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The Volkswagen Beetle returns for 2016 with several notable changes. A new value model, the 1.8T S, enters the lineup. A 1.8T SE replaces the base 1.8T from last year, and a new naming convention simplifies things, with 1.8T models now labeled S, SE, and SEL, while R-Line 2.0 models are now SE and SEL. A new lighting package includes bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and an LED rear license plate light. A new infotainment system with upgraded touchscreen is standard across the lineup, while VW Car-Net App-Connect comes on all but the base Beetle.
Volkswagen went way back to the drawing board with its reimagining of the current Beetle. The Beetle draws its inspiration from the original Beetle that was made from 1938 through the 1970s. The modern Beetle is almost certainly better in every way -- it features a lower, flatter roofline and a more aggressive stance. The engine is now up front, reflecting modern car design. Overall dimensions have grown, which translates to more interior room for passengers. Those passengers get a combination of retro simplicity in the gauge layout, elegance in the quality of cabin materials, and great technology in the available gizmos and gadgets.
The Beetle comes in two basic models -- 1.8T and R-Line 2.0T. The base model utilizes a 170-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a standard 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. It is offered in S, SE, and SEL trim levels. The R-Line 2.0T delivers 210 horsepower from a 2.0L direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder. It is available with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The Beetle shares its underpinnings with the Jetta, which includes front struts and a rear multi-link setup. Steering will feel very familiar to those who have driven previous modern Beetles, though the driving experience has changed significantly, thanks to the revised A-pillar angle and accordingly, the abbreviated dashboard, bringing the driver closer to the action.
A convertible version gets a power-folding fabric top. The top folds in 9.5 seconds and will operate at vehicle speeds up to 30 mph. Convertibles feature the same engine and transmission lineups as the coupe, and the modest weight increase barely hinders performance.
Base S trims come nicely equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and automatic headlights. Inside there's an auto-dimming mirror, cloth seats with front lumbar support, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake, a 50/50 split-fold rear seat, and a five-inch MIB II touchscreen radio with USB. The SE trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, VW Car-Net App-Connect and a 6.3-inch touchscreen. Finally SEL trims feature 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, navigation, a powered panoramic sunroof, and a blind-spot warning system.
The 2.0L Beetles come in R-Line trims. The R-Line SE gets 18-inch machined alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension, heated power-adjustable mirrors, a lip spoiler, the Car-Net system, fabric seat trim and carbon-fiber look instrument panel accents. A Fender premium sound system is also standard. The R-Line SEL adds 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights with LED running lights and leather upholstery.
A special model for 2016 is the Beetle Dune, which features the 1.8T engine, special exterior paint and seating surfaces, parking assist, and much of the rest of the SE standard features.
Safety comes standard as well in all 2016 Beetles, with anti-lock brakes, dual front airbags and combined curtain and side front seat airbags.