2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo: Driving Route 66
November 07, 2012
After I refueled our long-term 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo in a very remote part of Arizona, I was free to enjoy the rest of U.S. 66 en route to Kingman. What a neat road this is... it's a shame it was mostly euthanized by the Interstate system. I've only encountered pieces of it in the past (the Ted Drewe's on Chippewa St. in St. Louis, for example), but Seligman to Kingman, AZ, is an uninterrupted 80-mile stretch.
There's a lot of desert scenery, but it drives like the major highway it once was, and never gets particularly twisty. And based on an earlier I took in a turbo Beetle on a much more technical road, this didn't come as a disappointment. At least with these tires (and the Hankook set we used to have) and this suspension calibration, the U.S. Beetle Turbo is a more relaxed version of the GTI. It's fun at a moderately brisk clip, but if you start leaning on it hard, it's less enjoyable... it's not big on changing direction, the steering is not overly talkative.
Oddly, though, it has a firmer brake pedal feel than the GTI in my driveway. And, as I mentioned, the ride quality is really good -- better I feel than our long-term GTI which had a different tire package: P235/45R18 Contis on the Beetle vs. 225/40R18 Dunlops on the GTI.
The engine in this car is great, too. Oh, I know, VW uses the 2.0 TSI in everything, but it's totally justified because it's one of the best four-cylinders out there. But after 1,800+ miles, there's no way I'd ever get it with this six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.
This has to be the most relaxed state of tune for the six-speed DSG possible, save for the fuel-scrimping programming in our 2011 Jetta TDI. The Beetle feels lethargic leaving the line, and putting it in Sport mode doesn't seem to quicken it up much -- it just makes it more abrupt when the torque finally comes together.
Of course, I should I have taken advantage of the turbo Bug's steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and shifted it manually. But I'm lazy and it didn't even occur to me. Once I see the DSG shifter, I make the mental switch: "Oh, this car is an automatic (even though, no, it's not a true automatic), so I shouldn't have to make any effort to shift gears." Sadly, people like me are probably part of the problem... we expect the DSG to feel like an automatic, then we complain if it delivers firm, positive shifts, and so VW then retunes so it feels smoother and slower like a real automatic. Sorry.
Anyway, this DSG no longer feels anything like the awesomely quick version I experienced in the 2008 R32. So were I to buy a turbocharged Beetle, it would be the conventional six-speed manual version.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,121 miles