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Volkswagen

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0 SE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The leaders at Volkswagen weren’t kidding when they tacked the “Sport” designation on the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport 2.0 SE.

Sure, it likely was dreamed up to boost sales of the company’s new midsize crossover sport utility vehicle. Throughout automotive history, the marketing gurus have worked to manipulate buyers’ brains into automatically applying certain attributes to their vehicles.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10946Think Pontiac GTO, Dodge Hellcat, Ford Mustang Shelby GT, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Si, Buick Grand National, Ford F-150 Raptor, Cadillac’s V models, Mercedes AMG, BMW M, Porsche Turbo and Subaru WRX STI, among others.

Mostly, the appellations denote actual performance. But sometimes they are simply slapped on in the middle of a model run to boost the inevitable lagging sales.

That’s not the case with the Atlas. It started out as a full-size, three row crossover sport utility vehicle that, for some families, could substitute for a minivan, though it is somewhat short on cargo space.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10945Now Volkswagen has expanded the Atlas horizons with the Sport, which has an entirely different character from its three-row sibling and lives up to its “sport” designation.

It’s a midsize crossover SUV with 112 cubic feet of space for passengers in the first and second rows, with a generous cargo space of 40 cubic feet. Fold the seatbacks flat and the cargo area expands to 78 cubic feet, plenty to haul all the stuff for your kid’s freshman year in college.

You’d think that would satisfy a lot of customers. But VW also has infused this bulky crossover with performance bones. Though it is 16 feet 4 inches long, 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 4,228 pounds, it validates the old canard about “German feel” with responsive handling and a ride that won’t produce fatigue on a long trip.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10951Belying its size, it attacks twisting roads with some of the aplomb of a sports sedan: capable 4Motion all-wheel drive and communicative steering with good feedback. Of course it’s no match for a Bullitt Mustang or a Mazda MX-5 Miata but it can hold its own with a host of other vehicles.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission. City/highway/combined fuel economy of 18/23/20 mpg is not outstanding but that’s the tradeoff for the performance.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport-Large-10326The engine is turbocharged but you’d be hard-pressed to notice. There’s almost no turbo lag, although there is a hesitation if you use the idle stop-start system, which shuts down the engine at stoplights and then cranks it up when you take your foot off the brake. Fortunately, you can disable the stop-start with the touch of a button, as was the script for this review.

There also are driver selectable settings for different on- and off-road drive modes: Normal and snow, as well as off-road and off-road custom. Hill descent control is included for challenging boondocks courses.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10937There’s no manual-shift mode for the automatic transmission — thus no steering-wheel paddle shifters — but it’s not needed. You can easily select “sport” instead of “drive” with the console mounted shifter and rocket off  with instant snap-shifts in the stoplight drag races simply by keeping your foot to the floor.

On the road, the Atlas Sport is mostly a quiet cruiser with enough engine drone to alert you to the power under the hood. The only time it gets annoying is when you hit the “max” button on the air conditioning. Then the engine and blower sounds become a racket that overpowers even loud audio.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10935The Atlas Sport has a starting price of  $31,565, including the destination charge,18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, full LED lighting, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and Wi-Fi capability.

The test vehicle was a mid-level SE model with a technology package that included adaptive cruise control, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, wireless smart phone charging, park distance control, power lift gate and SXM satellite radio. Inside, the look leaned toward the austere, with perforated black leather upholstery and attractive gray faux wood trim.

But the price was reasonable, slightly more than  the average of a new car in this era. The base was $38,865, including the destination charge and, with an option of a special Aurora Red metallic paint job,  the bottom line sticker came to $39,495. It’s a decent hunk of a crossover for the money.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10938Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0 SE w/ Technology four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 235 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with 4Motion all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 112/40 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,288 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/23/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,865.
  • Price as tested: $39,495.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2020_Atlas_Cross_Sport_-_Tourmaline_Blue_-_SE_with_Technology-Large-10933Photos (c) Volkswagen

2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Volkswagen’s 2019 Arteon exudes streamlined styling and comes with an attribute that could entice customers attracted to the increasingly popular crossover sport utility vehicles.

Though it doesn’t look the part, the Arteon is a hatchback sedan with a cargo area of 27 cubic feet, which rivals that of many crossovers.  It also has passenger space of 98 cubic feet. Together, the total 125 cubic feet qualify it as a large car by the federal government’s definition.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9794Yet the dimensions and handling feel are those of a midsize car. In concept, it resembles — and can compete with — the smaller A5 and larger A7 Sportbacks from Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury division. They too are low-slung and sleek but more expensive hatchback sedans.

The Arteon resembles the acclaimed Kia Stinger, which also is a fastback sedan with a hatch. Both are powered by turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines with eight-speed automatic transmissions and available all-wheel drive. Horsepower is similar at 268 for the Arteon and 255 for the Stinger with zero to 60 mph acceleration times of about six seconds.

At 15 feet 11 inches, the Arteon is an inch longer than the Stinger and weighs 185 pounds more. With eight cubic feet less of interior space, the Stinger is classified as a midsize car. Its base price is about $4,000 less than the Arteon’s. (The Stinger also is available with a 365-hp, twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V6 engine; the Arteon has only the 2.0-liter four-cylinder).

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9779But when it comes to luxury appointments, the Arteon — now VW’s flagship sedan — does not slouch. Though popularly priced, starting at $36,840 for the base SE version, the top trim level — the $45,940 SEL Premium 4Motion all-wheel drive model driven for this review — has plenty of luxurious accouterments as well as a full suite of safety enhancements.

Equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, overhead view rear camera, and VW’s intelligent crash response system. In an accident the system unlocks doors, shuts off the engine, disables electronics and turns on lights.

2019_Arteon-Large-7924Inside features include navigation, three-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver’s seat with massage and memory functions, heated outboard rear seats, AM/FM/HD and SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Mimicking a current cliché in European luxury cars, the sunshade for the Arteon’s sunroof was made of a perforated cloth that admitted sunlight and heat. Sunshades should be opaque.

The Arteon name incorporates “art” and “eon,” evoking a sort of timeless staying power. It is a descendant of the Volkswagen’s former CC model, so-called because VW christened it as a “comfort coupe” — that is, a sedan with a coupe profile. It was based on the VW Passat sedan and lasted nine years until it was axed after the 2017 model year.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9788Despite its striking low profile, the Arteon has plenty of head and legroom inside, both in the front and the rear outboard seats. As with almost every vehicle these days, the center-rear passenger gets punished with a hard cushion and a floor hump, and on the Arteon does not get a heated seat.     The rear seatbacks fold almost flat to expand the cargo carrying capability to 55 cubic feet.

On the road, the tested SEL 4Motion model is an amiable companion. Belying its $45,460 price tag, its ambiance is that of a luxury cruiser with little intrusion of mechanical or wind noise. In this era of lousy surfaces, however, it’s impossible to eliminate tire noise unless you’re driving on newly-paved asphalt.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9790Though it is turbocharged, the 2.0-liter engine is smooth and quiet with little turbo lag setting off from rest. The eight-speed automatic transmission is unobtrusive in around-town motoring but also snaps off rapid shifts under hard acceleration. On the tested SEL Premium 4Motion, there were steering-wheel mounted paddles for manual shifting.

Five drive modes are available: Eco, Normal, Comfort, Sport and Custom. They, too, are mostly unobtrusive except for the Sport setting, which delays upshifts to higher rpms than the other settings. Custom allows the driver to tailor personal preferences.

The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and with the Arteon’s adaptive shock absorbers, the ride is controlled and serene for the most part. Handling is confident with responsive, weighted steering.

German luxury cars are notoriously expensive. The Arteon delivers much of that amenity at a middle-class price.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9800Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium 4Motion four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 268 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 98/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,835 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,490.
  • Price as tested: $45,940.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9774Photos: Volkswagen

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The most tired cliché in the automotive world is “fun to drive,” used everywhere and on everything from kiddie cars to 18-wheelers. Still, Volkswagen is faithful to the original idea with its 2019 Jetta GLI 35thAnniversary Edition.

Just as the VW Golf GTI invented the so-call “hot hatch” and still is regarded as the benchmark for popular-priced practical performance cars, the Jetta GLI has long been regarded as the sedan version of the GTI.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9557The front fenders of the 2019 GLI bear an escutcheon that announces “GLI 35,” reminding us that it’s been around since 1984 as the notchback with the roomy trunk for American buyers who, until recently, treated hatchbacks as if they were coated with slime (actually attractive to 11-year old girls).

That changed with the geniuses who decided that hatchbacks could be jacked up for more ground clearance and re-named as crossover SUVs, usually with optional all-wheel drive. Now they are taking over the marketplace and sedans are dying off, as witness the impending demise of the Ford Focus and Fusion, and Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu and Impala.

That hasn’t happened at Volkswagen — at least in the U.S., where the Jetta sedans handily outsell the Golf hatchbacks, though the Tiguan crossover beats both.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9569The 2019 Jetta GLI comes in three trim levels: S with a base price of $26,890 including the destination charge, 35thAnniversary Edition at $27,890 and the top-line Autobahn $30,090. All of those prices are with the six-speed manual gearbox. Add $800 for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

What that means is that the highest sticker price you can find for a Jetta GLI is $30,890. That’s somewhere around $5,000 less than the current average price of a new car.

Die-hard enthusiasts will rejoice over the fact that all GLI models come with stick shifts, as well as selectable driving modes and what some like to call “German handling.” It’s a vague term, more felt than defined.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9556What it translates into is a compact sport sedan with athletic moves in traffic and on twisting mountain roads, and comfortable, straight-line cruising with few steering corrections needed. Also, with a fully independent suspension, the GLI also delivers a steady ride and plenty of insulation for a quiet cabin during freeway cruising.

Unfortunately, in an era when the vast majority of motorists have no clue how to drive a manual gearbox, only a select few will experience the pleasurable sensations of shifting for themselves. The GLI’s manual is a paradigm of slick, with effortless upshifts and downshifts, as well as easy clutch engagement. You have to be a real klutz to kill the engine on a bad shift.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9539However, there is a bit of a downside. In former times, manual gearboxes delivered better fuel economy than automatic transmissions, sometimes referred to as slush boxes. But the automatics have been improved to the point where many beat the manuals on fuel economy. That’s especially true of the dual-clutch types, as on the GLI, which essentially are manuals that shift automatically.

It turns out that the VW engineers have managed to deliver a six-speed manual that, in the hands of an economy-oriented driver, can equal the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Both are rated by the EPA at 25/32/28 mpg in city/highway/combined driving. The GLI tested for this review consistently delivered nearly 30 mpg.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9544That’s remarkable given the reviewer’s heavy foot and the fact that the GLI is powered by a turbocharged 228-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 258 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. That’s enough to hit 60 mph in around six seconds — no slouch by anybody’s definition.

Along with its other attributes, the Jetta GLI is a comfortable everyday companion. The tested 35thAnniversary Edition came with seats covered in an attractive, durable textured black cloth, preferable in this reviewer’s preference to sometimes cold or hot and sticky leather or leatherette. Even at that, the front seats are heated.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9545The front seats have well-bolstered seatbacks to hold the torso in cornering. Outboard back seats also are comfortable with adequate head and knee room. However, as on most cars these days, any center-rear passenger will have to suffer a hard cushion and splay his or her feet around a big, square hump.

Traditional on Jetta models, there’s a large trunk, though the hinges for the trunk lid are only partially isolated from the contents. You also have to pay more for the Autobahn model to get SXM satellite radio.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9562Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen GLI 2.0T 35thAnniversary Edition four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 228 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume:  95/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,217 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/32/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,890.
  • Price as tested: $27,890.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019_Jetta_GLI_35th_Anniversary_Edition-Large-9560Photos (c) Volkswagen

 

2019 Volkswagen Atlas: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As with the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas, sometimes the lesser of two choices makes all the difference — in this rendering, the $37,000 version versus the one north of $50,000.

2019_Atlas-Large-8753You might say that about many new vehicles. Sure, it seems everybody would like the one loaded with every option for safety, performance, comfort, convenience and even luxury surroundings.

But there’s a school of thought, endorsed by this reviewer, that even base automobiles and light trucks can be appealing — and not only for their parsimony. After all, every car must have an engine, transmission, tires, brakes, steering, seats, controlled climate and safety equipment mandated by the U.S. government.

Moreover, though the manufacturers like to tout the superiority of their lavishly-equipped products, the truth is there is no junk out there any more. Ask most experts what kind of new vehicle you should buy and many would simply say, “What do you like?”

2018_Atlas-Large-7501Ratings nowadays are informed not by engines that gobble oil or wheel bearings that fail, but more by whether there’s too much wind noise or a baffling infotainment system — not so much by things that put you on the side of the road at midnight.

Which brings us to the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE. It is a full-size, three-row, seven-passenger crossover sport utility vehicle that can satisfy  minivan-averse customers, though it comes up short with 21 cubic feet for cargo space behind the third row.

It can accommodate seven adults with head-room comfort, though the second-row passengers must give up some of their generous leg room for the folks in the third row. It is easily done because the second row has about eight inches of fore-and-aft travel to divvy up, as well as seatbacks that flip forward so even creaky oldsters can get back to the third row.

2018_Atlas-Large-6591On the SE model, everyone sits on VW’s V-Tex leatherette upholstery, which is about as comfortable as real leather and likely will last way longer, though the preference here would be for a durable cloth that is soothing in all climates.

The SE is a bottom-dweller, just one step up from the base S in a line of seven trim levels topped out by the SEL Premium. So, the SE doesn’t come with such amenities as leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, park assist, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, a Fender premium audio system and captain’s seats in the second row, which reduces the passenger accommodations from seven to six.

But the SE does have forward collision monitoring with emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert, hill start assist, pushbutton starting, 10-way powered and heated driver’s seat, Bluetooth connectivity, three-zone automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, and LED headlights and daytime running lights.

2018_Atlas-Large-6604The base price of the tested SE came to $36,490, including the destination charge. With an optional towing package, it topped out at $37,040. One reason for the reasonable price is that it came with front-wheel drive instead of the optional all-wheel drive, which accounts for an $1,800 difference.

For most customers, except for those in severe snow belt areas, there’s no need to spend the extra money for all-wheel drive. Independent tests have shown that front-drive vehicles accelerate, brake and turn as well as all-wheel drive models in most circumstances except for low-speed maneuvering in heavy snow and other slippery conditions.

2018_Atlas-Large-6597The tested SE came with Volkswagen’s 276-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 266 lb-ft of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The base engine is a 235-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 258 lb-ft of torque.

Though the four-bangers, both turbo and naturally aspirated, are becoming ubiquitous everywhere in the motoring industry, there’s still nothing like the silky power delivery of a six-cylinder engine, either inline or with a V configuration.

With the easy-shifting eight-speed automatic, the Atlas is an elegant and quiet conveyance that has a supple ride, tracks cleanly in a straight line and, if you don’t push it too hard, easily handles curving roads.

2018_Atlas-Large-6613Though the Atlas feels smaller than its length of 16.5 feet and height of nearly six feet, maneuvering in traffic and on ramps inside parking garages requires attention and care.

But for anyone who needs to carry seven passengers—or five passengers with 56 cubic feet of cargo space—the Atlas SE comes with a decent price and city/highway/combined fuel economy of 17/24/19 mpg of regular gasoline.

2019_Atlas-Large-8755Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 276 hp, 266 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 154/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,343 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,490.
  • Price as tested: $37,040.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018_Atlas-Large-7510Photos (c) Volkswagen

 

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T Rabbit: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Light a few candles. The Volkswagen Rabbit GTI has been resurrected, though now it is called the 2019 Golf GTI Rabbit Edition. As ever, it is a hatchback performance model of what basically is an economy car.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9348The original, called the “Rabbit” in the United States, made its debut in 1975 as the replacement for the beloved Beetle with its air-cooled horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine behind and driving the rear wheels.

It was a new direction for the German manufacturer. The Rabbit, named Golf in other world markets, came with front-wheel drive and a liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder engine mounted sideways up front as the gods of the era intended.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9351Most of the Rabbits were built in the U.S., in a plant in Westmoreland, PA. They were spunky little creatures with four-speed manual gearboxes but unfortunately were fragile compared to the anvil-like reliability of the Beetle.

Not long after the Rabbit’s introduction, Volkswagen introduced the GTI, a higher performance version with 110 horsepower, or 43 more horses than the standard version. Later versions also came with a five-speed stick. GTI stands for Grand Tourer Injection, referring to the engine’s fuel injection.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9336By today’s lights, those early GTIs were brittle and shaky. But they captured the imagination of small-car enthusiasts with limited incomes. It is fair to say that the GTI was the progenitor of what came to be known as the “hot hatch” niche in the market.

In the mid-1980s, the Rabbit name went away and the U.S. models adopted the world-wide name of Golf. From then on, the performance models, with two- and four-door versions, became the Golf GTI.

Now with the four-door only 2019 model, the Rabbit name is back, though now with one of those interminable names that decorate cars from German manufacturers. Its proper title is the “2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T Rabbit Edition.”

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9329The 2.0T, of course, describes its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes 228-hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With its slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, it can nail 60 mph from rest in about six seconds. An even quicker seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available for an additional $1,100.

The Rabbit Edition is a bit of a bare bones version of the GTI, slotted between the base S and SE, with more trim than the S but less equipment than the SE and top-line Autobahn model. There’s  also an all-wheel drive Golf R.

2018_Golf_GTI-Large-6700But with a price tag of $29,790 for the tested manual model, including the destination charge, and a city/highway fuel consumption rating of 27 mpg, it delivers a relatively low price and everyday economy commuting as well as that tingle of excitement when you hammer the throttle and snap-shift the transmission to poke into that traffic hole in the next lane.

On the road, handling is sharp with quick moves around curves and solid straight-line tracking. The suspension system soaks up road irregularities to deliver a ride that is stiff but supple. Road and engine noise are mostly muted for fatigue-free Interstate cruising.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9325Missing from the Rabbit are a sunroof, automatic climate control and SXM satellite radio, which is not available on any GTI trim level. That reflects the trend toward streaming audio. Equipment includes an AM-FM radio and one USB port for streaming capability.

The Rabbit comes with basic safety equipment, including a crash response system and electronic brake assist, but lacks such advanced features as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9322One of the more endearing features of the Rabbit Edition are its sport seats up front and accommodating passenger seats in back. The upholstery is a substantial cloth with an attractive plaid design that grips the torso. It is augmented by aggressive bolstering on the front seats that encourages spirited motoring on twisting mountain roads.

Too bad that if a customer decides to move up to the SE edition to get additional equipment, he or she gets leather upholstery, which in this case is inferior to the Rabbit’s beautiful plaid cloth, which should be available on every trim level.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9347In back, two passengers sit comfortably with generous head and knee room. There is a seatbelt for a third passenger, who deserves pity for sitting scrunched on a hard cushion straddling a big floor hump with knees banging on the intruding front console.

But hey. The Rabbit GTI is a sports car that delivers daily driving enjoyment with small family practicality.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9339Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T Rabbit Edition four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 228 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six speed manual with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 4 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/23 Cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,965 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,790.
  • Price as tested: $29,790.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019_GTI_Rabbit_Edition-Large-9350Photos (c) Volkswagen

2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sniffles. After so many years it sounds so, well, final: the 2019 Volkswagen SE Beetle Final Edition, for this review the two-door convertible model. There will be waves of nostalgia.

This is a thoroughly modern automobile with all of the comfort and conveniences not dreamed of by owners of the originals in the middle of the 20th century. Think back on some of the differences.

2019_Beetle_Convertible_Final_Edition--8697The 2019 Final Edition convertible has a padded top, so tight and quiet you’d swear you were driving a luxury coupe. You can barely hear exhaust sounds. Old Bugs were raucous, with twin exhaust pipes that sometimes whistled while they worked.

Check out the automatic climate control. Set it and forget it. The reviewer’s ’65 Type 113 Bug came with little vents on the floor that carried warm air from the rear engine compartment into the passenger pod — maybe. Air conditioning? Swing the front vent windows all the way out to force that humid summer air inside. Notice the cranks on the doors? Open the windows and get a bit of exercise.

Grasp the 2019’s sturdy console lever that controls the six-speed automatic transmission. Totally not as engaging as the early Bugs’ fragile floor-mounted shifter with the tiny pancake shift knob for the four-speed manual gearbox. Truth be told, it was a delight to snick through the gears.

Historic_Beetle-Large-2284Sadly, the Final Edition’s engine is in the wrong place. It’s up front under the hood, where the trunk should be, instead of out back behind the wheels. Plus, it’s a 174-hp, turbocharged, upright four-cylinder engine, not a proper 40-hp boxer with its cylinders reclining like sunbathers.

The Final Edition comes with a small trunk of seven cubic feet. Bugs had their trunks up front plus a generous uncovered bin behind the rear seat.

That old ’65 Bug did have other advantages: Six-volt battery to keep the headlights so dim they would not blind oncoming drivers or light the road; windshield washers powered by air fed from the spare tire  in the trunk up front.

2019_Beetle_Final_Edition--8699Armrests? Padded beauties on the Final Edition. Nonexistent on many older Bugs because the German engineers decreed that owners should keep their hands on the steering wheels instead of elbows resting on armrests.

Though the Final Edition has that six-speed automatic transmission, you can order a six-speed manual if you want it. Some older Bugs came with a transmission called the Automatic Stick Shift, which one enthusiast magazine dubbed the A.S.S. It was so efficient, especially on the Bug’s big brother, the Microbus, that you could walk faster than it could accelerate from a stop sign.

Doggone it, Volkswagen finally went and did it. After all these years — nearly 80 overall and 70 in the United States — the rambunctious and familiar Bug, the modern New Beetle and, simply and finally, the Beetle, will be no more after the 2019 model year.

It actually was thought to be dead in an earlier time. After a slow start in the U.S. after World War II, it became wildly popular for its reliability and economy. More than 15 million of the little two-door sedans were sold from 1949 until 1955, beating out Ford’s model T as the best-selling single-model car of all time. It continued for two decades after that.

Historic_Beetle-Large-2295In 1975, the Bug ended its run, giving way to the Rabbit, called the Golf in other countries. But it was dead only in the U.S. It continued abroad in Brazil, Mexico and other places. Then, after selling 21.5 million cars overall, the last of the original Bugs rolled off the line in Mexico in 2003.

The U.S. Rabbit was different. Where the original Bug had an air-cooled, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine mounted behind and driving the rear wheels, the Rabbit had a conventional liquid-cooled four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels.

Timeline_1976-Large-3786Though more modern, the fragile Rabbit was not the reliable equal of the old Bug. It lasted only about a decade until it was replaced by other Volkswagen models. But there still were no Beetles sold in the United States.

Then VW showed a prototype of a thing called the New Beetle, with updated attractive styling that resembled the original. It was displayed at the North American International Automobile Show and was an immediate hit. Volkswagen wasted no time in bringing it to market and it lasted until from 1997 to 2010, when it was replaced by a new version simply called the Beetle. That is the car that we mourn now.

Produkte: New Beetle USA Version (1998)
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Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen Beetle SE Final Edition two-door convertible.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 174 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 81/7 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,239 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/33/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,190.
  • Price as tested: $30,690.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019_Beetle_Convertible_Final_Edition--8701Photos (c) Volkswagen

2018 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0T: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You could argue that the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R is superfluous, or at least a bit of overkill. It is the pinnacle of the Golf lineup, which also includes the best-selling GTI, for many years the darling of so-called “hot hatch” enthusiasts.

In full-blown Autobahn trim, the GTI comes with a sticker price of $37,020. The tested Golf R — the initial likely refers to “racing” but the preference here is to think of it as “randy” — jumps up to $40,635. With all-wheel drive, 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, it eclipses the front-drive GTI’s 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.

2018_Golf_R--7564So, it’s fair to say that Volkswagen’s Golf overall is more of a high-performance machine than a pedestrian runabout, though lower-priced and less powerful Golfs exhibit much of that famed “German feel” as well.

Sales statistics bear that out. Between them, the R and GTI outsell the economy-oriented Golf models. In 2017, for example, they accounted for 55,426 U.S. sales, compared to 13,552 for the other Golf versions.

In the first half of 2018, GTI sales totaled 9,189 and the standard Golf had 4,036. The R’s sales, likely reflecting its higher price, totaled 2,240.

2018_Golf_R--7566The tested Golf R — it comes only as a four-door hatchback — arrived with a six-speed manual gearbox. For an additional $1,100 you can order the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which actually gets you up to speed quicker than the manual, computer controls being superior to the human right hand on the shifter and left foot punching the clutch pedal.

For 2018, there’s only one version, down from two, which now incorporates VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control as well as a navigation system. The DCC includes adaptive shock absorbers, which with precise steering helps deliver outstanding handling and a good ride for a hatchback that measures just 14 feet bumper to bumper.

So, while the Golf R easily handled bumps in the road, the manual shifter sustained bumps in the throws. This was the one disappointment in the entire R package. While it was easy to smoothly upshift at low rpm — much like expert European taxi drivers maximizing fuel economy — at other times the shift linkage felt clunky.

2018_Golf_R--7567Also new for 2018 are an idle stop-start system to enhance fuel economy, rated at 21/29/24 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined cycle. Exterior touches are refreshed front and rear styling with LED headlights and taillights, as well as newly designed 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there’s a new eight-inch center touchscreen, up from 6.5 inches on the previous model.

Leather sport seats hold the torso snugly during spirited cornering on twisty roads while the driver looks through a flat-bottom steering wheel at the R’s Digital Cockpit, a 12.5-inch configurable information screen that displays different vehicle functions.

One annoyance is a display that reminds the driver when to upshift the manual gearbox, mainly to enhance fuel economy. Experienced drivers usually shift by feel and likely won’t look at it much anyway.

2017_Golf_R--5366The center touchscreen incorporates controls for the navigation system, SXM satellite and HD radio, and a JPEG viewer. A Bluetooth system can pair two smart phones simultaneously and the system has the capability to send and receive text messages. There are three USB ports.

Interior comfort is first rate, with supportive bolstering on the front seats. In back, the outboard seats have plenty of headroom and adequate knee room. The center-rear position is compromised by a big floor hump and a hard cushion. There’s 23 cubic feet for cargo.

A full suite of state-of-the art technology and safety equipment includes forward collision warning and braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind-spot warning with rear traffic alert, park distance control front and rear, automatic headlight high beams and a rear-view camera.

2018_Golf_R--6684On the road, depending on how you drive, the Golf R’s personality is as soft as a velvet cushion or as raucous as a race car. Throttle response is quick, though sometimes there’s a slight lag. It’s a good idea to turn off the stop-start system to avoid hesitation off the line.

In a test drive of both the manual-transmission R and GTI at the Road America road racing course near Elkhart Lake, Wis., both Golfs showed capable racetrack manners. With an all-wheel drive system that can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels, the R felt more composed in the corners.

2018_Golf_R--7563Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volkswagen R 2.0T four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 292 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,300 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,635.
  • Price as tested: $40,635.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018_Golf_R--6683Photos (c) Volkswagen

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Volkswagen ups its game in the crossover SUV arena with a triple-double by a new player, the 2018 Tiguan.

It has nothing to do with points, rebounds, assists or blocked shots in a basketball game, though the German manufacturer would be delighted if the Tiguan managed some steals from competitors.

To that end, it has doubled its overall warranty to 72,000 miles and six years from the standard 36,000 miles and three years. It also has added a third row of seats to all Tiguans, standard on front-wheel drive models and a $500 option on all-wheel-drive models.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7316It’s all part of VW’s effort to win over new fans and rebuild trust among existing ones who were angered and disillusioned by the company’s cheating on diesel-engine emissions. Not surprisingly, the new Tiguan is powered by a gasoline engine, though a gasoline/electric hybrid could eventually follow.

The Tiguan’s triple-double certainly enhances its appeal, although the South Korean Hyundai and Kia brands currently offer an overall warranty of 60,000 miles and five years, as well as 10 years and 100,000 miles on the engine and transmission.

For now, the Tiguan’s power comes from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that delivers 184 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission. City/highway/combined fuel economy is 21/27/23 mpg.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7283The Tiguan plays in the current automotive version of March Madness, in which crossover sport utility vehicles of all sizes are knocking sedans out of the game. That’s particularly true in the compact cluster where the Tiguan competes against such proven competitors as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5.

With the new Tiguan, VW reckons that it now can brag that it is a family-oriented full-line company. It joins the midsize Touareg and new full-size Atlas, along with the Golf Sportwagen, Golf hatchbacks, Beetle, and Jetta, CC and Passat sedans.

The new Tiguan is nearly 11 inches longer than its predecessor, now stretching to 15 feet 5 inches in length. That delivered enough space for the third row, which increases the passenger capacity to seven. However, the third row should be reserved for athletic small children and forbidden to senior citizens of any age. It takes a gymnast’s twists and turns to get back there, where there’s barely enough space for backpacks and watermelons.

2018_tiguan_-_s_7268Likely most owners will reserve the third row for dire emergencies and simply leave it folded to expand the cargo area, which in two-row versions has 38 cubic feet of space, about triple what you find in compact sedans.

The Tiguan comes in four trim levels with a starting price of $24,245 for the base S and ranging up to $38,450 for the all-wheel-drive top-of-the-line SEL Premium. The focus here is on the two-row all-wheel-drive SE, which carried a price tag of $31,280.

To get all the goodies like navigation, lane departure and collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, rear camera, SXM satellite radio and other safety, connectivity and convenience items, you must order one of the more expensive versions.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7325Accommodations vary with cloth seats on the S, leatherette on SE and SEL, and leather on the SEL Premium. The choice here was for the comfortable and supportive cloth seats on the S, which look durable enough to survive many years. The leatherette should be durable as well, though it is less comfortable for long distances, especially in summer.

The Tiguan has a character that owners often refer to as its German feel. It tracks cleanly down the road, has a suspension system that absorbs bumps and, with accurate steering, handles curving roads without fuss. In addition, the ride is comfortable and very quiet with little intrusion of mechanical, road or wind noise.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7290A couple of quibbles are in order. The CD changer, in a nod to the past, resides in the glove compartment. Also, on models with the panoramic sunroof, the shade is made of a flimsy material that mimics cheesecloth and allows too much sunlight to intrude. Sun shades should be opaque.

Another cheesy item that saves a couple of bucks: The driver’s side sun visor slides on its support rod to fully block sun from the side; the passenger does not get the same courtesy because that visor is rigidly fixed.

Overall, this is an improved and more competitive Tiguan in a tough fight.

2018_tiguan_-_s_7266Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter 4-cylinder, turbocharged, 184 hp, 221 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/38 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,858 lbs.
  • Payload: 970 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,280.
  • Price as tested: $31,280.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018_tiguan_-_s_7265Photos (c) Volkswagen.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas: A DriveWays Review

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Beetle builder goes big with the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

Though the Beetle’s sidekick — the famed VW microbus of the 1960s — could carry as many passengers, the Atlas is the biggest Volkswagen ever. Moreover, it was designed for American buyers and is built in the United States.

Of course, VW’s reputation was established with the Beetle, the sturdy two-door, rear-engine sedan that entranced buyers following World War II and into the mid-1970s.

2018_atlas_7017Nowadays, however, if you want to compete in the world-wide vehicle industry, you must field at least one crossover sport utility vehicle. Better yet, provide choices.

Compact and midsize crossovers are taking over the marketplace as buyers recognize the utility of a machine that carries big cargo loads and passengers, can be equipped with all-wheel drive for safety in foul weather, and deliver modest off-road performance.

Volkswagen already had two crossovers in its lineup: the compact Tiguan and the midsize Touareg. Both have two rows of seats to accommodate up to five passengers.

2018_atlas_7014But VW’s country of origin is Germany, where manufacturers like BMW are relentlessly trying to plug every market niche with their vehicle lineups, especially with crossovers. It was inevitable that Volkswagen, with its goal of becoming a full-line family-oriented automobile company, would deliver a full-size crossover that can carry up to seven passengers.

Moreover, the company is working hard to regain the trust of consumers in the wake of a scandal in which it admitted violations of federal anti-pollution laws by faking diesel engine emissions test results.

No surprise, there will be no diesel engine for the new Atlas. Two gasoline engines are offered: a 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, offered only in front-wheel drive models; and a 276-hp 3.6-liter V6, available with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. Both get the power to the pavement through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2018_atlas_7009At the introduction, the tested Atlas crossovers were equipped with the V6 engine, most with all-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter four-banger will arrive later in the model year.

The Atlas enters the market against formidable odds. Among the proven competitors are the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse.

Starting prices for six trim levels of the Atlas, including an S launch model with the V6 engine and front- or all-wheel drive, range from $31,425 for the base four-cylinder S version to the top-line Atlas SEL Premium at $49,415. The latter was tested for this review. All prices include the $925 destination charge.

2018_atlas_6963The SEL Premium was as well equipped as almost anything you’d find in a showroom. In addition to the V6 engine and all-wheel drive, it comes with leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, park assist, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, and a Fender premium audio system. The tested Atlas also had the optional second-row individual seats, which reduced the passenger accommodations from seven to six.

The captain’s chairs are slightly smaller than the front seats but offer support and comfort. They recline and feature about eight inches of fore and aft travel, which helps to divide the knee room between the second and third rows of seats. Head room is generous.

A minor complaint: the shade for the sunroof is made of a perforated cloth that allows too much sunlight to intrude into the passenger pod. This has unaccountably become a common feature on some luxury cars. Sunshades should be opaque.

2018_atlas_6969With either the second-row bench seat or the captain’s chairs, the Atlas maintains 21 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third row, which can accommodate two average-sized adults, though they sit with their knees raised high. Fold the third row and the cargo space expands to nearly 56 cubic feet.

On the road, the Atlas has a substantial feel. It is a big vehicle — 16.5 feet long and weighing 4,502 lbs — and it feels big. It has plenty of power though it is not particularly nimble. But it tracks cleanly on the highway with few steering corrections needed. Cornering on twisting roads is capable as long as you don’t push it too hard.

The ride is comfortable and there’s little intrusion of wind and mechanical noise, though rough pavement elicited a harmonic thrum from the tires that made its way inside.

Like its competitors, the Atlas will please customers who want family space and comfort without resorting to a minivan.

2018_atlas_7004Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter VR6, 276 hp, 266 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 154/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,502 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/23/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,415.
  • Price as tested: $50,040.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018_atlas_7020Photos (c) Volkswagen.

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