Gallery: The Desert Dingo Class 11 Beetle

As one of three automakers supporting drivers in Red Bull Global Ralllycross, Volkswagen brought a special display of racing and off-road vehicles to the Detroit doubleheader July 25-26, 2015. Scott Speed and Tanner Foust both compete in VW Beetles with Andretti Autosport. While the record-setting Jetta Hybrid LSR and Jetta TDI Cup Car were both pretty cool, they didn’t catch the eye quite like the Desert Dingo Class 11 Beetle.

Desert Dingo Class 11 Beetle

This isn’t the actual 1107 – according to the Desert Dingo blog, it’s currently being prepped for Vegas 2 Reno – but it’s 1115 wrapped with the same graphics and dubbed 1107B. No matter – the air-cooled 1.6L four-cylinder 1969 Beetle is beyond cool. With some changes to the engine and transmission, 1107b is equipped with desert racing tires and Bilstein suspension to handle tough off-road desert races such as the Mint 400 and Baja 1000.

If you’re going to GRC in Washington DC August 15, be sure to check it out as it will be there as well. In the meantime, here’s a full gallery.

Higgins and Drew Dominate at New England Forest Rally

For the 25th anniversary of the New England Forest Rally based in Newry, Maine –  and encompassing rally stages in both Maine and near Errol, New Hampshire – speculation was high. Subaru’s rally team –  Dave Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew – were so far undefeated this season, but some formidable competition was posing a serious challenge. Would the streak continue to win the championship with Adam Yeoman (2011 Rally America Rookie of the Year) and Jordan Schulze, the inimitable Ken Block with Alex Gelsomino, Dave Sterckx with Renaud Jamoul, Nick Roberts / Rhianon Gelsomino, and team mate Travis Pastrana and Chrissie Beavis in the mix?


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In short – yes. And there was some bad rally juju for the others along the way. After hanging tight in second place, FY Racing’s Yeoman and Schulze were out after Stage 10 with a ball joint failure. Sterckx and Jamoul had a flat on day one and lost three minutes, then on the second day – in stage 11 of 13 – lost another two minutes to an electrical issue, knocking them out of podium contention.

As early as Stage 2, Pastrana / Beavis were facing some disappointment; the car had some frantic repairs on the side of Route 5 heading to the start of the stage, arriving around four minutes late. They couldn’t continue, however, and after a couple of donuts for the fans and marshalls hanging out at the start, it was back to service for the team – Pastrana saying that they would definitely be back on Saturday to start Stage 4.

Pastrana Donut

Block and Gelsomino weren’t without their own challenges. Block struggled with some engine issues, and had to finish the sixth stage with a throttle pedal zip-tied together after losing a disagreement with a bank. Roberts / Gelsomino had a flat in Stage 1, rolled in Stage 2, then the engine lost power in Stage 5 and they couldn’t continue after stalling on the way to service.

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Ultimately, Higgins and Drew handily maintained their winning streak coming in first overall to win the championship, with Block / Gelsomino in second, and Pastrana / Beavis making up some incredible time for the third place.

Beyond the battle for the top three podium spots and the chance to spray some champagne, there was a whole lot of other things going on at NEFR. Lucy Block, married to some guy named Ken, drove an Ford Fiesta R2 with the best livery this side of the Martini-inspired Porsche.

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M-Sport partnered with partnered with Team O’Neil to introduce some new Fiestas to the American market with Ramana Lagemann driving a Ford Fiesta R5 2000cc, and  Brendan Reeves piloting the R2 1000cc. Ken Block is also in an M-Sport, the Fiesta HFHV.

NEFR-Ramana

Another surprise entry to NEFR was Colombian Gustavo Yacaman, better known for driving a Ligier LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship. While he competed in GRC Lites in 2013, NEFR was his first stage rally, racing in a 2WD 2009 B-Spec Honda Fit.

The New England Forest Rally is held in otherwise serene forests on either side of the Maine and New Hampshire border chock full of beautiful views, thick pine trees, lots and lots of mosquitos, deer flies, and the looming spectre of a wayward moose. Fortunately, there are way more spectators than mooses, and it gets quite crowded from the Parc Expose to the final stage. Congratulations to all winners, both national and regional – and congratulations to the New England Forest Rally for 25 years of success.

How to go ChumpCar racing without getting dirty

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For many people involved in crap can style racing such as ChumpCar or Le Mons, a big part of the draw is putting together a race car on the cheap, by yourself or more likely with some buddies. For many others though, there are obstacles such as time (you gotta work to pay for racing), family commitments, lack of garage space or even lack of mechanical skills.

For those guys, there are shops like DriveTeq, who will prepare a race car, bring it to the track and make sure you are ready to take the green flag.

Our buddies at Wheels on Edge caught up with DriveTeq at Calabogie Motorsports Park for the recent ChumpCar race, where they had prepared a sweet looking first gen VW Rabbit for a client. Check it out.

World’s Fastest Car Review: Enviro Dad and the VW Touareg TDI

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It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted an episode of the World’s Fastest Car Review, so I figure I had better get going on some production!

Today’s episode comes to us from Eric Novak, who is also known as the Enviro Dad. His kids are having a tough time figuring out how to say the name of Volkswagen‘s SUV.

Lucky GTI driver uninjured after massive crash at Nurburgring

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Unlike the Toronto area kid who chose to explore his GT-R’s upper limits on a public road yesterday, the guy you are about to see was doing it right. He took his Mk5 VW GTI to the track. That track however is the famously unforgiving Nurburgring and when he needed to be forgiven, the Green Hell was not in the mood to help out.

The YouTube poster reports that the driver was unhurt, but was taken to hospital to get checked out anyway. His Golf is pretty much finished.

Introducing The World’s Fastest Car Review

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Regular readers may have enjoyed my 15 Seconds With series, but the time has come to morph that into something new. Something even more fun. It is called The World’s Fastest Car Review.

Instead of just my ugly mug all of the time, the WFCR is going to feature super fast reviews from some of my auto journo friends too. If you have an idea, whip out your phone and make your own. Send it to me at thegarageguy at rogers.com and I will make you part of the project!

The first episode comes from Russ Bond at Painkillerz. Russ got a little bit confused about the name of Volkswagen’s hottest Bug.

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I might be able to press the shutter release and string together a few sentences, but I can’t create any sort of graphic content to save my life. Even an attempt at drawing a VW Beetle ends up looking more like a deformed turtle, so you might say that I am somewhat in awe of people who can draw. Even more so who can bring their images to life.

For his final project of the 3D Animation and Visual Effects program in Vancouver Film School, Malek Rizkallah turned to the crash test dummy to showcase his creativity. When an unexpected spark between two dummies occurs, Rizkallah brings life to the inanimate beings who then play out a short love affair that is fitting for a crash test.

It’s a shame they weren’t wearing seatbelts, or the VW Scirocco might have saved them.

Review: 2014 Volkswagen CC

164666342252ab4e6bc1fa5A couple years ago, Volkswagen, already one of the biggest auto manufacturers in the world, announced that they wanted to step sales up further, especially here in America. Here’s the strange thing though-when VW made this pledge, there was nothing wrong with their cars. Far from it. Fun to drive, expertly engineered, and boasting near luxury car standards on the interiors, the powers that be at VW saw one problem. You certainly got what you paid for, but the reality was, Volkswagens cost a little more than its competition. The brass at VW North America seemed to think this was their Achilles heel.  The solution? An all new Jetta and Passat, except this time we’ll sell them at a much lower price, drastically reduce the quality of the materials in the cabin in which we had grown such a great reputation for, and offer the Americans a cheap but roomy interior. They’ll never notice. And by golly, they were right. Us Americans are really that stupid. Sales went up because VW was now selling cheaper, but inferior cars than before.

But not all Americans. Before VW decided they wanted to conquer the sales charts, they had a hard core fan base here, who loved and embraced their cars because they were simply excellent cars. While all the media focuses on the ‘American-ized’ VW’s, Volkswagen still quietly offers cars for the loyal folks who have been long time fans and customers. The Volkswagen CC is one of those cars. Originally sold here as the Passat CC, VW wisely distanced the CC by dropping the Passat moniker once the Passat sold here took a new path.

The CC is part of a small, but elite group of German sedans whose styling is meant to mimic that of a coupe, albeit in four door form. The CC is easily the most handsome of all VW’s currently sold here, with a level of class and sophistication it’s siblings cannot even come close to matching. In 2013 the CC received some minor styling revisions front and rear, but with such timeless styling, VW has not tinkered much with the look of the car. Sure, I love the silhouette of a Mercedes-Benz CLS, but cannot afford it. The VW CC offers the same styling concept at a much more approachable price.

85232746752ab4e0ed00a8Inside the CC, you can set aside any reservations you may have about VW’s appetite for cost cutting. This is the VW you know and love from ten years ago. Excellent build quality, and rich feeling materials. The design is clean, simple and elegant. This is an easy cockpit to get to know and use, but I find VW’s infotainment/navigation system a step behind the competition. Up front, the CC is plenty roomy and extremely comfortable. However, there is a trade-off for the swoopy exterior. Rear seat headroom isn’t great, and the trunk space is merely adequate. The good news is that VW ditched the center console that ran the length of the car front to rear, so the CC now can seat five adults instead of four.

The CC is offered with two engines, the first a 2.0L turbo four cylinder rated at 200hp. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG automated manual. The Garage last sampled a CC back in 2010, and we had the turbo four with the DSG, and for a car this size, I came away satisfied. This time around, our CC was fitted with a 3.6L V-6 rated at 280hp, paired to a six-speed automatic and 4Motion all-wheel drive. VW offers the CC with a diesel engine in Europe, but not here. Sure, the six under the hood adds a little more refinement, but considering how well the turbo four performed, I’d save my money and take that motor over the V-6 and enjoy better fuel economy and only losing a couple tenths of a second on the 0-60mph run. The CC is comfortable and compliant, but is not what I would call a sports sedan. Quiet and comfortable, the CC was a perfect accomplice to cruise the interstate for a family party in north eastern Connecticut.

73663073352ab4e7917163VW offers the CC in Sport, R-Line, and Executive trim levels. Our test car was the CC V-6 4Motion Executive, otherwise known as the top dog in the CC family. Standard equipment included navigation, premium Dynaudio sound system, panoramic sunroof, rear view camera with park distance control, bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, dual zone auto climate control, power rear sun shade, leather seats, and front heated and ventilated seats with driver massage. Total price comes to $43,310USD, including destination charges. You can argue that is a lot for a VW, but I dare you to find a sedan that looks this good, with this level of content for less money.

There has been plenty of hand-wringing about VW going mainstream here in the US, and coming from someone whose first car was a VW, and has owned more VW’s than any other brand, I can’t say I am impressed with the latest cars. But, when a car like the CC is dropped off at my door, it is with a sigh of relief, and a reminder that the folks at Volkswagen still remember how to build a great car with the solidity, elegance, poise, and luxury that once defined Volkswagen’s presence in North America.

How To Buy A New Car Part II

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Welcome back to my story of leasing a new car for my wife. Part I detailed how, even though General Motors had cleared me for $2,500 off sticker price, two Chevy dealers did not honor the discount, with no explanation whatsoever. Our other consideration was a four door Subaru Impreza. Again, Subaru gave me employee pricing, and I approached Dan Perkins Subaru in Milford, CT. To his credit, our salesman honored the discount, but said he could do better, and he did. But, as I stated in my first post, I wanted no down payment apart from the first month’s installment. And Dan Perkins was having none of it. Even with exceptional credit, they demanded a substantial down payment.

Even accepting their terms, my largest hurdle was communication. The sales person I met gave me his card, and I e-mailed him the options and colors we were interested in. No response. I called the dealer, and spoke to him, but never got a call back. I visited the dealership in person, after my wife and I cruised the lot looking for cars we might be interested in. He wasn’t available, and the sales person who was available told me all the cars I looked at had been moved, and the dealership was closing soon, and I would have to come back. I again e-mailed my first sales person, specifying the Impreza we were interested in. No reply. And I know the e-mails were going through because I never received an undeliverable notice. But what burned me is Dan Perkins had me running around desperately around their lot looking for the car I wanted, and when I could not find it, told me to leave. When I sold Honda’s, the rule was as long as a customer was there, we stayed. Period. We never turned anyone way. Ever. With a complete lack of service from Dan Perkins Subaru, we threw up our hands and gave up. If they couldn’t be bothered to service and take care of us, they did not deserve our business.

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During this awful process, it was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and the VW Beetle Convertible was the sponsored car. My wife has owned a ’92 VW Cabriolet and a ’95 VW Cabrio. Not to mention our romantic relationship started after watching Patrick Dempsey’s ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ movie, where his female interest drive a 1987 VW Cabriolet. It was serendipity, and although pricier than the Cruze and Impreza, I was determined to make it happen. I first called Curran Volkswagen in Stratford, CT. I was told they had one denim blue Convertible in stock, and they refused to discuss price over the phone.

So, we made a trip up to where we leased our 2010 Jetta, at Langan Volkswagen in Meriden, CT. Alexio, our sales person was very helpful, and for the first time in our shopping experience, was determined to find the exact car we wanted, not what was on the lot. It so happened my test car that week was a VW Beetle Convertible Turbo. On our way to and back from a family gathering in rural Connecticut, we were totally sold on the car, now it was a matter of price. I know my wife wanted the car badly, but it was a bit of a stretch from our Jetta. But I had to make it work.

We did get a discount off the sticker price. I then went to Truecar.com and got a slightly lower price than what I was quoted. Langan VW met that price. Then they also honored the discount I received from VW America. In buying a car, timing is everything. Since my wife was happy with the 2.5 inline five cylinder in her Jetta rated at 170hp, paired to a six-speed automatic, I had an ace up my sleeve. The five banger is going away for 2014, to be replaced with a more powerful and fuel efficient turbocharged four cylinder engine. With that in mind, VW wants to dump all remaining five cylinder Beetles.

Alex found us a gorgeous Reflex Silver 2013 VW Beetle Convertible, and my wife could not be happier. Yes, you might find it mad that for a family of three this is our family car, but may I remind you millions of families around the world had the Beetle as their sole car and it worked out just fine. The trunk can hold a week’s worth of groceries. The Beetle has so far worked out great for us, and again I thank Langan VW, and Alex personally for making the buying process as stress free as possible.

 

Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

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Between Asian, American and European auto makers, it is an understatement that the Europeans have been, to put it mildly, reluctant about hybrid technology. What’s not to like about hybrids? Stellar fuel economy is a good thing, right? Sure it is, but keep this in mind: Europeans have been living with mega-high gas prices for decades, and embraced the diesel engine as the fuel-sipping motor of choice. Providing bucket loads of torque, smooth performance and clean emissions that appeal to their domestic market, you can see why European car companies are not throwing all their chips into the hybrid car idea.

And that philosophy works fine…in Europe. In North America, the perception of the diesel engine seems permanently stuck in 1982. Memories of your quirky neighbor’s Mercedes-Benz 240D or Peugeot 505 belching black smoke or your uncle’s Oldsmobile diesel self destructing every 2,000 miles have seemingly left permanent scars on the psyche of the North American car buyer. I will plead with anyone that will hear me that today’s diesels are the model of refinement. No smoke. No self-destruction. Another factor may be that we are simply creatures of habit. Truth be told, not every gas station sells diesel fuel, and with that fact it is justifiable that some buyers would be turned off.

Volkswagen already offers the Jetta with a diesel, and has a loyal following, but they want more. Hence, the Jetta Hybrid. The view from VW seems to be that the car buyer seeking great gas mileage defaults to a hybrid vehicle. Or, to be blunt, the average fuel conscious car buyer is thinking about a Toyota Prius. Not a Jetta TDI. Make no mistake, VW has a solid fan base of its diesels, but taking the long view, VW sees this is as a cult following, while hybrid technology has been more widely accepted on our shores.

To look at the Jetta Hybrid, well, it looks like any Jetta you see on the road every day. It would take a true VW fanatic to tell the difference between this and any run of the mill Jetta. Apart from some hybrid badges, a slightly different front grill, different wheels and a modest rear spoiler, you would never know the difference. And that design language works for many people who like the idea of hybrid technology, but don’t feel the need to shout to the world that they care more about the environment than you. As with all current Jetta’s, it is a fine looking car, even if it has lost some of its German accent in an effort to appeal to more Americans.

IMG_1639While the exterior styling got a tad generic to appeal to more buyers, Volkswagen slashed the price of the Jetta, and no where was that more apparent than the interior. The Jetta Hybrid softens the blow slightly with a padded dash and better armrests, but this is still a far cry from quality of materials seen in Jettas of the past. The keyless ignition button, placed just ahead of the shifter seems like an afterthought and not at all intuitive. The black slab of hard plastic that on the center console with two holes for drinks was more likely designed by an accountant, not an actual interior designer. The contrasting black/light grey leatherette seating surfaces are the main departure from other Jettas. You get the feeling VW management sent a memo saying the interior has to be different somehow, but don’t let it cost us any money. It’s obvious, and VW, you’re not fooling anyone.

The positives of the Jetta’s cabin remain. Seats offer decent comfort, visibility is excellent, and plenty of room is available in the back seat, but again it is disappointing that VW went cheap and deleted the rear seat vents seen on the last generation Jetta. Jettas have always been known for generous trunk space, and among hybrids, the Jetta is at the top of the class. Still, the batteries have to go somewhere, and the Jetta Hybrid loses about four cubic feet of trunk space. That’s not a lot, but it gave me pause as to how I would pack a full-size suitcase.

Hybrids have a well-deserved reputation for being an absolute bore to drive. Thankfully, the Jetta Hybrid is not. Powered by a 1.4L turbocharged four cylinder, along with the electric motor make a combined 170hp, paired to a seven-speed DSG automated manual transmission. In essence, it is the drivetrain that is a hybrid designed for people who hate hybrids. No wheezy, weak-kneed engine coupled to a miserable CVT wailing at 5,000 rpm just to get up a hill here, thank you. VW claims a 0-60mph time of 8.6 seconds, making the Jetta Hybrid one of the quickest on the market for its class. The Jetta Hybrid also has a rear independent suspension, something VW gave up with on lesser Jettas in the interest of cost cutting, but here it returns to better support the extra weight of the batteries. With decent pep, controlled road manners and quiet highway ride, the Jetta Hybrid is an accomplished performer. EPA fuel estimates are 42/48 MPG city/highway, which are impressive figures, but according to the trip computer, I wasn’t even close to attaining those lofty figures.

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The Jetta Hybrid follows the rest of the Jetta family’s trim options with S (factory order only), SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. Our test car was the top of the line SEL Premium. Standard features included SiriusXM satellite radio, dual zone auto climate control, LED tail lights, sunroof, navigation, heated seats, power driver’s seat, Fender premium audio, bi-xenon headlights, rear view camera and 17″ alloy wheels. With a first aid kit as our test car’s sole option, the tally comes in at $32,010USD, including delivery. And that is where the Jetta Hybrid completely loses me. Yes, I understand that hybrid technology comes at a higher price. But this comes in a car that was built to a price. You can buy a 2013 Jetta for less than $17,000. And sitting in this $32,000 Jetta Hybrid, I am constantly reminded of that fact.

With a built-in following of the Jetta TDI, VW is modest about sales expectations at around 5,000 Hybrid sales predicted. Critics and VW purists howled with the new down-market Jetta, but the proof is in the numbers. VW is selling more Jettas. It’s that simple. And, selling more cars is the point. The reality is you can buy a Jetta TDI for a couple grand less, get similar fuel economy, keep the trunk space lost from the battery pack, and not worry about the longevity of said batteries. Again, VW knows that they are doing-hybrids are more widely accepted here than diesels, even if the actual dollars spent for car and fuel point wildly in favor of the diesel. To quote Natalie Merchant, “Give them what they want.” Even if it makes no sense, that is precisely what VW is doing with the Jetta Hybrid.

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