Remember the happy-go-lucky days before gender studies assigned identities to everything? Back then, the VW Beetle was neuter, and unaffected by it.
With the New Beetle, VW tackled a new identity, a feminine, friendly one. Ever see the anti-war ads with a flower stuck in a gun? The New Beetle had a flower stuck in the middle of its dash, in a standard bud vase that forever slurred it as a "chick car."
Now the Beetle's swinging in the other direction, with a masculine style we can't help but think has been handed down from the Audi TT, which is at the end of its meaningful sales life. The Beetle's roof has been flattened, its body drawn longer, its haunches widened, almost all the semicircles and demilunes erased from its form. In their places, a flatter hood and a steeper windshield that shrinks the gulf between the driver and the glass. Even its wheel arches seem less perfectly round than before. Turbo models wear a black-topped rear spoiler, and big Turbo graphics, xenon headlights, and wheels up to 19 inches across.
The Beetle's cabin has some new playful flair. The gauges are framed by a flat-bottom steering wheel on Turbo models, and most versions have body-color plastic panels accenting the dash, though Turbo owners can opt for a carbon-fiber-look material that will date many a car of the past decade one day, it's become so prevalent, and so cliched. It's less easy to see, more a feeling, but the Bug's more upright interior is the most evocative piece, not the little fillips of aluminum trim on the secondary glovebox, doors and steering wheel.