Volkswagen (New?) Beetle Review

After 10 years, Volkswagen is still calling it the New Beetle. Apparently, it will go out that way, because next year, there will be a new New Beetle...probably a 2011 model.

So should you wait? My knee-jerk reaction would normally be to say yes...but after a refresher in the existing Beetle, I'm not so sure.

18 months or more ago, I'd have written the Beetle off as tired and way overdue to be put out to pasture. But I drove one recently with the new realities firmly in my brain and you know what?

It's got a lot going for it.

I mean, just look at the basics: $18,540 base price...20 mpg city, 29 highway. Yes, the Jetta and Golf (a previous generation of which the Beetle is based on) are a few hundred dollars cheaper and get an extra mile per gallon or so, but the incredible feeling of space inside the Beetle (thanks to that arching roofline) is hard to beat.

If you're looking for unassuming, economical transportation without feeling cramped and invisible, the Beetle may be exactly the right call.


New for 2010: The 1993 Ford Taurus

The folks at the news satire site The Onion have done it again. Funny and depressing at the same time:


Car and Driver's Redesign

Good news in the December issue of Car and Driver. Editor Eddie Alterman lets us know that come January, there'll be a new look...a redesign of the once (and hopefully future) king of the car mags.

Alterman discusses the disastrous last redesign three years ago, which he rightly describes as making C/D look "like a comic book".

And it was worse inside, with a jumble of fonts and a graphic look that was universally hated by readers, who were told "we ain't going back."...which Alterman describes as a public relations move roughly as successful as the docking of the Hindenburg.

To his credit, each issue of C/D since Alterman's arrival has been cleaner-looking than the last. Here's what he inherited early this year:

And here's September's cover:

The January 2010 redesign is expected to draw heavily on the sense of style from C/D's glory days. We can't wait.

Scion tC Review

Here's a question I've never asked:

"If Darth Vader were a college student and drove a Scion, what would it look like?"

See above.

Okay, that's probably a bit harsh...but I was more than a bit bugged by the Scion tC.

Not the car itself, which I have always liked a lot...but by the way it was optioned.

The tC, for the uninitiated, is a smart, tight, fun little coupe...with a base price of just $17,000, an EPA estimate of 20 city/27 highway, more handling capability than most vehicles with a Toyota pedigree, and an impressive list of standard features (17 inch alloy wheels, moonroof, 160-watt Pioneer audio system with subwoofer)for the price.

Hard to beat.

But the tester came with $4000 of options that made absolutely no difference. $1083 for ground effects. $430 for a rear pedestal spoiler. $65 for a different shift knob. A metal one. In Phoenix. In summer (okay, that's worse for me than for a lot of folks). $1999 for 18" black wheels and Toyo tires. And $389 to upgrade the Pioneer audio system...though it doesn't specify what the upgrade was, exactly and it sounded about as good as the stock one (at least according to memory).

So $17,000 becomes $21,000...the performance of the car isn't improved (arguably, the 18 inch wheels hurt the ride) and the all-black menacing look....well, c'mon...it's a Scion. It's just not that menacing.

Still love the tC. Great car. Just buy it as-is, bone stock and you've got something. But jacking up the price by more than 20 percent for this stuff? Pass.