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I’ve been driving Volkswagens now, well, for as long as I’ve been driving. More than half my entire life, come to think of it. And if there’s one thing that has always been true of VW enthusiasts, it’s that we seem to be resistant to change. We are like the Amish of the automotive world; we choose a point in history to set up camp and advance our culture no further. If there is any doubt, just ask an air-cooled enthusiast to tell you what he thinks of a water-cooled VW.
So here we are, once again facing a model-generation gap, and a group of so-called Volkswagen enthusiasts have chosen not to cross it based solely on a few rough press pictures displayed on their computer monitors. As if anyone could pick up all the nuances of any sculpture or three-dimensional object by seeing it in only two dimensions.
All of the most recent German cars, whether from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi or VW, look distinctively different from any of their predecessors. Collectively they are redefining the “German Look.” BMW especially has taken a lot of criticism for its new design language, which has alienated many of its enthusiasts. But despite taking automotive design to new places, all of these new models have held true their companies’ core values underneath. In other words, their beauty is still more than skin deep.
So the real question is not merely a matter of looks, but whether the new Jetta will remain true to its heritage. Will it continue to be the most affordable German sedan in this market? Yes. Will it offer incredible value compared to other European sedans? Yes. Will it still be fun to drive and at the same time totally practical? By all accounts, yes. In fact, everyone with whom we have spoken who has driven the new Jetta insists that it will be an even more engaging driver’s car than any recent model, even with its base engine.
But looks are important, you say. I agree, there must be some basic physical attraction before you dive into this new relationship. If you are turned off by the initial impression that the new Jetta looks like some of its Japanese competitors, I would ask you to reserve final judgment until you have seen it in person. My guess is that you’ll discover a distinctly German character that can’t be conveyed in a 2D digital image.
We’re a little over a month away from the first public introductions at Los Angeles and Detroit. All I ask is that we, as Volkswagen enthusiasts, keep an open mind and be not afraid to cross into new territory.
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