Between mass production in Europe and being voted the 4th most influential car of the 20th century, it’s safe to say that the Volkswagen Beetle – in any of its past or present incarnation – hasn’t ever been regarded as anything resembling a sports car. And it was probably during its movie venture with Herbie that it ever was. Other subsidiaries of the German giant are renowned for mixing speed with hot looks – such as Porsche, with their famous 911 Turbo and Cayenne S.
So then the question goes as follows: what is Volkswagen aiming for when it continues the Bug’s Turbo version adventure with the 2.0 TSI Turbo, even amidst faltering popularity and sales of the legendary model?
The 2015 VW Beetle Turbo
The US sales of the iconic Bug have dipped last year on average between 20 and 35 percent compared to 2013, being a major culprit in the 10 percent overall decrease in sales that Volkswagen’s USA subsidiary suffered. The rates are somewhat steadier in Europe, where the VW Beetle always held a substantially bigger amount of popularity compared to the rest of the world.
The 2015 Beetle 2.0 TSI Turbo just released in the UK is the most powerful version of the small car you can get, with specs including a 207 brake horse power 2-litre TSI engine used in other VW families such as Scirocco and Golf, a traction-increasing XDS electronic differential lock and a six-speed manual transmission. This can make it reach 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, while situating its top speed at 140 mph.
The standard edition is priced at £22,995, but a number of optional features can be added that will increase it, such as steering wheel paddles, a voice-activated satellite navigation system or a 400W sound system. There are a number of special editions: two thousand five hundred quid will be the price of the cabriolet version, with an electrically operated roof that folds/extends in about 9 seconds; more retro versions of this can be purchased for some money on top, including a TDI Diesel version for a bit over twenty four thousand quids.
It seems like an interesting proposal from the German manufacturer, but take this into consideration: Golf GTIs and Scirocco GTs both offer better performance for about the same amount of cash (even a bit less, actually), and let’s be honest, outside of Beetle enthusiasts, most drivers will agree they look way more like sports cars.
Is there any sound logic to providing competition with your own self? Not really, but considering the number of special editions this version of the turbo Beetle has, it may as well be a matter of VW targeting a niche that still enjoys taking a slicker version of the Bug for a ride. Otherwise, it doesn’t really have practical arguments in its side to help it be chosen over it sisters other than “hey, look, it’s a faster Bug”.
The 2015 VW Passat 1.8 TDI
In other turbocharged offerings, VW are also trying to bring their large sedan game back on track with the 2015 Volkswagen Passat. The Passat is also, like the Beetles, steadily decreasing in U.S. public popularity since back in 2010, seeming to leave the burden of Sedan sales – which amounts to more than 50% of the German giant’s total car sales nationwide – to its smaller cousin Jetta. Reviews all around have been mostly positive for the 1.8 TDI Passat, but it is still trekking way behind Japanese (Honda, Toyota) and American (Ford, Buick) manufactured cars in the affordable midsize category.
This iteration of the Passat’s engine is four cylinder 1.8-liter turbocharged, which takes over the old 2.5T with roughly the same performance at 170 HP. The Passat is still offers the best fuel consumption out of all top-rated sedans excepting the electric hybrids, with one gallon being enough to fuel 35 miles.
The German Sedan produced in the US also seems to be targeting family audiences, as stripping away with a lot of useless interior quirks makes this probably the most spacious version ever, especially within the back seats, while a better spacing also make front seating more comfortable than in the past.
As far as visual aspect is considered, the sedan became even more conservative, dismissing the rumors that had a major paradigm shift in store for this year. What can be observed from all this is that Volkswagen seems to have a mind to first settle on technical aspects before providing a change in style, and maybe even functionality. And that’s somewhat to be expected considering German rigorousity: doing something that’s all show and no substance just doesn’t seem right.
Where pricing is concerned, there are a couple of options and different price tags to choose from a quite accessible $21.000 to a $36.000 one featuring a 3.6L V6 DSG engine, for those that want more of a beast under the hood than the overall conservative sedan’s main option. Overall, the turbocharged 2015 Passat can be considered a good value for money purchase – but it has the unfortunate circumstance of landing in a market range that seems to have this as a motto.
It’s clear and not totally unexpected that Volkswagen is reacting to the ever shifting nature of the automotive industry, because that’s the only viable approach that could keep it in that Big Three of car manufacturers, and the VW Turbo is the way they chose to do it. That’s because they prefer a steadier, less-risk approach that should capitalize on its tradition rather than on pure innovation. That’s something to be expected from Europe’s top manufacturer, whose past exploits still bring nostalgia in most of today’s older car lovers.
But the German manufacturer probably understands that innovation is the key, at least to the U.S. market, and that in the near future it will have to throw something big at the public. Last year already saw the announcement of the Phaeton being scheduled to re-enter the U.S. market in 2018, while talks of a newer version of their campervans re-emerging have fed rumor mills for years now. It is probable that whatever future plans the German giant has, they are already set in stone, and it might just be playing the waiting game to maximize income from current offerings.