A chip off the old block: The 2012 Beetle is all new, but the classic connection is obvious

Guilty as charged: the 2012 Beetle looks different from models past. We think that’s a good thing. Not that we don’t love the old Bugs—they’ll always have a place in our hearts. It’s just that, well, this new Beetle really is something special. And part of what makes it so special is the obvious connection to its automotive ancestors. From the very first glance, you know that it’s a Beetle.

We sent automotive genealogist (OK, Volkswagen Digital Marketing Manager) Brian Chee to Berlin to get a closer look at the 2012 Beetle and examine what’s different and what makes it a Beetle through and through. Here’s what he had to say:

Yep. You’re right. The 2012 Beetle lacks both a chrome bumper and a split rear window, and its engine is up front. But that doesn’t mean the all-new version wasn’t inspired by one of the bestselling cars ever. In fact, after seeing them side-by-side, I can tell you that the family resemblance is immediately apparent. From the exterior design to interior features meant to reflect the original model’s smart and simple purpose, the inspiration drawn from the past–and applied with a modern interpretation–is clear.

A quick glance at the rear styling of the 2012 VW Beetle reveals its connection to the Beetle’s heritage. Volkswagen Brand Design Chief Klaus Bischoff and team drew inspiration from the original, translating its iconic style into a Beetle for today’s world, with dual exhaust, 19-inch wheels and available features such as a panoramic roof, keyless entry, a lower profile, a longer hood and a steeper front windshield. They also stretched the Beetle 3.3 inches wider and 6 inches longer, creating a more powerful appearance.

Check out the rear spoiler, below. With its black top and body color underside, it’s fully integrated into the design of the Beetle, adds to its sporty persona and hints at performance: the 2.0L TSI® turbocharged gasoline engine, pictured here, will be offered with a DSG 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. At 200 hp and 207 lb.-ft of torque, the turbo will be the sportiest Beetle offered–though you’d be hard pressed to say no to the 2012 VW Beetle 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel, thanks to 140 hp and 236 lb.-ft of torque.

When it comes to a car’s interior, times (and laws) have changed, not to mention technology and comfort. Case in point: while Beetle heritage cues continue with, among other things, available painted dashboards and an additional glove box integrated into the dash, the all-new 2012 Beetle is thoroughly modern and designed from a driver’s point of view.

Framed by two air vents, the selected audio/navigation system is optimally located in the driver’s visual field on the dashboard. Climate controls are situated just below, within easy reach. Key premium features available on the 2012 VW Beetle include the Fender Premium Audio System, which adds an additional subwoofer and 400 watts of output power along with proprietary Panasonic® speaker technology that covers the cabin with directional sound from front door speakers and front dual voice coil speakers.

I don’t think you’ll get that kind of sound in a classic Beetle, unless you install it yourself. And while the interior of both cars are worlds away in terms of comfort and technology, it’s fair to say that there’s one consistent theme: simplicity. Back in 1951, the Beetle was simple to understand, drive and live with. Today’s Beetle’s interior is a great example of simple, refined design meant to be enjoyed by passenger and driver.

– Brian Chee


The VW Beetle Photo Gallery

Beetle Retrospective: From 1949 to the 21st Century, we celebrate the Beetle in America

Fender: The Sound of Performance

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