A few weeks back, Paul posed the question, “Which Car Would You Most Hate To Be Forced To Drive For A Year?” I’d like to turn that question on its head, because after 12-1/2 years and over 216,000 miles, I recently decided on a successor to my 2000 TDI New Beetle—which I plan to drive for at least the next ten years…
Now before I reveal my selection and why I made it, I have to give a little backstory. I’m a long-time Volkswagen
owner nut, and got my first taste with a 1971 Type II Campmobile. The Bus was purchased the same day I proposed to my wife just over 25 years ago (that’s a whole ‘nother story right there). In fact, the very first article I wrote for CC was the story of The Mayfield Belle, which I used as a daily driver for the last four or five of the eight years I owned her.
The Belle was succeeded by a 1964 Type I Sedan, which I named Eeyore (as in “Oh no, another hill.”). I bought it from the son of the original owner who purchased it new in Atlanta, Georgia. It took a few weeks to get all 40 horses pulling together, and afterwards, Eeyore was my daily driver in Atlanta’s notorious rush-hour traffic (and summer heat) for the next six years.
At that point I decided I needed something with a/c and a few more horses under the hood (not to mention a few less hours per month of me under the hood). That’s where Herbie came into the picture. The TDI diesel was intriguing (diesels were not yet popular in the late ’90s/early ’00s), and I ended up getting a pretty good deal on mine—it had been on the dealer lot for several months and they were quite happy to move it at a reasonable discount from sticker (the internets were just starting to become really useful for car pricing research).
We ended up moving to the Middle West the next year, and as my new job included access to a vinyl sign cutter, creation of a Herbie tribute car was a natural next step. My relationship with Herbie has had its ups and downs—VW reliability was pretty abysmal from the late ’90s through early ’00s, and I experienced most of the common problems. Once I learned to avoid our local VW Service department (after they nearly bricked my engine with a shoddily-done timing belt replacement), things went pretty good. It helps that there’s a great online forum for DIY TDI owners (TDIClub.com), too.
Oh—in addition to the New Beetle, I had also picked up a 1962 Sunroof in Georgia which I had completely disassembled by the time we relocated. It’s slowly coming back together out in the workshop.
When this 1963 Sedan came up for sale near our farm, it, too, ended up following me home (on a tow rope) for the princely sum of $600. It’s being restored alongside the ’62—but neither of these will be daily drivers!
That brings us up-to-date and back to Herbie’s successor. As the wife currently drives an ’05 Town & Country, we’re well set when we need to haul people or loads of stuff on a long trip. For farm-related bulky or messy loads, I have a beater ’95 F-150 4WD which is the successor to the ’69 F-100 in which both I and my boys learned to drive.
Having those bases covered has generally left the selection of my work/daily driver fairly open to whatever I wanted, within reason from a budget, insurance and practicality standpoint (motorcycles and Corvettes are verboten, for example). Additionally, Beth and I both hit the mid-century mark recently, and Sons Number One and Two are nearing the point of marrying and moving out to start their own families, so we’re not far from the “empty nest” season of life, and I’m looking forward to doing a bit more traveling with Beth at that point.
As I began thinking about a replacement, I briefly toyed with the idea of a Mini, smart or Fiat 500. However, after being used to ~45mpg fuel economy, the idea of dropping back into low-mid 30mpg territory really wasn’t that palatable, and the Fiat “Sport” I test drove last year left me somewhat cold, being tinny-feeling and sluggish compared to the torquey TDI I’m used to. The USA-spec smart is a huge disappointment compared to its European brothers, which are offered with diesels that get 50+ mpg. Besides, I was leaning a little more toward something a bit roomier and more comfortable for those weekend road trips.
At the other end of the spectrum, I also ran the numbers on a full-size pickup, which would have replaced both the New Beetle and my beater farm truck. Had I gone this route, I would have ordered a 4WD diesel with manual transmission and standard cab/longbed configuration—and only the Ram 2500/3500 could be optioned out that way, to the tune of a bit over $42,000. No thanks…
I had, of course, considered another VW or even an Audi, and looked pretty closely at the TDI Jetta Sportwagen as well as the Audi A3 (not available with TDI/manual, tho). But again, neither was really “speaking to me.”
Somehow I kept returning to the recently redesigned Beetle each time I rejected a contender (surprised?), but the spy photos that had been floating around in late 2011 had always left me cold—the proportions looked all wrong and the car just looked ‘frumpy.’ But when actual Beetles started showing up at our local dealer, I began to change my mind—they looked much better in production form and especially in person. By mid-2012, I was really starting to settle in on a TDI Beetle coupe as my choice.
I started researching pricing and options, and was prepared to start the negotiation process when I happened to read a rumor that VW would be offering the upcoming 2013 Beetle Convertible with the TDI—apparently the first diesel convertible ever offered in the USA (or at least not in a very long time). Within a couple months, the rumors had been confirmed by Volkswagen itself, and I then knew for sure what my next car would be.
I spent about a month negotiating prices with several dealers and came to agreement with Sierra Motors in Ottowa, IL right before Christmas, when I placed the order for the car. It took three months for it to arrive, and we went to pick it up in late March, 2013. This car will also be called Eeyore, in honor of my ’64.
We’ve only had a few days warm enough to enjoy top-down motoring so far, but things will warm up soon enough. The car is pleasant to drive and rides like a much larger car than my New Beetle (which handles like it’s on rails in comparison). Mileage is a bit lower at around 41mpg (based on two tanks of fuel to date).
So in making my decision, I traded a good bit of utility and luggage space for the convertible feature, but my thinking is (having always wanted a convertible) that this decade of my life is probably the last time it will “make sense,” so why not? It will make a great road trip car and get exceptional fuel economy, while keeping my ~26-year run of driving Volkswagens (18 in Beetles) unbroken.
In the end, choosing my daily driver for the next ten years involved balancing different desires, tradeoffs and constraints. I’m super happy with my selection, and am looking forward to new stories yet to be written behind Eeyore’s steering wheel.
So that’s the choice that was right for me… what would you choose to drive for the next decade?
(note that you are not limited to selecting a new car…)