New Cars: Volkswagen Unveils New VW Beetle

Last Updated Apr 18, 2011 5:32 PM EDT

From the hippie favorite of the 1960s to the sleeker model of the last decade, the Volkswagen Beetle has been a sprightly presence on American roads. Now VW is introducing a third-generation, redesigned Beetle, with a new but still recognizable look. The new model debuts today, and will make an appearance this week at the New York Auto Show; it won't hit U.S. roads until fall. Prices aren't yet available.

Company designers say they started with the silhouette of the earlier Beetle rather than the 1998 New Beetle. The top is flatter and the hood longer than the New Beetle. The redesigned model (at left) also is wider, lower and longer, described by the company as having a "powerful appearance with muscular tension." That seems a hint that VW is hoping to attract male buyers; more than 60% of Beetle buyers now are women. (See New Cars: What Women Want.)

Volkswagen is hoping to triple its U.S. sales by 2018 and thus needs to sell more Beetles, as well as all of its other models. The Beetle is even more critical to VW's lineup now, after its redesigned Jetta got slammed by Consumer Reports.

In a nod to shifting consumer tastes and government requirements, the new Beetle improves its gas mileage by 10% over the current one. Its 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine with automatic transmission is estimated to get a rating of 22 mpg in city driving, 29 on the highway. And the TDI model, with a 2.0-liter diesel engine, gets an even better 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway. An additional sporty option, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, is estimated to provide 30 mpg highway mileage (figures for city rating were not available).

On the safety front, the new Beetle comes standard with electronic stability control, which helps prevent rollover accidents. A new system also shuts off electrical power to the fuel pump and unlocks the doors in the case of a serious collision.

But Volkswagen loyalists will be most interested in looks. Does the new design do justice to the iconic Beetle profile? Sign in below and tell us what you think.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America
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