2012 Volkswagen Beetle First Drive

July 14, 2011

When you think of Volkswagen and the people behind the brand, the image of engineers wearing black turtlenecks and speaking with thick German accents springs to mind. Their design haus would be a sterile white lab filled with clipboards and fluorescent lighting that churns out concepts created with efficiency and precision at all costs. Ergonomic polyurethane furniture, chosen for its low-weight and high tensile strength, adorns the room, while people in lab coats poke and prod away at prototypes under development.

But then we have the Beetle, the car that single-handedly put Volkswagen on the map--especially here in the U.S. The likeable two-door instantly pulls at the heartstrings, oozing emotion as it rolls by and conjuring up all those old Beetle stories that almost all of us have.

With the latest 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, which we were fortunate enough to drive this week in Berlin, Germany, Volkswagen will once again be playing the emotion card, but this time things will be a little bit different.

The 21st century Beetle, as Volkswagen likes to call it, has been given a massive shot of testosterone, resulting in sharper looks, sportier engines and oversized alloy wheels. The car also benefits from some of the latest tech from the Volkswagen Group toolbox, which we’ll get to a little later.

The new Beetle--yes, the word “new” is no longer officially part of the car’s name--comes at a very important stage in Volkswagen’s life. The automaker has just opened a new assembly plant in the U.S. and is on the verge of launching its larger and more affordable Passat, which the Beetle is set to join in showrooms this fall. So while the Beetle will help draw in the crowds, it’s really the Passat and the third pillar in Volkswagen’s U.S. growth strategy, the Jetta, that will serve as the breadwinners.

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