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Review: 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Coast Edition
Where have all the cool cars gone?
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s best: Feels like you’re driving a piece of automotive history…in a good way thanks to neat styling touches.
- What’s Worst: The Beetle itself is on its way out, and this last version does feel a little dated in certain aspects.
- What’s Interesting: Dog dish wheels and surfboard-look dash. ‘Nuff said.
Do you like houndstooth seat upholstery?
Denim-y blue styling? Dog dish rims? What about a convertible?
Assuming you subscribe to any of these styling touches, then the Beetle Coast Edition is probably a great fit for you. Like the Mini Cooper, the VW Beetle has the retro flare that has allowed its manufacturer to take styling liberties here and there, ostensibly because the kind of people that would buy a Beetle over, say, a Golf or Jetta are totally cool with it.
They like to be a little different, like their car to not look like anything else or to be coloured a shade of grey or silver. Not that these vehicles aren’t available in a silver of some kind, but that’s just not the point. With a Mini or Beetle, you want to get a little zing in your gut when you look at it, that little flutter you get when you observe something that is not like the other.
They like a little coolness factor from their car, and we should all appreciate them for providing manufacturers justification for building something other than compact crossovers or hatches.
Only it appears that said justification is no longer strong enough, for the Beetle is scheduled to be canned after the 2018 model year, with no replacement in sight. Which is actually a pretty sad thing; the Beetle stood as one of the last bastions of a world where manufacturers took some real risks with the styling of their mass-market cars—think Honda Element, Toyota FJ Cruiser or Pontiac Solstice—and to see its departure is a little microcosmic of where cars are going in general. Yes, I know; VW’s making a big push with their MEB EV platform and one of the vehicles we’ll eventually be seeing from that—the I.D. Buzz—is similar in that it hearkens back to the days of the Type II van. A vehicle like that, though, is specialized to the nth degree, and I think it will be much harder to lure folks away from more traditionally-styled – and traditionally-powered – CUVs and hatches. I think it will have a tougher hill to climb than did the Beetle, California surfer vibe or no.
So what kind of coolness does the Coast Edition conversion bring for the $3,000 it costs over the standard Beetle? Well, it starts—and for many, it ends—with the 17” alloys styled to look like the dog dish items from the original Beetle. Even shod with chunky winter rubber as my tester was, they look the part and would be the wheel I’d choose if I were to buy a Beetle, bar none. Your $3,000 also gets you the “Pepita” seats that get a quasi-houndstooth look to them, as well as door sill plates crafted out of something called “surfwood”. The real “kicker” for me when it comes to the interior, however, is the dash, which is also finished to look like the wood on a surfboard – how absolutely freaking cool is that?!!? There may be no better car to rent if you’re planning a California vacation. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the convertible version, which comes at a $4,000 premium.
Underneath all that, though, what you have is standard Beetle; that means the 2.0L turbo motor the car got last year, good for 174 hp and 184 lb-ft. Those aren’t bonkers numbers by any means, but they’re enough to get the Beetle up and running in good time; you will have to deal with an auto ‘box, though, as no Beetle can be had with a manual transmission. That’s a shame, really, but when you think about the stigma surrounding this car, it’s more about being a comfort cruiser anyway. No matter how much I love my manuals, I will never say that they’re more comfortable to drive than an auto.
Having said that: VW has a penchant for making vehicles that handle better than you think they should, and the Beetle, coastline cruiser or not, is actually quite an able handler that rides well to boot. Turn-in is pleasingly immediate, and there’s even a little bit of weight to make you feel like you’re at the helm of something just a little more performance-oriented. It appears the Beetle’s A5 chassis underpinnings it shares with the Jetta have done it quite a lot of good in the handling department. When it does come to the cruise, though, the Beetle’s dampers are well-suited to the task, helping make for a more comfortable ride than the car’s funky retro digs would have you believe.
The Beetle is an older car, though, and you start to see certain signs of age the more time you spend inside. The gauge cluster, for example, is a pretty standard three-gauge affair with no TFT trip computer display found in so many cars today; instead, what you get is a very, ahem, traditional-looking affair that, put less nicely, would just be called “circa 2000 or earlier”. The infotainment interface is a bit of a mixed bag; it looks like what’s seen on more recent VWs such as the Tiguan or Atlas, but it’s smaller than what you see there. The buttons on either side of it, meanwhile, are of the traditional variety as opposed to the touch surfaces found on the Golf, for example. Could be a plus or a minus, depending on how you feel about touch surfaces. Our car’s $1,970 Style Package does add 8-speaker Fender audio along with fog lights, LED DRLs and tail lights, though, which is nice.
You have to think, though, that when you drill down to it, all that stuff is a little superfluous when you think about the Coast Edition’s main focus, and that’s to make sure it brings the “cool”. After all: if you want four doors or a little more cargo space, there’s always the Golf (although I did find the Beetle as comfortable as the Golf for front seat occupants; back’s a little cramped and tough to get to). Thing is, everyone has a Golf. With the Beetle, especially the Coast Edition, you’ll be driving something just different enough to keep things…cool.
2018 Beetle Coupe Coast Edition
BODY STYLE: Compact two-door coupe
DRIVE METHOD: Front-mounted motor, front-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged inline-4; Power: 174hp; Torque: 184 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 436 litres (rear seats up) 847 litres (rear seats folded)
FUEL ECONOMY (EST): 9.0/7.2 L/100 km city/highway
PRICING: $21,895 (Base), $26,865 (Coast Edition w/$1,970 styling package)
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