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Volkswagen has plans for yet another Beetle

Tue, 06 Apr 2010 00:00:00 -0700

The Volkswagen Beetle is on its way back, and this time around, it will be focused more on driving dynamics than on efforts to resurrect the past.

Expected to appear in concept form at the Los Angeles auto show late this year, the second-generation version of the modern-day Beetle goes on sale in the United States in May 2011. A convertible with a fabric top will follow about a year later.

As with the current Beetle, launched in 1998, the new one will be assembled in Mexico alongside the upcoming sixth-generation Jetta, with which it shares its front-wheel-drive chassis and drivelines.

We've yet to see how VW's design team will update the retro-inspired appearance of the Beetle, although sources close to design boss Klaus Bischoff indicate that the 2005 Ragster concept--with its subtle but effective remake of the original J Mays design--provides hints.

“It is more contoured, with additional structuring and defined feature lines used to help break up the simple surfacing and unadorned character of the current model,” was how one high-ranking Wolfsburg insider described the new car.

At the same time, the new Beetle receives an altered roofline aimed at providing it with a more determined character, in line with the changes brought to the one-off Ragster. “The turret has been modified, the screen angles are less extreme, and the whole roof structure is less rounded than it is at the moment,” said our source.

An illustration of what the front of the next-generation VW Beetle may look like.

The new car will continue to draw on the original Beetle, with a steeply rising hood without a traditional grille, round headlamps and tail lamps, separate fenders covering each wheel, a high waistline and a distinctive hatchback rear end.

Mirroring the approach taken by Mini with the Cooper, VW's design team has also developed a much wider range of individualized exterior options for the Beetle this time around.

In reaction to criticism surrounding the packaging of today's Beetle, particularly the depth of the dashboard and the lack of rear seat space, VW designers thoroughly reworked the interior, taking advantage of the Jetta's wider track and longer wheelbase. These changes provide the basis for an overall increase in interior space, although the lower roofline reduces the generous amount of front-seat headroom. Additional length, however, is said to have alleviated the lack of rear-seat headroom and the danger of injury when closing the hatchback when tall passengers are seated in back. A longer rear overhang also boosts trunk capacity.

Reflecting the downsizing trend sweeping through VW, the new Beetle will adopt an expanded range of comparatively small but impressively efficient four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline and common-rail diesel engines, along with a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain. U.S. models will continued to be powered by a 170-hp, 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine, backed by a new 140-hp, 2.0-liter diesel. The hybrid will feature a 150-hp supercharged and turbocharged 1.4-liter gasoline engine tied to a 27-hp electric motor. Five- and six-speed manual transmissions will be offered, along with an optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Insiders are confident this new car will better the current Beetle's dynamics, with a more compliant ride.

By Greg Kable