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Test Drives
Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo S


The Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo S is a terrible car for hauling sheets of plywood back from Home Depot or taking a family of five and their gear on a cross-country camping trip. Of course the same could be said of a Mazda Miata, Porsche Boxster, Corvette or dozens of other cars that have a high fun quotient and little practicality. The Turbo S, in contrast, is high on fun but also has its practical attributes.

At 3,005 pounds, the Beetle Turbo S is a solid little bugger--one that comes well equipped for $23,400 (that's before a $550 destination charge). This sticker represents a 47% premium over the $15,900 lowest-priced New Beetle, the GL, which comes with a 115-horsepower motor. Even the affordable GL, like all new Beetles, comes with a long list of standard features--but Wolfsburg's carmeisters packed extra treats into the Turbo S.


Better interior than American cars costing twice as much; smooth and powerful 180-hp turbo four engine; solid German engineering.


Form is favored over function; steering wheel height adjuster has limited range; wind deflector needs a kill switch that really kills .

The best feature of the Turbo S: its 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine. This silky power plant, which gets a boost of 10.5 pounds per square inch from an intercooled turbocharger, is shoehorned into the Beetle's front end and is attached to an equally righteous six-speed manual transmission that has final drives in both fifth and sixth gears. This combination propels the Turbo S to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and to a top speed (computer-controlled) of 130 mph.

The long feature set on the Turbo S includes four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, a power glass sunroof, two-tone leather seats (heated up front), heated side mirrors, heated windshield washers, an eight-speaker Monsoon stereo/cassette player, an automatic air deflector and Volkswagen's electronic stability program (ESP). The only option is a dealer-installed trunk-mounted, six-disc CD changer, which runs about $350.

On the outside, VW distinguishes the Turbo S--which like all new Beetles is built in Puebla, Mexico--with revised front and rear fascia, including a front spoiler and fog lights and a dual exhaust. The Turbo S sits on 17-inch alloy wheels and fat low 45-series tires.

For 2002, Volkswagen fiddled with its warranty program. The good news: The new car warranty--which covers pretty much everything on or inside the car--is extended to four years or 50,000 miles (whichever comes first). And VW's 24-hour roadside assistance program has been expanded to four years or 50,000 miles. The tradeoff: The ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty has been cut back to five years/60,000 miles.

Great. But the point of the S wasn't supposed to be about the warranty but about the way the car delivers more performance than the housewife (base) edition. Not bashing housewives here, but they, as well as singles and empty nesters, now seem to be the primary target for the New Beetle and its sagging sales. So is the S enough to lift the image of the soft Beetle?

From The Driver's Seat | Should You Buy This Car? | Specs

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