1999 Volkswagen New Beetle

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1999 Volkswagen New Beetle
Available in 5 styles:  New Beetle 2dr Hatchback GLS shown
Asking Price Range
$1,437–$6,945
Estimated MPG

24–42 city / 31–49 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

By 

chicagotribune.com

A Bug with bravado.

When the new Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the 1998 model year there were three primary criticisms: The 4-cylinder was underpowered, the rear seat was a tad cramped and, if you could find one, the dealer was asking a premium over list.

For 1999 the 2-liter, 115-horsepower 4-cylinder engine has been joined by a 1.8-liter, 150-h.p., turbocharged 4 in the Beetle 1.8 T (T for turbo, of course).

The Beetle is for show, the 1.8 T is for go. There's considerably more muscle now, and that means even more enjoyment.

You aren't going to pass a Corvette, unless it pulls off the road for a pit stop, and you aren't going to leave a path of radial residue on the pavement when you try speed departures in your little Bug. But you are going to make those takeoffs a lot quicker than you do without the turbo.

However, the rear seat is still a tad cramped and, again, if you can find a Beetle, especially the new 1.8 T, you can still expect to pay the dealer a premium for the pleasure of taking one home.

The 1.8-liter, 20-valve, turbo 4 is the same engine in the VW Passat GLS; the Audi TT coupe has a 180-h.p. version.

The 1.8 T comes in GLS and top-of-the-line GLX versions. The GLX adds more standard equipment, such as 16-inch alloy wheels and a power glass sunroof that are optional in the GLS for $310 and $1,000, respectively. At $1,000, that better be Waterford and not just glass in the sunroof.

We tested the 1.8 T GLS with the optional wheels and tires, as well as with the optional leather and heated seats, at $850, but not the sunroof.

The GLS comes with a 5-speed manual as standard, a 4-speed automatic as optional ($875). The car we tested came with the automatic--not exactly the optimum transmission to totally appreciate the power of the turbocharged engine.

When you kick the pedal there's the turbo lag before the engine responds by inhaling enough air to provide a power burst. Perhaps the lag will be less pronounced with a 5-speed manual. Hope to find out.

Still, despite that split-second pause at takeoff, the needle was moving past the 90 m.p.h. mark when we glanced at the instrument panel a short time later.

At 93 m.p.h., a speed-activated rear spoiler lifts from the roof above the rear window to provide stability. After glancing at the needle while traveling an unfamiliar country road, looking back to see whether the spoiler had risen didn't seem as important as looking forward to see whether any tractor or farm animal had wandered into our path.

While the 1.8 turbo gives the Beetle some spirit the original Bug lacked, the fuel-economy rating doesn't suffer. The 1.8 is rated at 23 m.p.g. city/27 highway with the automatic, 25/31 with manual.

Base price is $19,000. Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, front- and side-impact air bags, rear gas shocks, traction control, body-colored bumpers/door handles/mirrors, tinted glass, daytime running lamps, power mirrors, air c onditioning, rear-window defroster, front and rear floor mats, power locks, dual power outlets, AM/FM cassette, remote fuel filler and trunk lid release, eyeglass holder in headliner, center console with three cupholders, power windows and pollen/dust/odor filter.

The test vehicle also came with standard bud vase with a bud, along with a new standard item-- a book of poetry in the glove box--"Songs for the Open Road: Poems of Travel and Adventure."

What next, a copy of "Martha Stewart Living" in the map pocket?

Volkswagen says it expects to sell 70,000 Beetles in the U.S. this year, 30 percent of them the 1.8-liter turbo, which can only mean continued limited supplies.

For the future, it doesn't look like VW will be content with the 1.8-liter turbo in the Beetle. We fully expected to be greeted with howling laughter when we asked about the possibility of stuffing a V-6 under the hood of the Bug.

Instead, the reaction was: "stay tuned," the "new stuff" is coming bu t not until after 2001.

And what about the Beetle convertible, especially now that Audi will add a roadster in 2001 to the TT line, which comes off the same platform as the Beetle. Though the TT roadster comes out for 2001, that's a "little too early" for the Beetle convertible, we were told.

>> 1999 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8 T
© 1999 Chicago Tribune Wheelbase: 98.9 inches Length: 161.1 inches Engine: 1.8-liter, 150-h.p., 20-valve 4-cylinder Transmission: 4-speed automatic Fuel economy: 23 m.p.g. city/27 m.p.g. highway Base price: $19,000 Price as tested: $21,035. Includes $875 for 4-speed automatic; $850 for leather and heated seats; and $310 for 16-inch alloy wheels. Add $525 for freight. A dealer-installed CD changer is available for $295. Pluses: Still a good-looking nostalgia machine with all the modern conveniences. ABS now standard. Side air bags. New turbo 4 has a kick to it. Minuses: Still have to find one. Still have to pay a premium for one.

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    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

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