Full 2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Review
What's New for 2005
Changes for 2005 include a new optional six-speed automatic transmission with the 2.0 and 1.8T engines, a standard MP3 connector for the radio and a satellite radio (either XM or Sirius) option. The 1.8T engine gets squeaky-clean with a ULEV emissions rating. Color changes (always an important factor in any New Beetle purchase) are as follows: Shadow Blue replaces Galactic Blue, Tornado Red replaces Uni Red, and Blue Lagoon is no longer available.
When the Golf-based Volkswagen New Beetle debuted, America went bonkers over it. It was cute and retro cool at the same time. But that was 1998. Just like cute puppies, cars grow old. And unless something is done to keep the interest up, the public's fascination wears off. Indeed, New Beetle sales have cooled considerably in recent years. In 2002, Volkswagen energized the lineup with the introduction of the Turbo S. Building off the now-defunct GLX 1.8T model, the Turbo S has a more powerful engine, a more aggressive-looking body and unique interior treatments. Indeed, the Turbo S is the most powerful and sporting New Beetle ever offered in the United States. Accordingly, it's also the most expensive. Interestingly, the TDI diesel versions of the New Beetle are the only VWs in the North America to offer the innovative Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission. This is the same highly acclaimed unit featured in Audi's TT 3.2. Essentially a six-speed manual transmission, the DSG removes the clutch pedal and associated operation, and places it under the control of computer chips and hydraulic servos. When left in full auto mode, it's as smooth as or smoother than any conventional automatic. When shifted manually via the floor-mounted shifter, the DSG offers quick, precise gear changes that make a traditional manual seem unnecessary. Beyond that, the long-awaited convertible New Beetle finally made its appearance midway through the 2003 model year with such features as a power-folding cloth top, a rollover protection system and, a first in the price range, a six-speed automatic transmission. The New Beetle is entering its eighth year of production, an undesirable position given that most cars received full redesign after just four or five year. For now, VW will rely on the Beetle's large array of standard features, premium cabin furnishings and playful on-road demeanor to keep the nameplate competitive.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The two-door New Beetle is available in two-door hatchback and convertible body styles. Hatchbacks come in GL, GLS and Turbo S trim; convertibles are either GL or GLS. GL models come with 16-inch wheels; air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; seat-height adjusters; a tilt and telescoping steering wheel; and a manually folding top on convertibles. The GLS adds a sunroof, a center armrest with storage, alloy wheels, foglights and a power-operated top on the convertible. The Turbo S has all of the above items, plus unique 17-inch wheels, leather seating, a sport-tuned suspension, distinctive body add-ons and a unique interior.
Powertrains and Performance
GL and GLS buyers can choose one of three engines. First up is a 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder. More interesting is the 100-hp, 1.9-liter diesel four (called TDI) that gets close to 50 mpg on the highway and makes an impressive 177 lb-ft of torque (not available in California emissions states), or the 150-hp, 1.8-liter turbocharged four (called the 1.8T). All of these engines have adequate power for easy city driving, though the 1.8T is the most fun, and it provides fuel economy on par with the base 2.0-liter. The performance-oriented Turbo S gets a 180-hp version of the 1.8T. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all trims, except the Turbo S, which gets a six-speed gearbox only. A six-speed automatic with Tiptronic automanual shifting ability is optional on 2.0 and 1.8T engines. A Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) is available on the TDI, essentially a six-speed manual tranny with an electronically controlled clutch. It can be operated in a full auto mode like a traditional automatic or manually shifted.
Standard on all New Beetles are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, side airbags for front occupants, head curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Convertibles have a rollover protection system. Stability control is optional on GL and GLS models and standard on the Turbo S. In government crash testing, the Beetle earned five stars in both frontal impact categories. It received a "Good" rating (and "Best Pick" status) from the IIHS in frontal offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Though smaller inside than the Golf, the Beetle (seats four, 12 cubic feet of hatch space) compensates with style: its tablelike dashboard, huge circular speedometer and round vents distinguish it from everything else on the road. The convertible's top is easy to fold and well insulated from wind and road noise. With its top down, the bug has a classic but polished appearance, thanks to the handsome aluminum trim along the beltline.
Like other VWs, the Beetle is both fun to drive and comfortable for long trips. The Turbo S has a slightly stiffer suspension -- it's still too soft for performance freaks, but just about right for most drivers who want a little more sport from their Bug.