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Blast from the past

Text by Christopher Tan, The Straits Times.
Photo by Kevin Lim, The Straits Times.

Just as you cannot mention pizza without thinking about cheese, you cannot possibly talk about the Beetle without making reference to a time of long hair, tie-dyed T-shirts and free love.

For someone who recalls vividly two of those three things, I can say the latest Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet is a blast from the past in more ways than one. And for that reason alone, it is a groovy car.

Step in and you will see right away the upright fascia and door panels are in sync with the body colour, like many of the original Beetles. A slim dash, an upright glove compartment, a thin-rimmed steering wheel and an array of dials framed by the air-conditioning vents, instrument gauges and steering wheel are a quiet tribute to the minimalist, iconic car baby boomers grew up with.


The Cabriolet somehow deepens the nostalgia. Maybe open-top driving reminds me of the days when car air-conditioning was a rarity and we had to cruise with windows down. The hard-top Beetle is just too well-insulated to be truly retro.

Beyond its uncanny ability to take old-timers back in time, this Beetle offers everything people today love about a Volkswagen. Superb initial quality, perky drivetrain, appealing and functional design, high equipment level.

In the case of the convertible, more. Take its Fender hi-fi, for instance. This sound system works so well with the great outdoors that you would swear the acoustic engineers responsible were surfer dudes (or dudettes).

Indeed, it is so good that my passengers and I decided to go with the top down on a hot and glaring afternoon even when none of us had shades with us.

With the wind in our faces and the sense of speed growing keener with each passing lamp post, no one expects music to be so crisp, so enveloping. But that is exactly what the Fender system offers. With the volume turned up, it sounds as if the band are travelling with us.

The car's powerful air-conditioning helps mitigate the afternoon heat. You still feel the sun on you, but you don't feel the mugginess.

Conversation is out of the question. But who needs conversation when you have verve, wind and choir?

The car is not just for old-timers reminiscing about the past, of course. It has plenty of frills that modern cars provide.

The roof can be opened and closed easily and breezily with one button and there is a familiar infotainment system offering Bluetooth connectivity as well as a reverse camera.

The most prominent and pleasing feature is an instrument cluster atop the dashboard incorporating an oil temperature gauge, turbo boost meter and stopwatch.

This is an excerpt. To read the full article, please click here.

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