Volkswagen’s Bringing SexyBack

I’m going to admit right now that I am old. Yes, I am old enough to remember the original Volkswagen rear-engine Bugs, with the rattle-clangy suspension and the doors you sometimes had to rope shut and the floors that were allergic to Massachusetts road salt and broke out in rust. (Note: I am not old enough to have driven one of these, but one of my coolest baby-sitters had a blue one. With daisy decals and a peace sign hanging from the rear-view. The 1970s were a scary, scary time.)

But if there’s one thing that leggings, The Producers, and Flavor Flav have taught us, it’s that there’s nothing too offbeat for a comeback. Not even rear-engine drive. And so, in the endless cycle of reincarnation that is automotive design today, Volkswagen is coyly letting it be leaked that they have a rear-engine car in the works. Automobile magazine has the inside English-language scoop on this new spin on an old idea.

According to the German magazine Auto Bild, Volkswagen’s joining other European manufacturers in trying to compete with the Smart Car and the Mini Cooper. However, in the race to get smaller and smaller, Volkswagen has one advantage on its side–years of engineering lightweight, affordable cars with rear-engine drive. And that boost in the rear means more power with a smaller engine. Which translates to fuel efficiency, and that’s an idea looking better and better as gas vaults over the $3/gallon barrier with no end in sight (make that $4 for all of you CarGurus in California).

The leaked stories suggest that the sexy new rear-engine nanocar is the brainchild of Ferdinand Piech, nephew of Ferry Porsche and grand-nephew of Ferdinand Porsche, designer of the original Volkswagen. If so, it’s an interesting switch for Piech, whose tenure as VW’s chairman (from 1993 to 2002) was marked by a move to heftier and more upscale models. On the other hand, that’s where the whole industry was going in those days!

According to Automobile, only two models are slated for release in the US market: a 130-inch two-door sedan and a four-door notchback. Sticker prices are projected between $10,000 and $15,000. No power steering with these little econoboxes; however, the inside sources want to make it clear that an improved stability system will make these cars easier to maneuver and safer than the original Beetles.

I wish I had a great photo of the new/old Volkswagen to show you, but that’s only been released to Auto Bild so far (you can see it here; it’s the very very green one). Instead, this beautiful blue old-school Beetle will have to do; I’ll leave the daisy decals to your imagination!

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