In A Time of Nostaglia, VW Introduces the Inevitable

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The More Things Change, the more they stay the same. For many years, American consumers have been embracing the retro movement. Athletic shoes, team jerseys, and advertising posters led the way, and now automobiles have followed.

VW gets most of the credit for turning back the clock with the new Beetle in the late 1990s. Dodge has followed with a new Charger fit for Bo and Luke Duke, and a Challenger with even stronger ties to its muscle car roots is also in the works for 2008. Other automakers like Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Bugatti retain many of the styling cues that have historically defined their cars. A look at several upcoming models will confirm that many current designers demonstrate a great reverence for the past.

So in the midst of this nostalgic movement, where’s the Mircobus? VW has a design and even a prototype, but a release date has not been written in stone. While this new version’s styling will be reminiscent of the sixties counterculture icon, that is where the similarities end. Volkswagen plans to incorporate a powerful engine and a myriad of luxury items: concepts which were alien to the Microbus predecessor.

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Many of us may be too young to recall the first and second generation VW people-haulers in action. However, a used Microbus is not to hard to find today, with many well-kept models priced around $5,000. What you’ll get is a stylish eight to ten passenger van with a rear-mounted 47 horsepower engine. So buckle up.

Several variations were available through the years. Later models like the Vanagon and EuroVan received more power and additional convenience features, but they were not as popular in the United States. VW was never able not offer a reasonably priced competitor in the ever-expanding minivan market.

VW will not address this shortcoming with the next Microbus. The new model will be equipped like a Passat, and receive an interior finish similar to the Toureg. The price is expected to be in the $30,000-40,000 range. Like the new Beetle, affordability is no longer a selling point. So the question is: can VW find a market?

A 3.2 liter front-mounted V-6 will supply 230 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 is twice the size of the original engine, and it generates five times the power. Other revolutionary additions include 20 inch wheels, a five speed automatic transmission with tiptronic, a rotating middle row of seats, and an entertainment system with four 7-inch screens. The rearview mirror is replaced by fifth 7-inch LCD screen which displays images sent from a rear-mounted camera.

The German automaker has not yet announced plans for a new VW Thing or Rabbit Pickup. Every retro movement should have some limits.

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