2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo: Central Coast Road Trip
January 2, 2013
I've been meaning to drive our long-term Volkswagen Beetle Turbo on a road trip for quite a while. Though I'm not particularly a fan of it around town due to the steering, stiff-legged ride and delayed powertrain responses, I also know that Volkswagens usually come into their own on longer journeys.
With such a longer journey on the docket for the New Years long weekend, I finally got my chance. Very much mimicking our trip in the Mustang last year, Senora Riswick and I would take the 101 up the coast to Atascadero and Paso Robles for a little scenery, a little food and some post-drive wine tasting. Unlike last year, though, we would be detouring over to the Pacific Coast Highway for a visit to Hearst Castle.
Frankly, my assumption about the Beetle was absolutely correct. It didn't take long for me to appreciate the steering at higher speeds and note that the ride was perfectly pleasant on the 101, which for much of the Central Coast is the rare well-paved highway in California. The laggardly throttle response also wasn't of concern when driving at a constant speed, usually on cruise control. A need to pass or merge back onto the 101 post pit stop usually necessitating a drop down into Sport mode, but that's why it's there, right?
Plus, I managed 29.6 mpg for the trip (EPA says 30), which I say is pretty damn good. Just as I discovered on my Buick Verano drive to the Redwoods, a turbocharged four-cylinder's mix of power and fuel economy is brilliant on a road trip with both mountains and straights.
What about everything else? Well, the seats are supportive, comfortable and adjust enough to make this 6-foot-3 chap quite happy -- even with its manual adjustment. I absolutely love the steering wheel (on the Top 10 Steering Wheel List, I'm pretty sure it's the Toyabaru twins followed immediately by nine VW and Audi products). I'm a big fan of the cabin design, with its large, easily reachable touchscreen and simple climate controls. Now, the materials are a bit cheap for a Volkswagen (especially compared to the similarly priced GTI), but the visual is better. Finally, the Fender audio system did a commendable job with the range of music shuffling through my iPhone.
The Beetle didn't beat out the Verano for its California road tripping abilities, but there's no denying that it's better suited to the wide-open road than the clogged-closed city.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 13,343 miles