Beetle is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. How many cars can do that?

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 210hp
  • Torque: 207 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,665
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Saturday July 20th, 2013 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Cruise Range Exceptional, Kal Kustom Look
Gripes: Needs Rear Window Wiper and Stiffer Shocks

To give you an idea of just how efficient the new Diesel Beetle is, we round-tripped from Stinson Beach to Soquel (over 200 miles) in a single day, and when we returned home the trip computer indicated that 250 miles of range still remained. Now that’s a prodigious achievement for a small (2,939 lb.) coupe with a modest-sized fuel tank of just 14.5 gallons. Lately, Diesel fuel has dropped in price locally to a point where it’s less expensive than even the cheapest grade of regular gas, so there’s a double incentive to give this new addition to the Beetle line a good hard look. The other reason is that it’s even more fun to drive than the 200hp turbo version of the same car.

The reason is torque. VW offers 3 engines in the Beetle range. The base motor is a decent 5 cylinder unit displacing 2.5 liters and making 170hp. The 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder, 200hp turbo is a somewhat peaky, finicky engine which requires deft shifting to keep in its powerband. But the key to driving enjoyment is torque rather than horsepower, and here, the new 140hp Diesel outdoes its brethren thanks to the wallop of instant scoot it provides the moment you toe the throttle. Compared to the 170 lb.-ft. of the base 5, and the 207 lb.-ft. of the turbo 4, the Diesel makes 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Couple that to the sweetest shifting 6-speed manual you’ve ever operated and you’ve got a combination sure to please. If you’re not into shifting your own gears, the TDI can be ordered with a dual clutch automatic for an additional $1,100.

Aside from this Beetle’s spunky drivetrain, what else recommends the car to you? Thoughtful design and low price. For example, nice touches abound inside the cabin, even in the trunk. In a nifty replication of ‘50s Beetle design, VW cues painted sections of the dashboard, door panels and steering wheel to the car’s exterior color. In the case of our test car, the overflow of the striking Yellow Rush exterior color to interior surfaces turned the TDI into a genuine Kal Kustom show car. On the floor of the spacious trunk, you’ll find an extremely useful series of space dividers called CarGo Blocks. These modular plastic extrusions adhere to a special Heavy Duty Trunk Liner via Velcro connections. When arranged in the shape of a square, these 6 inch high dividers allow you to stabilize cargo in the trunk. It’s such a brilliant idea that it makes you wonder why no one has offered this before. The CarGo Blocks are part of an optional $235 set of 4 “Monster Mats” that also protect the interior floors.

The Beetle is no sports car. It’s so softly sprung that it heels over rather noticeably in corners. But you could easily rectify this problem by swapping out the standard mushy shock absorbers for aftermarket Bilstein or Koni units. Likewise, the adhesion of the standard Hankook Optimo tires (215/55R17) could stand the improvement that a set of stickier Michelins or Pirellis would provide. But even as it sits, straight from the VW factory in Puebla, Mexico, the TDI Beetle is plenty of fun to drive. The steering is amazingly responsive and accurate, and in our two runs over twisty Highway 17 from San Jose to Santa Cruz, the Beetle never drifted wide of an apex or ran out of grunt before cresting the summit. The manually adjustable front seats lent themselves perfectly to day-long stints in the saddle. Visibility is so good in all quarters that freeway lane changes are never problematic. The Beetle has no need of lane change warning devices.

The Beetle TDI is the perfect conveyance for the long haul. You will arrive refreshed and enthusiastic at your destination, and you won’t need to search for a gas station because this Beetle is good for an overall rating of 32 MPG. At a base price of just $23,295, the TDI Beetle is a top entrant in the new crop of elite and affordable rides for 2013.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

  • Engine: 2.0 liter, inline 4 Diesel
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 236 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/41 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $24,360
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible ‘70s Review

Thursday February 7th, 2013 at 8:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: ‘70s Package Handsome and Brilliantly Conceived
Against: For More Grunt Go TDI or Turbo

Leave it to those kooky imagineers at VW to come up with yet another celebratory sales concept no one’s thought of before. This latest brainstorm marks the reintroduction of the Convertible to the redone Beetle model line that debuted last year. Of course, VW product planners weren’t content to offer just any old drop top when they could instead trot out 3 specific models that celebrate the long and storied history of this topless small wonder. The tasty trio pays homage to 3 decades in which VW produced Convertible Beetles. The ‘50s edition is black with a tan interior, while the ‘60s version is Denim Blue with groovy two-tone seats. The ‘70s Beetle, subject of this test, is Toffee Brown, with tan interior and perfectly vintage looking chrome disc alloys measuring 8” x 18” mounting Hankook Optimo 235/45R18 rubber. The exterior color – let’s call it BeeGees Brown – also covers interior dashboard panels. With its matching brown fabric roof, the ‘70s Convertible is understated but stunning.

You can order your VW Convertible with either the 2.5 liter inline 5, the TDI diesel, or the turbo 2.0 liter inline 4. VW equipped our test car with the 2.5 liter engine, which is available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Due to the very high rpm required by the 5 to achieve peak power (170hp at 5,700rpm) , this engine does not produce scintillating zip. The straight 5 is, however, perfect if you’re looking to reproduce the acceleration nostalgia of a vintage VW Convertible. Personally I would opt for either the diesel, which makes 140hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, or the turbo, which posts 200hp and 207 lb,-ft. of torque.

The Convertible’s top is so soundly constructed that there’s no wind noise whatsoever when it’s raised. Attribute the quiet to the fact that the top’s exterior fabric shell consists of 3 different layers covering 3 more layers of insulation plus a molded foam laminated fabric headliner. The only drawback to the raised top is the lack of rear vision it causes. You need to be very careful when backing a Convertible Beetle out of a parking slot. Of course, you could always drop the top for a better look back, as it takes only 9.5 seconds to stow it and 11 more seconds to erect it.

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2013 Volkswagen CC Sport Review

Wednesday January 2nd, 2013 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Wow Factor Looks, German Quality Build
Gripes: Cottony Clutch, Pointy Rear Door Edges

Seven years ago, when VW introduced the CC, I tested one for a week in Boston. My week with the car expired early when I left it parked overnight – apparently with the lights on – and came back to find the battery dead. Now a dead battery would not normally present more of a problem than the need for a jump start, but once restarted, the CC failed to recharge its battery, died again, and had to be towed away. My mistake was to park the car without switching the headlight control off. This is a 3-position switch with Off, On and Auto offered as choices. Most cars take care of this common oversight by automatically cutting power to the headlight circuit after a specified time interval, a feature not shared by that early production CC. So I performed a little test on this latest CC to se if VW had rectified the problem. I left the headlights on, shut the door and returned 20 minutes later to find the high beams still blazing away. Ironically enough, for 2013, VW equips the CC with a Lighting Package that includes rows of LED bulbs that line the headlight nacelles and help drain the battery faster than ever before when that switch is left on. Seven years, no change in circuitry. Buyer beware.

Other than this switch glitch, the CC is a very good deal at $31,430. At that price, you’ll get the 4 cylinder version, with direct injection and turbocharging good for 200hp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. If you desire more oomph, a 280hp V6 is available, but not strictly necessary in terms of performance. Certainly, the turbo 4 is strong enough to light the front tires when you pop the clutch on the 6-speed manual gearbox.

 

The manual transmission, which is unavailable on the V6, turns the CC into something of a sports sedan, with closely spaced ratios and short throws resulting in lots of driving pleasure. Unfortunately, the clutch on our 7,000 mile test vehicle had apparently seen enough abuse in its past to cause its engagement point to vary widely, from just off the floorboard to the top of pedal travel. This in turn lead to uncertainty when making hill starts and stoplight getaways. Even with this drawback, the 6-speed CC was infinitely more entertaining to drive than that rather staid paddle shift automatic V6 in Boston.
The Lighting Package includes an “Adaptive Front Lighting System” which is perfect for improving night vision on twisting roads as the headlight beams swivel from side to side in tune with the movements of the steering wheel. From an ergonomic standpoint, the interior of the CC is close to perfect. The handsomely tailored front seats cradle you like a hammock. The equally comfortable rear seats allow passengers to slouch instead of sitting bolt upright. In addition, the rears split at 60/40 and fold flat, enabling transport of bulky items. The fit and finish of the CC, which is built in Emden, Germany, is second to none. The dash, door panels and center stack are pleasantly understated in matte aluminum trim. Stitching is precise, joints meet with Euclidian perfection, and the CC generally looks like it costs twice as much as it does.

Although the moniker “SPORT” is part of this CC’s name, you’d want to do some suspension and tire work before tackling any really demanding backroads. The CC is very softly sprung, and tends to heel dramatically in corners when pressed hard. The shock absorbers are valved to favor ride comfort over jounce control, and the all-season Continental ContiProContact tires (235/45R17) are high on wear but low on grip. Though the CC may look the part of a sizzling sports sedan, the underpinnings need some work if you want to keep those BMWs in sight.

Looks are what will sell this car. Without question, the CC remains a fresh styling exercise that is scads more vibrant, sleek and svelte than any other VW on the road.

2013 Volkswagen CC Sport

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter inline 4, Direct Injection and Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 207 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/32 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,430
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2012 Volkswagen Golf R 4-Door Review

Monday November 26th, 2012 at 10:1111 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Incredibly Quick and Agile, Best Ever Seats
Gripes: Annoying Audio Pre-Sets

After a hiatus of 4 years, VW has reintroduced the R brand Golf to their model lineup for 2012. Formerly called the R32, the name has been shortened to R because the 3.2 liter V6 which propelled the R32 has been discarded in favor of a turbo 2.0 liter inline 4. The new motor, which the Golf shares with Audi’s TT, produces 256hp and 243 lb.-ft. of torque. The R32’s larger displacement V6 actually made less horsepower (250) and torque (236) than the current motor as well as being considerably thirstier. The R posts fuel economy figures of 19 MPG City, 27 MPG Highway versus 18/23 for the V6.

The new R doesn’t look like a killer econobox from the outside. Rather, in practical 4-door form, it pretty much resembles other members of the 6th generation Golf family which debuted in 2010. Aside from a couple of very discreet “R” badges on the front grill and rear hatch lid, and a set of subtly contoured 18 inch alloy wheels, the R looks like nothing more than an ordinary GTI. But under the skin, drivetrain variations make the R such a compelling performer that your jaw will drop in surprise. For starters, the R replaces the Golf’s understeering front-wheel-drive with 4MOTION all-wheel-drive. The system’s constant analysis of traction requirements allocates power from side to side and front to rear with such equanimity that understeer is eliminated.

The wallop of the turbocharged direct injection engine is explosive above 4000rpm. Below that figure, you’ll experience a very slight turbo lag as the boost builds, but with a little throttle planning, and judicious use of the 6-speed manual transmission’s well-spaced ratios, the R will score passes and dart through traffic like a 400hp musclecar. Best of all, it will go about its business in such an inconspicuous way that its ferocious progress will go virtually unnoticed. Except by its driver, who will be thrilled every time the accelerator is flattened.

 

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Review

Wednesday May 2nd, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

YouTube Preview Image

By David Colman

For: Blatantly idiosyncratic appearance, Porsche 911-look alloys
Against: Jerky DSG gearbox, Limited use rear seat

VW has gone to great lengths to distinguish this 21st Century Beetle from its immediate predecessor, the 20th Century New Beetle. The New Beetle hit the market in 1998, and has had a very successful sales run for the past 13 years. Now, the Newest Beetle debuts as a 2012 model available in 2 versions, base (with 2.5 liter, 5 cylinder engine) and Turbo (with 2.0 liter inline turbo 4). Although eventually, 5 and 6 speed manual transmissions will be offered, first deliveries of both models will include the extra cost DSG automatic gearbox. The base model so equipped retails for $24,495, while the Turbo lists for $27,495.

Our test Turbo Beetle also included leather seat coverings, navigation and sunroof, options which boosted delivery price to $29,865. While the loaded, DSG-equipped Beetle is not limited to the one per center crowd, it’s hardly the People’s Car it once was touted to be. Is a $30,000 Beetle worth the money? On looks alone, it definitely is. This one, especially when finished in red, is an eyeball magnet in a sea of Jelly Bellies. If you don’t want attention, do not buy a Turbo Beetle. The latest version looks like a New Beetle that’s been flattened by a brick. A couple of years ago, a line of diminutive toy cars called Fat Boyz was popular with the Hot Wheels crowd, and this Turbo looks just like one of those intriguing caricatures. It’s been significantly recontoured to the tune of 3.3 inches of extra width, 6 inches of extra length and half an inch less height. Instead of the New Beetle’s tiresomely cute 3 arch design, the new Turbo’s flapjack proportions look more menacing than cute. The substantial rear wing, flattened roofline, laid back windshield angle, and porky 18 inch alloys make the new Turbo look like something George Barris would have done to the old one.

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2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SEL Review

Wednesday February 15th, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Pros: Immaculate construction, Spacious, Handsome
Cons: Underpowered, Niggling mirror controls, Loose rear arm-rest pass-thru cover

The long-awaited, built-in-USA Passat is finally here, imported from Chattanooga, TN. VW hasn’t built anything on our shores since they closed the Westmoreland, PA Rabbit factory back in the early 80s. So the newly reborn Passat, much larger than the car it replaces, not only carries a lot of baggage in its commodious, 15.9 cubic foot trunk, but some ancillary “baggage” concerning its domestic derivation. Is the new Passat a legitimate VW in terms of fit, finish and quality? The answer is an unqualified yes. If you can find any trace of sloppiness in construction, any evidence of mismatched panels, or cheap material, please let me know, because my persnickety analysis led me to conclude that the Tennessee Passat is every bit as good as anything VW builds in Germany. Panel gaps are consistently slight, doors thunk with customary VW certainty, interior switchgear and fabric appear to be of the highest quality. In fact, Passat construction is so sound and tight that the end product is reminiscent of much more expensive VWs of yore like the W8 sedan and the $100,000 Phaeton.

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The Five Ugliest Cars of All Time

Tuesday November 29th, 2011 at 7:1111 AM
Posted by: m35man

Raise your hand if you’ve owned an ugly car. Scream out loud if you actually loved your ugly car.

1975 AMC PacerLet’s face it—for every great car we produce on this planet, they’re bound to be a couple of real duds. Unfortunately, failure is just a fact of life. These vehicles probably looked really good on the drawing board, but in reality they were design disasters that are best forgotten.

1.) 1975 AMC Pacer: One of the lowest points in the history of car making, the AMC Pacer was a disaster of great proportions on many levels—from the 95hp inline 6-cylinder engine all the way to the terrible fuel economy—18mpg. So, not only did it not turn heads (except in shock), this vehicle rode like a covered wagon with one bad wheel. The design reminds me of something you’d see in a 1950’s “B” sci-fi film. Consequently, the Pacer has become the poster child of 1970’s bad automotive design. If there are any of these cars left out there, they should be destroyed, for the good of the race and the culture. When other civilizations look back on us 1,000 years from now, the Pacer will undoubtedly be cited as the beginning of the end.

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