First Drive: 2019 Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle Fi­nal Edi­tion

The Standard (Elliot Lake) - - BLIND RIVER - By LOR­RAINE SOM­MER­FELD DRIV­ING.CA

Puebla, mex­ico — When a man­u­fac­turer pulls the plug on a ve­hi­cle – even an iconic one – it usu­ally goes out with a whim­per. not volk­swa­gen’s last bee­tle. nope, the last “love bug” rolling off the line is def­i­nitely go­ing out with a bang.

it’s not often you do a last first drive. but the story here, as well as the end of the line, is the whole line. The bee­tle may have ‘be­gun’ in 1945, but it was when they es­sen­tially rein­vented car ad­ver­tis­ing in the 1960s that the bee­tle blasted into pop cul­ture rel­e­vance. the huge plant in Puebla, mex­ico, started mak­ing bee­tles soon af­ter it opened in 1965. by 1978, Ger­many ceased pro­duc­tion and all bee­tles for the world were made here af­ter that.

vw’s Puebla plant is the sec­ond big­gest man­u­fac­tur­ing lo­ca­tion for the brand, af­ter Wolfs­burg. of the nearly 2,300 cars pro­duced here daily, 80% are des­tined for north amer­ica. of that num­ber, around 200 are still bee­tles. in that num­ber is the end of the fa­bled bug. to quote Pulitzer-win­ing poet robert Frost, noth­ing gold can stay. The first­gen­er­a­tion bee­tle bit the dust in Canada in 1979, af­ter sell­ing nearly half a mil­lion since 1952.

Ev­ery­one has an orig­i­nal bee­tle story. Scrap­ing the wind­shield from the in­side in win­ter? Check. the tiny glove box that holds a pack of Chi­clets? ditto. Cram­ming what­ever you can into the oddly shaped stor­age be­hind the rear seat? oh yeah. lit­er­ally crank­ing open the sun­roof to sing mo­town hits at the top of your lungs as you drive to the cot­tage? ok, some sto­ries may not be so uni­ver­sal.

af­ter stay­ing es­sen­tially the same, es­pe­cially in its unique sil­hou­ette, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion “new bee­tle” ap­peared in 1998, fol­lowed by the Con­vert­ible in 2003. Through­out this time, Puebla con­tin­ued to make the first-gen “ul­tima Edi­cion” un­til 2003. the new bee­tle sold 42,588 units in Canada be­tween 1998 and 2010. Sport­ing a vase with a loopy flower, among other whim­si­cal touches, the bee­tle was quickly tagged a chick car. They even­tu­ally de­cided to go af­ter more of the whole mar­ket with the launch of the bee­tle in 2012, es­sen­tially squash­ing it down a lit­tle for a more stream­lined shape, adding a big­ger trunk and more ad­vanced in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems. that jacked sales a lit­tle, but they set­tled back down — and here we are.

there aren’t any sig­nif­i­cant changes to Fi­nal Edi­tion bee­tle. that’s not odd for a model be­ing put to bed, though the an­nounce­ment might goose sales if only for peo­ple who fol­low, love or share a his­tory with this ve­hi­cle. it was never a car you could talk some­one into buy­ing, but it was also one you could never talk them out of.

the birth­place of nearly ev­ery bee­tle you see, the Puebla fa­cil­ity, is huge. over three mil­lion squareme­tres on a plot of 310 hectares, it em­ploys 14,000 vw em­ploy­ees — though a to­tal of 42,000 peo­ple from many re­lated in­dus­tries come through the doors to work each day. it’s a self-con­tained city, with ev­ery­thing from su­per­mar­kets, a hos­pi­tal, banks and canti­nas. vw Puebla even has a pri­vate bus sta­tion with 130 routes to get em­ploy­ees to work. if you’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced the traf­fic here, you’d see why that was a wise de­ci­sion.

in mex­ico, you’d have your arm rapidly bruised play­ing punch-bugg­yno-punch­backs, and the mod­els spot­ted ev­ery­where are mostly the orig­i­nals. Sport­ing vary­ing de­grees of love and de­cay, it points to the fact that while in Canada we drive our cars for an av­er­age of 11 years, in many other parts of the world where the bee­tle has reigned for decades, let­ting them go makes lit­tle eco­nomic sense. that’s a com­pli­ment to the brand, as well as the de­sign.

Which brings us to 2019, and the Fi­nal Edi­tion bee­tle, or the Wolfs­burg Edi­tion in Canada. vw will con­tinue to sell the cur­rent “dune” trim in 2019 in both coupe and con­vert­ible forms, but add the Wolfs­burg Edi­tion — the one that will close the cur­tain on nearly 80 years of au­to­mo­tive his­tory. to the three ex­ist­ing colours avail­able, vw will add a Stonewashed blue — which looks lovely — and Sa­fari uni, re­sem­bling an oat­meal cookie some­one else al­ready ate. Good for hot­ter climes, i’m sure.

avail­able in both coupe and con­vert­ible, you should buy the con­vert­ible. this car was built to be a con­vert­ible, and it’s fun. both sport the same 2.0-litre turbo-four with 174 horse­power, 184 lb.ft. of torque and only a six-speed au­to­matic. This is sad — no more stick­shift from the car on which many of us learned to drive stan­dard. Who didn’t know some­one who paid $500 bucks for a bee­tle, then sold it two years later for the same $500?

Fuel econ­omy is the same on both — 9.0 l/100 kilo­me­tres in the city, 7.1 on the high­way and 8.2 com­bined — and in­te­ri­ors are nicely ap­pointed and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the seg­ment. The larger, leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel is nice af­ter the re­cent trend to smaller ones. Canada will see stan­dard GPS nav­i­ga­tion, blindspot de­tec­tion, rear crosstraf­fic alert and rain-sens­ing wipers, among other now in­dus­try-stan­dard kit like heated seats.

For $24,475 for the coupe or $28,475 for the con­vert­ible, you get a com­pe­tent ride that han­dles well, has good pick up and works well in tight cities. the front seats bend for­ward and then stand up, like an a ac­com­mo­dat­ing the­atre­goer when you show up late and have to get by. it’s a nice touch for a two door, and es­pe­cially for those among us who are less bendy as we age. the rear seat is ok for adults, but not for ex­tended jour­neys. Throw the kids back there.

there’s just one avail­able ex­tra pack­age on both ve­hi­cles — the $1,750 Style Pack­age. this bumps the wheels to vw’s 18-inch disc style, a white lego­like ad­di­tion i haven’t de­cided if i like or not. bi-xenon head­lights with led drls, led tail­lights, front sport seats with di­a­mond-stitched leather and front fog lights round out the pack­age add-ons.

Cel­e­brat­ing the end of an era in a city cel­e­brat­ing their day of the dead is a wink and nod, fit­ting well with those mad men-era ad cam­paigns. volk­swa­gen gets it, and is smil­ing.

PHOTO By LOR­RAINE SOM­MER­FELD/DRIV­ING.CA

2019 Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle Fi­nal Edi­tion

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