The Volkswagen Bug Got Into Me; Will It Get Into You?

July 11, 2010

You see them all over the road and driven by all types of people. The teenage girl in a Jetta, the aging hippie in a New Beetle, the family man in a Passat Estate, the Yuppie tech guru in his Golf diesel, and the tuner subculture rocking their GTIs with the sunroof vent popped, staring at you as drive by in the same car with a quick nod of approval or thumbs up.

What is it about Volkswagens that owner's love about their cars, and why the sense of camaraderie between owners? It's certainly not the occasional electronic problems or windows falling off their tracks in the door. Perhaps then, its the quirkiness, or the left and up on the shifter for reverse, the crank wheel to adjust the seat back that dials in the perfect position, the blue and red nighttime lighting, or the unconventional five cylinder, four-pot turbo and diesel engine options in a class of unexciting in-line fours.

The notched dial for the sunroof so you can open it just right? Small detail, yet so convenient. They have made normal features on cars kind of fun to operate, no matter how mundane they may be. Need to open the hatchback on a GTI or Beetle? Don't look for a dirt covered lever under the trunk lid. Just push in the VW logo and pop it open. Honda's door lock horn sound is piercing and obnoxious; I crack a smile every time at the soft, dare I say cute, beep when the lock button is pressed on a VW key fob.

Volkswagen's departure from the norm is what sold me even before I test drove one of their cars. Their fun marketing campaigns give their cars a sense of coolness, much like how Apple markets their products. They show regular people in normal situations having fun in their VWs. There is a certain appeal, the VW bug as my friends and I have called it. When you get in a Volkswagen, it gets into you. No kidding.

So let's break it down by taking one car and examine the features, which I feel are the biggest reason as to why we love our VWs. So, the Golf GTI--a car with an underground cult following, a culture within a culture. The front end sports HIDs and fog lights, and a black honeycomb grille surrounded by a red stripe, distinguishing it from the everyday Golf. This makes it instantly recognizable to those who know it. Peak around the wheels and check out the red brakes behind the 18 inch Huffs. Under the hood is a direct injection turbocharged four-cylinder that sings a deep Germanic tune when pushed. In my opinion, there is no engine in its price range that comes close the enjoyment of this one, especially when paired with a six-speed manual.

Open the door, and you are greeted by the eye-catching checkered-pattern Interlagos seats, a throwback to the original hot hatch. I love the design. I thought their was something so cool about the first time I opened the door and saw these compared to the standard issue grey or beige of other cars. At night, turn on the lights and you are bathed in a red and blue glow, and check it out, everything is illuminated, including the open or closed indicators on the air vents. Wow, someone really wanted the details perfect. And in a $23,000 car, you get features that are often exclusive to luxury cars--steering wheel audio controls, one touch up and down windows ON ALL THE WINDOWS, a cocoon of airbags and safety systems.

These may seem mundane, but they really make ownership rewarding. This is all without even driving one, which is an experience in itself.

So why do we love our VWs? We are doing the same things in our cars as everyone else--sitting in driving, taking road trips, hauling gear. I just think we are having a little bit more fun. So go on YouTube and watch some old VW commercials, stop by Waterfest this month if you are in the Jersey area, or just go down to a Volkswagen dealership and play around in the cars, and see if the VW bug gets into you.

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