Jay Leno, US TV star and one of the world’s greatest car collectors, became one of the first people outside Volkswagen to drive the new Beetle during a visit to Volkswagen’s headquarters at Wolfsburg.
Because of his filming commitments, Leno rarely travels outside the United States so he got a sneak peek at the new Beetle a week before the world media launch in Berlin.
"To come to the place where a car is designed and developed tells you a lot about a car and the people who created it," said Leno. "And Germany is the birthplace of the automobile. So it’s special to be here."
Before he got to see the new Beetle he was given the keys to a 1938 version, one of the oldest drivable models in existence. Driving it was a revelation.
"It might have just 24.5 horsepower but it’s nimble and a lot of fun and really does not feel 73 years old. From many angles it feels very contemporary."
From the top of the Car Towers (housing over 300 new Volkswagen’s apiece) is where Leno got his first glimpse of the new Beetle as a robotic lift carried it to ground level. "That’s very cool," he said peering down on it from over 150 meters.
"It’s certainly a Beetle," he added upon closer inspection. "You can see the family resemblance. In fact, I think if they were designing the Beetle for the first time now it might end up looking this way."
The version Jay Leno drove had a 2.0 turbocharged engine, putting out 200 horsepower. Ten times the power of the 1938 edition and with an engine only just over double the capacity.
"It drives like you’d expect a modern Volkswagen to drive. Making a modern Beetle like a 70 year old version would not sell. The world has moved on. Like other manufacturers who have made modern versions of old cars, the DNA is there and for someone who wants a car that stands out on the road, the Beetle does that. It’s fun, it’s well built, it’s fast too - I took this on the autobahn up to 220 km/h (130 mph). No Beetle I have driven goes like that! The Beetle is one of the most famous cars of all time. It’s exciting it is still being made."