2012 Volkswagen Beetle TDI: Oil-Burning Bug to Have Debut at Chicago Auto Show

Volkswagen previewed a diesel-powered Beetle TDI Thursday, scheduled to be officially introduced at the Chicago auto show next week. The automobile is the third model of the redesigned Beetle, which went on sale last fall with 2.5-liter and turbocharged 2-liter gasoline-engine versions.

The Beetle TDI is powered by the same 2-liter turbodiesel currently available in the Jetta, Golf and Passat, rated at 140 horsepower. Low-speed torque is abundant, with 236 pound-feet available at less than 2,000 r.p.m. Volkswagen projects fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon in city and 39 m.p.g. in highway driving. Such numbers, though competitive with compact models like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Sonic, would not make the vehicle a contender for the small-car economy crown, let alone among the other diesel models produced by VW.

Volkswagen did not offer projected sales figures for the TDI, but Corey Proffitt, a spokesman for VW, said in a telephone interview that the model was expected to account for a similar portion of total Beetle sales as the Passat TDI does for overall Passat sales, about 20 percent.

Pricing has not been announced, but Volkswagen’s other diesel models command a premium of roughly $4,500-$6,000 over their gasoline-burning equivalents. Should the same hold true for the Beetle TDI, a sticker topping $25,000 would be likely.
Like most modern oil burners, the Volkswagen engine relies on direct-injection and turbocharging to generate power far in excess of the normally aspirated diesels of yesteryear. An iron cylinder block, forged-steel crankshaft and piston oil cooling help manage the high cylinder pressure and combustion temperature inherent to diesels.

To meet the stringent nitrogen oxides emission standards of the United States, the engine utilizes an exhaust after-treatment system consisting of three catalytic converters and a particulate filter. The need for after treatment and stout underpinnings contribute to the premium price typically commanded by diesel-powered automobiles in America.

The Beetle TDI will be available with either a 6-speed manual transmission or Volkswagen’s dual-clutch 6-speed automatic.

Redesigned for the 2012 model year, the Beetle is wider and longer than its immediate predecessor, known as the New Beetle and sold between 1998 and 2011. Gone are the arched roof and circular shapes of the front and rear fenders. Volkswagen says the look is more masculine.

Given the trucking and heavy-equipment associations with diesel engines, the TDI badge on the Beetle’s rear lift gate could help reinforce VW’s talking points.

The Beetle TDI will be offered in three packages when it arrives at dealerships this summer: TDI, TDI with Sunroof and TDI with Sunroof, Sound and Navigation. (The sound option doesn’t refer to diesel rattle, but rather a premium audio system.) All Beetle TDI models are equipped with power windows, keyless entry, Bluetooth and other premium features.

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