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One might be tempted to think of the Beetle GLX Turbo as an economy version of the extraordinary Audi TT (“Motion,” July 1999). After all, the GLX uses the same platform as the TT — albeit with a slightly less powerful engine. You can think of the Turbo as a “stealth” TT. And it’s almost as much fun to drive. Beetles are so uniquely beautiful that they’re not hard to spot. But the GLX Turbo is distinguished by a standard glass sunroof and pop-up rear spoiler at the base of its roofline. As with its upscale cousin the Porsche 911, the Beetle’s spoiler is speed-sensitive — asserting itself only when spirited acceleration necessitates additional downward force on the rear wheels. There’s also a switch to keep the spoiler deployed in case you’re just whizzing around town and feel the need to look like you’re going fast. Some of us know how important that can be. Drive any car in the current Porsche/Audi/Volkswagen family, and you’ll know these guys have got the mojo working. The GLX’s 150 horsepower, 5-valve, 4-cylinder turbo engine blows off the line fast enough to burn front-wheel drive rubber. The 5-speed manual (there’s also a 4-speed automatic) is crisp and well synchronized. And braking and cornering are exemplary for this price class. The front seats are comfortable, supportive, and almost infinitely adjustable. Headroom is enormous, and shoulder room is good. But the cramped center console is annoying, to say the least. The GLX comes with a standard front armrest that obstructs manual shifting, and its three (why three?) front cup holders are hard to reach without bumping the shift lever. This is less of an issue if you choose the automatic transmission, but the armrest and cup holders appear to be ill-conceived afterthoughts on an otherwise very smartly designed car. Unlike its forebears, the GLX Turbo is actually quite substantial. And as nimble as it is, the Beetle always transmits the reassuring feeling of a well-constructed vehicle. The fit, finish, and color palates are nothing less than superb. And the list of standard features is astonishing: alloy wheels, ABS, leather, heated everything, power everything, projector halogen headlamps, antitheft system, and a combination of airbags, restraints, and crumple-zone features that make the Beetle one of the safest cars of its size. The verdict: The Beetle GLX Turbo is the smart alternative for those who crave Porsche-style handling in a sensible, economical package. The Beetle Turbo’s quality construction, rich colors, and unique profile add more than a dash of excitement to everyday driving. M.S.R.P.: $21,600 (add $875 for a 4-speed automatic transmission) Mileage: 25 city/31 highway (standard); 22 city/27 highway (automatic) Warranty: You’ll need that legal training of yours to decipher this convoluted but comprehensive document.

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