The VW Beetle sings its swan song with Final Edition

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer

Today is a sad day: This is likely my last review ever of a Volkswagen Beetle; the Bug will be discontinued after 2019. It’s an especially sanguine feeling because, like millions of drivers, I have fond memories of the car. I’ve of course driven many over the years, but I remember riding in the back of my uncle’s orange Beetle in the ‘70s… I was at the unveiling of the New Beetle in 1998 … I owned a 2005 edition for six years. But the car we have here may be my favorite of the bunch.

You’re looking at the 2019 VW Beetle Final Edition, which is a fancy way of saying the Beetle is going out in a fancy way. The shape defines iconic, essentially the same for 80 years, but it’s snazzy in its final form. LED driving lights, 18-in. white disc alloy wheels and rear spoiler distinguish it. Of course, the bug-eye headlamps, horseshoe taillamps, bulging fenders and gently curved beltline remain. A beige canvas top contrasts with metallic paint. Classy.

Click open the door and scoot inside where body color dash and door panels connect to the original Beetles — as does the Kaferfach upper glovebox with satin silver latch. Weather permitting, press one button to retract the roof. VW keeps it simple with large analog gauges and a flat bottom steering wheel. Luxuries come in the form of heated diamond-stitched leather seats, dual zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and swipescreen for audio and navigation. I could listen to the crisp Fender audio system for the next 80 years.

Safety is enhanced by a rearview camera and blind spot warnings.

If you’re only familiar with driving classic Beetles, I should tell you there’s no chirpy little engine hanging out back. Nope — the front-drive car goes forth with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder dishing out 174 horses and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, all routed through a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Power is dropped smoothly to the road. It’s no rocket, but there’s plenty to move this compact with a sense off vigor. Step lightly to see 26/33-MPG city/hwy.

The Beetle cruises comfortably on its four-wheel independent suspension. Even with the top deployed, there’s very little cowl shake, and the car handles as good as a little car should. In typical VW fashion, the suspension just rumbles over rough city streets and washboard country roads with little drama, but turns crisply when commanded. It’s a car you can enjoy on a thousand-mile journey or just to the ice cream shop with kids in the back.

I’ve relished many Beetles. There was the Dune we reviewed last year, and a base baby blue one I drove in California four years ago. But none were as elegant as the Final Edition. So why is VW killing it? Well, it’s a very good car in a crossover world. Which makes me wonder why VW didn’t echo the Fiat 500X and turn the Beetle into a cool little crossover. With the advent of electric vehicles, I bet the car will return again without a gasoline engine. It’s too hard to imagine an automotive world without a VW Beetle. Given a base price of $20,895 (or $30,890 for our test car), you don’t have to imagine your garage without one.