Thursday, September 21, 2017

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Review - VW Beetle Special Edition

fender1The Volkswagen Beetle has been one of the automotive world's success stories for over 70 years. With the original and basic design from the 1930s barely changing in real terms, it was in the mind "noughties where production ceased for the original model style.

In 1997 Volkswagen had released the New Beetle which changed from rear engined and air cooled to a rounded, modernised, front engined and water cooled model. Complete with vase and flower it was a reasonable hit and predominantly bought by women.

A rejig occurred in 2011 which coincided with a change back to Beetle. An exterior redesign with a flatter roof, changes to the front and rear bumpers, moving the front window back slightly for a longer bonnet look and a ditching of the feminine oriented flower was intended to attract more of the male market. To that end, the VW Beetle Fender Special Edition was released in 2012 in black, Bentley style chrome wheels and a cranking Fender 400 watt audio system.

Priced from around $35K plus ORCs and with VW's 1.4L TSI engine/7 speed DSG combo, how does it measure up on the road?

fender8Front engine, front drive, supercharger and turbo weaponry, seven gear ratios in a dual clutch automatic with manual selection, 118kw and 240Nm of torque in a car weighing just on 1300 kilograms, with torque on tap from 1500rpm means a heavy right foot equates to consistent, linear surge of acceleration, with the twin combination of on tap surge from the supercharger running seamlessly into the turbo's torque.

It rolls on like a wave to a cutoff around 7000rpm with upshifts barely perceptible. Downshifts are almost the same except when coming down a hilly road such as Sydney's Old Bathurst Road, where the computer will hold a gear.

Fuel economy is said to be 6.4L per 100 but it was disconcerting to watch the gauge visibly move, like the old days of a heavy drinking V8. Although essentially the same drivetrain as the Golf, there was a feeling that economy wasn't quite the same from the Beetle nor was the feeling of refinement the same. There was an almost subliminal buzz through the driveline sometimes, the lag between moving from reverse to drive and waiting for the gears to re-engage, the indecisiveness of the lower gears when moving off on light throttle with hesitancy and stuttering being exhibited, added to a feeling of not being 100 percent smooth and composed.

fender5Although overall economy finished at just under 7.0L per 100, comparable to the 103 Highline, the expected range in the Highline was a couple of hundred kilometres further than the Beetle. Underway, the gear changes were sharp, short and crisp and in sports mode held gears just a touch longer.

Unsurprisingly, it's not a bad place to be, inside the Fender Beetle. Of immediate notice is the laminated "Sunburst" wood strip, full width across the dash, contrasting vividly against the gloss and matt blacks otherwise used and broken only by the vents framing the touchscreen navitainment system and a splash of chrome. Seats are of a sports bucket style, are comfortable enough, manually operated for fore and aft as is the steering column, adjustable for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) and attached to the flat bottomed wheel, another sign of its Golf origins.

Dash dials are Teutonically efficient (speedometer and info framed by tacho and fuel), clinically designed black and white for the aircon controls ahead of the sports shifter. The four seats are a mix of a staid cloth patter splitting the leather on either side whilst the doors eschew full plastic for an elastic strip to hold things in.


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