Mechanically, this car is a Golf, so it's not surprising that the Beetle is quite good to drive. The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder easily scoots the 3089-pound coupe to autobahn speeds, where the car is solid and planted. Boost is nicely integrated and throttle response is linear, and the XDS front differential from the GTI is on hand in the Turbo to better put the power to the ground. The DSG transmission's determination to get you into the highest gear as soon as possible, however, means that the engine doesn't feel particularly lively around town. One solution is to leave the lever in Sport rather than Drive; another would be to call the shots yourself (U.S. cars will have shift paddles); a third would be to skip the DSG altogether, saving yourself $1100 in the process.
The Beetle Turbo uses a damper-strut front suspension and a multilink setup at the rear, while the standard car makes do with a beam axle. The Beetle's springs and dampers are tuned for a firmer ride than in the Golf, and the Turbo is even stiffer than the base Beetle. Then there's an available sport suspension, a no-cost option that was fitted to our test car. Even in this maximum-sporty guise, the Beetle isn't as hardcore as a GTI, but it was quite responsive through the few curves on our test route outside of Berlin. On the optional 19-inch wheels (which replace 18-inch wheels on the Turbo; the base car has different 18-inch wheels available in place of its standard 17-inch footwear), the Turbo rode pretty stiffly over the bits of patchy pavement in the grungier parts of the city. Strangely, the base car has hydraulic power assist for its steering and the Turbo gets electrically assisted power steering that is a bit light and largely devoid of feel.
So, the Beetle nestles between its more conventionally shaped stablemates in the way it drives and also in the way it's priced. The base car stickers for $19,765 -- $1000 more than a base Golf -- while the Turbo starts at $24,165 ($300 less than a GTI), and tops out at around $30,000.
VW is moving much faster bringing out additional variants with this car. Come next summer, a TDI diesel version will arrive (with a five-speed manual or DSG and rated at 40 mpg highway). At the same, we'll see a convertible, which will be sold with all three engines. Beyond that, there's talk of a Beetle R with even more power and, potentially, all-wheel drive. It's all part of VW's plan to make this iteration of the Beetle more of a mainstream player rather than a fashion piece whose sales pop and then drop.
2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo
Base price (with destination): $24,165
22 / 30 mpg
2.0L I-4 turbo
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
Curb weight: 3089 lb
Wheels, tires: 19-inch wheels, 235/40ZR19 ContiSportContact 3 tires