Never Enough Time on Road Trips - 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Long-Term Road Test
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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Long Term Road Test

2012 Volkswagen Beetle: Never Enough Time on Road Trips

November 02, 2012

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My one frustration with long road trips is that I never have enough time to go everywhere I want. I left Santa Fe around 2 on Tuesday afternoon, and after stopping for tamales in Albuquerque, and then, ice to keep the tamales fresh all the way back to California, I didn't make it to Petrified Forest National Park before nightfall. Darn. When will I get to come back here and see this natural wonder... next year, five years from now?

But I had to press on, as my plan was to stay overnight in Flagstaff. And thank you, deagle13 for suggesting Black Bart's. I would never have noticed this restaurant, because it's in an RV park as you say, but the food is good and the casual dinner theater vibe, complete with a pianist and a wait staff singing Broadway tunes, is just cool. Some of the waiters must be music majors, as they sound like they could belt out an opera.

And the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo is better than I expected. Not that I thought it would be not good for road trip, but I'd gotten into the habit of seeing it as a stylized, less practical version of the GTI in my personal driveway. But there's more to this package to that, and if I didn't need the GTI's rear legroom, I could see myself wanting a Beetle for general commuting and road-tripping.

 

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First some context, the first "New" Beetle came out when I was in college, and at the time, I was in the target demographic: 20 years old and not male. I was smitten for a month or two. I never bought one, but I did drive one of our ancient, ancient long-term cars -- a 1998 Volkswagen New Beetle TDI with the five-speed manual gearbox.

Now the Beetle is new again, and I feel too old and mature to want one, but good grief, this is a much better car. Nicer materials. Better build quality. The frameless windows seal properly, and while they let in a little more wind noise than framed windows would, the cabin was pretty serene on my road trip.

Also, strangely, I prefer the Beetle's cockpit and driving position to the GTI. It's not the visibility I like, as placing the nose and tail isn't easy (you just have to remember the car is little more than 168 inches long which = short). But the upright windshield angle is neat -- reminds me of being in a Mini or our '85 911. And since the Bug is a little wider than a GTI, it feels like there's more shoulder room and I liked the added spaciousness during my 13-hour day in the car. Also, the weekend before my trip, I had two adults besides myself in the car. Legroom was tight, but I never worried about elbowing my father-in-law.

I like the engine note, too. Yes, it's simulated but it's done well. Lay into the throttle to merge or pass and you get boxer-like engine noises. It's a like a Subaru to the modern ear, but there's also a resemblance to the '73 Super Beetle I drove briefly in college. It's a nice detail, I think -- certainly better than a bud vase.

Driving the Beetle at night was pleasant. The gauges -- white lettering on black background -- are easy to read. Of course, I wish our car had the available bi-xenon headlights, because the standard halogens don't reach that far or seem that bright. But the reality is that I encountered relatively few situations where I was reaching for the brights. The standard headlights were just fine on I-40 through eastern Arizona.

Although I was bummed to miss the petrified forest, the next morning I pointed the Beetle north on U.S. 89 to check out Sunset Crater National Monument. It's a cool looking mountain with a big crater, and everything here formed during an eruption in 1064. And because it's in the desert, it's still only sparsely dotted with vegetation nearly 1,000 years later. It's not quite as dramatic as the Craters of the Moon monument in Idaho but worth checking out if you're in the area and into volcanoes.

 

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More from the road later, including the mpg report plus stories from Route 66.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,784 miles

P.S. The pork tamales from El Modelo in Albuquerque survived the trip and rank among the tastiest tamales I've ever eaten. The Sportage pulled up while I was taking the photo, and the driver told me the Beetle looked cool.

 

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