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Volkswagen: LA Auto Show

There are two ways of looking at the Volkswagen stand at this year’s LA Auto Show. It either displays a wide array of product, with its futuristic concept at one end and retro-inspired Beetles at the other. Or it shows a lack of focus. Either way, it illustrates that you can never please everyone all the time. At least the cars here are interesting.

Volkswagen Golf GTE Sport Concept

This is part racing car, part plug-in hybrid. Like a racer, a lot of light (yet still strong) carbon fiber is used in its construction, which makes it all the more able to exploit a total of 395 horsepower, plus a breathtaking 494 lb-ft of torque from two electric motors and a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine.

Packing all-wheel drive and scissor-opening doors (like Lamborghini cars), along with the ability to hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in just 4.3 seconds then zip up to a top speed of 174 mph, this car can also go 31 miles in electric-only mode and is programmed to run without the combustion engine as much as possible.

Sure it’s a concept, but it shows VW is looking seriously at electric power and alternative construction materials. This kind of technology could find its way into street cars probably sooner than one might imagine. BMW is already blazing that trail with the i3 and i8.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Denim

This model evokes the old ’70s-era Jeans Beetle. Production is capped at 2,000 units, divided down the middle into Stonewashed Blue or Pure White color schemes, with a dark-blue fabric roof textured to look like denim. The interior is upholstered with light-blue fabric and jeans-style seat pockets, even with those iconic little red tabs (labeled with “Beetle” in tiny print).

Under the hood is a 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Among the standard equipment is a rearview camera, Bluetooth and the latest iteration of VW’s infotainment system. It goes on sale in early 2016, with pricing to be announced closer to that time. VW describes this as a “value model,” the implication being that optioning out a regular Beetle to a similar level would be more expensive.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

This is the company’s other special run unveiled in Los Angeles, inspired by the classic Baja Bugs. The Dune is differentiated by large air intakes, polished aluminum rocker panels, a rear wing and a rear diffuser/skid plate. Ride height is raised by half an inch or so and the track widened by a similar amount. The serious business of propulsion is dealt with by the same 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine found in the Denim version.

The list of standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera and the latest generation of VW’s infotainment system. Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto) is also part of the package. The Dune comes in Sandstorm Yellow, Pure White and Deep Black Pearl as a coupe or a convertible. The coupe version goes on sale early 2016, and the convertible arrives later in the year. Pricing will be announced closer to that the time.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More

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