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1998 Volkswagen New Beetle

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1998 Volkswagen New Beetle
Available in 2 styles:  New Beetle 2dr Hatchback TDI shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

23–41 city / 29–48 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 8
1998 Volkswagen New Beetle 4.3 4
$ 726-6,294
May 10, 1998
There is an adage that says, "History repeats itself."

In the case of the new Volkswagen Beetle, you can add "Yes, but not in the same way."

The beloved Beetle that made its appearance on American shores shortly after World War II exited the scene some years ago.

But not to fret.

It has been replaced by the 1998 Beetle, an automobile that is rekindling the magic of its legendary namesake.

A completely new motor car, the '98 Beetle tends to evoke more memories than anything else of the original vehicle.

The engine is in the front rather than the rear. It is water-cooled rather than air-cooled. And it's a front-drive rather than a rear-drive.

It also is equipped with air conditioning and a heating system that will keep occupants warm in the winter. Drivers of the initial issue can testify to the rigors of that motoring experience.

Style-wise, the Beetle is reminiscent of the original rather than being a copy. It is designed to appeal to those who recall the past, as well as young people who have no connection with the model of yesteryear.

The car is compact, but not really small in the sense of its predecessor. The wheelbase is 98.9 inches, the overall length 161.1 inches, the width a generous 67.9 inches.

A total interior volume of 96.3 cubic feet provides ample leg and headroom. By virtue of the engine being mounted transverse in the chassis and utilizing front-wheel drive, none of the powertrain protrudes in the cabin area.

There is, however, a center console between individual front seats. And while the rear is a one- piece bench-type, the car is rated as a four-seater.

There are only two doors, which means that rear-seat entry is not as convenient as front. But it is made easier by the front seats automatically springing forward, up, and out of the way when a folding lever is lifted.

Unlike the former Beetle, the trunk is at the back, and with a ton of more room than the old model. A total of 12 cubic feet is available, and that can be expanded by using the folding rear seat.

From a driver's point of view, the instrumentation is a quantum leap forward, consisting of a speedometer, tachometer, temperature and fuel gauge. The gauges are housed in one round instrument pod.

Amenities include lighted vanity mirrors, carpeted floor mats, a remote filler and hatch release, tinted glass, power side mirrors that are heated, and tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

There is some reluctance by purists to accept the drive being in the front instead of the rear. But while the old Beetle would slog along almost through anything, the new one will do it better.

And horror of horrors, a four-speed automatic is offered, something hard core Beetle devotees of yore regarded as akin to the bubonic plague. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, so all is not lost. Anyone who ever encountered the early day four-speed manual gearboxes will appreciate the modern technology.

The powerplant of the original car was an air-cooled flat-4 (opposed four-cylinder) that at 55 miles per hour sounded like it was going 190. The new car offers a choice of two engines that sail along without fuss or bother.

Standard is a 2.0-liter (121 cubic inches) single overhead cam engine that has been the backbone of VW performance motors used in race cars, race boats, drag cars and what have you.

It puts out 115-horsepower and 122 foot-pounds of torque to propel the Beetle along in a manner never achieved by its predecessor.

A wide torque band provides strong mid-range performance with plenty of on-demand power.

The optional motor is a diesel, a 1.9-liter 115.7 cubic inch) 4 that doesn't develop as much horsepower as the gas engine but far surpasses it in torque and fuel economy.

Power production is 90-horsepower, but 149 foot- pounds of torque just keeps on pulling. Utilizing a major advance in diesel technology, the 1.9 emits 20 percent less carbon dioxide than a comparable gas engine.

And there is no comparison in f uel mileage. In five-speed form, the diesel gets 41 miles per gallon city/48 highway to the 2.0-liter's 23/29. With the automatic, it's 34/44 to the gas burner's 22/27.

Will the 1998 Beetle worm its way into the hearts of American motorists? At a manufacturer's suggested retail of $15,200 for the gas car and $16,475 for the diesel, you bet. And it proves that something good from a past life can come back even better.

    Expert Reviews 1 of 8

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