From its birth in 1938 at the hands of designer Ferdinand Porsche, the Beetle was never a one-gender car. The car of surfers and hippies, for sure, but it was never identified as a guys’ or girls’ car. One of my best guy friends in high school, an imposing offensive lineman and general badass, proudly drove an electric orange Beetle.
But when VW introduced the so-called New Beetle in 1998 to great fanfare, the revamped design didn’t have the same cross-gender appeal. Maybe it was the bud vase on the dash, a feature that actually dated back to 1950s Beetles, or perhaps it was the pastel color palette of the new cars. Who knows why, exactly, but Volkswagen data say nearly 70 percent of Beetle buyers are women. And with a much more aggressive, sporty, some would say “manly” design, the newest Beetle is clearly targeted at bringing guys back into the fold.
For starters, the new Beetle got scalped as Volkswagen abandoned the iconic Bug dome for a flattened-out roofline that lends an aerodynamic mien. It’s longer and wider than the outgoing model, and the Turbo comes with 18-inch wheels and a rear spoiler. VW has gone back to a bolder color scheme as well — we drove a bold “tornado”-red automatic and a brushed gray stick.
No question, the Beetle has been manned up on the outside — and on the inside. Gone is the bud vase, and the new interior is distinctly performance-oriented with bolstered seats, a leather-wrapped shifter and flat-bottomed steering wheel along with alloy pedals. Under the hood, the Beetle boasts a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. On a highway or a track, the car feels even faster than its reported 6.3-second range 0-60 times, and I found myself thinking, “Wow, that is fast for a Beetle.” In addition to this, it can also be thrown around fairly aggressively in corners. Though with the new Golf R just out, which also appeals to guys who like fun, fast driving, it’ll be interesting to see if the Beetle gets more men back into the driver’s seat.
At a hair under $30,000 for the Turbo with nice options, the Beetle isn’t exactly a bargain. For guys looking to spare some cash but still get a sporty vehicle, the 2012 Ford Focus SE is a surprisingly fun to drive but sporty entry. With its coupe-like lines reminiscent of the Audi A7 or Mercedes CLS series, the 2012 five-door has serious curb appeal, especially when decked out in race red with the SE sport package with 17-inch alloy wheels. Its 165-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine won’t set land speed records but provides plenty of oomph for a fun ride. Equipped with a nice interior and Ford’s space-age SYNC multimedia interface, it’s the perfect high-tech pal whether you want to talk to your friends via Bluetooth or rock out to your iPod. When you’re stuck commuting next to a 911, it doesn’t matter who has more horsepower, it’s who has the better tunes to take their mind off the traffic.