Monday, August 19, 2019

IN THE DRIVEWAY: The 2019 Volkswagen Beetle


Goodbyes are never easy, no matter how many times you say it.  Here in the U.S. we are about to say our second goodbye to the beloved and cute Volkswagen Beetle.

The Beetle first came out in 1938 as a two-door, rear-engine economy car and was available in the until 1977 (the convertible stuck around until 1979). That original Beetle stayed in production until 2006, but it's availability was limited to Mexico and South America.  Back home, in 1997 we welcomed an all-new Beetle, called the New Beetle, that looked a lot like the original, but that was about all that was shared. The New Beetle had it's engine up front, driving the front wheels and sharing much of its components with it's sibling, the VW Golf. The New Beetle was redesigned in 2011, still looking like the original Beetle, but featuring a lower, yet more aggressive  profile. Like the original, it was simply called the Volkswagen Beetle.

Now, in 2019, we say goodbye. In July, the last Beetle rolled off the assembly line, ending more than 80 years of production. To commemorate the occasion, Volkswagen has made a special Final Edition trim level for the 2019 Beetle.

The Beetle Final Edition is available in five different colors, two of which, Safari Uni Beige and Stonewashed Blue, paying tribute to past Beetles colors. The Final Edition will also be available in both coupe and convertible. Volkswagen has been kind enough to allow me to spend one last week with the Beetle - this one being a Stonewashed Blue convertible.

The Final Edition is nothing more than an interior package combined with other trim levels. Choose a Beetle SE and add in the Final Edition and it brings with it fancy cloth seats with unique stitching. On the more upscale SEL, the Final Edition features diamond pattern stitching on leather seats. All Final Editions are then decked out in a tan-colored dash along with stainless steel pedals and door scuff plates.

The rest of the interior is standard Beetle which means a roomy interior (at least for those seated up front) and tons of headroom. The center-mounted 6.3 inch touchscreen is on the small size compared to others, but works well. As is the case for every Beetle made, all the controls and switches are straight forward and easy to use.

Under the hood, Volkswagen has made it easy by offering only 1 drivetrain for all 2019 Beetles: a turbocharged 2.0 liter 174 hp four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. As many of us were taught how to drive a manual car in a Bug, it's sad to see that three pedals and a stick is no longer available (it went away in 2017). Still, this last version of the slug-bug is no slouch - being able to hit 60 mph in just a tick over 7 seconds, and just like all Bugs, it's fun to be in.

As a convertible, the Beetle is even sweeter. The power-operated fabric top looks great when up - and even better when down. And putting it down couldn't be easier - simply hold a button and watch it do it's thing. No latches to undo or windows to put down - the V-dub handles it all. Once down, a tonneau cover can be installed over the folded roof for a cleaner look and a windscreen can be installed behind the front seats to help cut down wind noise.

The first few miles I put on this Final Editon Beetle where quite impressive. There are really no hints of being in a ragtop bug. The ride is solid and tight, and the headliner is so well-done you would think you were in a hardtop. So far I have yet to drive the Beetle sans its top - but that time will come.

As we say goodbye to the Beetle, we say goodbye to a legend.  Most of us can say we had at least one story in our lives where the Beetle played a role in it. As the Beetle drives off to that highway in the sky, the memories of it will live on.