Mid-season upgrades: 2014 Beetle drops 2.5L, adopts new 1.8T as its base engine
The arrival of the much improved, smoother, more fuel efficient engine comes with even better news – that there is absolutely no increase in price, which remains at $20,295 for the sedan equipped with a five-speed manual, and $21,395 with the six-speed automatic. The convertible, which is only offered with the automatic box, starts at $25,170 (destination charges of $820 excluded).
Since its introduction back in 2005, the 2.5-liter inline five has taken heat, whether desired or not, for its less than stellar performance. However the biggest criticism has been the lacked of low-end torque, not to mention not being s smooth in operation compared to its four-cylinder contemporaries.
The implementation of the new 1.8T I4 furthers Volkswagen’s leadership in turbocharged and direct-injection technology among volume automakers. Volkswagen first used this combo in U.S.-market gasoline engines in the 2006 Jetta GLI and GTI models. Since then, the EA888 engine has set the benchmark for small-displacement turbocharged engines, while the EA288 clean diesel 2.0L TDI I4 has set the bar for diesel engines since its appearance on the 2009 Jetta.
The vast majority of Volkswagen’s passenger car lineup is now powered by these advanced turbocharged and direct-injection engines, either in diesel or gasoline form. Volkswagen of America predicts that by the end of this year, most of its vehicles will be sold with these engines.
Designed to be lighter and significantly more fuel-efficient, the new 1.8T Gen 3 motor features a number of significant refinements, such as a new thinner walled cylinder block and a cylinder head with an integrated exhaust manifold, in addition to paying special attention towards reducing internal friction. It should be dutifully noted that this engine has nothing in common with the old 1.8T MKIV, which last saw duty in ‘Bug’ form on the 2004 New Beetle. Ironically that engine was the top offering for performance-oriented models more communally known as the Beetle Turbo and Turbo S (with 150-bhp and 180-bhp respectively). The base engine for 1998-2004 Beetles was an anemic 2.0L 114-bhp (known in VW circles as the 2-point slow), which helped define new meaning to the word ‘slug’ as in ‘slug bug’
Essentially the new 1.8T is a downsized variant of the 2.0Tsi, benefiting from all the tricks that the larger unit offers, which includes an integrated exhaust manifold, in addition to being more efficient during engine warm-up. While the 1.8T produces the same 170-horsepower rating as the 2.5L it replaces, it benefits with increased torque from 157 lb-ft, to 184 lb.-ft., delivered at a 1,500 rpms. The trade-off, which barely warrants a mention, is a low-down grunt power curve that flattens out over 4,500 rpm.
Another advantage of the new engine is smoother rev band with arguably a much more athletic sounding exhaust note, similar to that of the larger 2.0T. The 1.8T is also significantly more fuel efficient, achieving an EPA rating of 36 mpg on the highway while using lower octane regular unleaded. Both the five-speed manual and 6-speed automatic maintain a consistent 2,000 RPM at 70 mph, which factors into the improvement in the highway fuel economy.
Volkswagen claims that most 1.8T customers will prefer the 6-speed automatic over the higher-tech dual-clutch DSG unit of the 2.0T. VW claims superior fuel economy with the five-speed manual gearbox, versus the six-speed automatic, but the decision seems to be more as cost-cutting measure than anything else.
The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and has a lever-actuated manual mode, and the five-speed rows through its gears without a hiccup, though the clutch action is very light, as typical Volkswagen. The manual not only offers quicker acceleration but gains an extra mile per gallon rating of 26 mpg city, versus 25 mpg for the automatic. The gains in fuel economy are significant: EPA estimates are 24 MPG city and 34 MPG highway with an automatic transmission.
The new 1.8T has a peak output of 170 horsepower at 4,800 to 6,200 rpm, matching the rating of the outgoing 2.5L I5, but delivers optimum power at 700 fewer revolutions. The new engine offers seven pound-feet more torque at 184 lb-ft, at just 1,500 rpm - a substantial decrease from 2,750. The torque curve is strong and flat, with the peak being delivered from 1,500 to 4,750 rpm. All 1.8T Beetle models now share the electric power steering of the Jetta TDI and GLI, in lieu of the hydraulic setup of the 2.5 model. Also included as part of the engine upgrade is an independent multilink rear suspension that’s used on European-spec Jettas and the GLI, which replaces the former torsion-beam setup.
The new 1.8T also returns better EPA estimated fuel economy. Equipped with the six-speed automatic now achieves an EPA rating of 25/33 city/hwy mpg, up from 22/29. For the 6-speed manual, the EPA city/combined/highway fuel economy ratings have improved from 22/25/31 mpg to 24/27/33 mpg. The convertible mileage rating jumps from 21/23/27 mpg to 24/27/32 mpg - a 19 percent increase in the estimated highway fuel economy.
Every Volkswagen comes with a limited 3-year/36,000 mile factory warranty, along with no-charge scheduled Carefree Maintenance, which covers scheduled oil changes, tire rotations, and much more for 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.
All North American designated Beetles are built in Silao, Mexico, plant, which is part of Volkswagen’s ongoing $5 billion investment in North America. It also has the distinction of being the largest automotive assembly plant on the continent.