Driven: Puebla's Three-Row Beetle07/16/2019
This is some real inside baseball, but when you’re a journalist (or a supplier or whatever) and Volkswagen takes you on a tour of one of its factories, they inevitably drive you in something cool. In Wolfsburg, they have a convertible, three-row Golf to show you around in. When you’re in Puebla they, of course, have a three-row Beetle. And they handed me the keys.
Puebla is Volkswagen’s second-biggest plant worldwide—the biggest, Wolfsburg, is the world’s biggest auto plant—so the fact that you need to be driven around shouldn’t come as a surprise. I never thought, though, to ask for the keys to one of these tour cars. Being a polite boy who was raised right, I figured they were for employees only.
The fun side effect of having a plant so big that you can count the lakes on the property is that you don’t really need to license vehicles with the local authorities to drive them. That’s how VW gave us wheel time in a few classic Beetles that belonged to the plant’s museum despite their not wearing license plates.
Having managed to stall, then having failed to restart a “Silver Bug” with an Instagram influencer in the passenger seat who insisted on videoing my shame, I was left standing on the sidewalk to consider the many new lives I could start as a hermit. But VW, kind folks that they are, insisted that I hop into something new and there it was. Mexico’s own stretch Beetle, ready to lift my spirits.
I was particularly interested in driving the Threetle because, as some of you may know, I own a New Beetle that has been responsible for nearly as much violence as Helen of Troy. So I was interested to see how much extending the car and removing its eggy roof would affect performance.
And the answer is not a whole lot. Naturally, I say this having only driven it for about ten minutes at speeds that never exceeded, like, 40 miles per hour, so I didn’t exactly take it to its limit.
Climbing into the driver’s seat is a remarkably uncanny experience. Looking forward, everything was as I remembered it. From the knobbly steering wheel to the five-speed manual, to even the clutch weight. It all felt like home. Then you catch the reflection of what’s behind you in the mirror and everything feels weird again.
This conflict of memory against reality is problematic for the same reason that you sometimes see duallies whose back fenders have been caved in. It’s easy to forget how much car there is back there.
Shockingly, it doesn’t feel slow or lumbering, though. The engine still pulls pretty good and because this is a stretch limo whose driveline hasn’t had to be altered, there’s no weird geometry to mess with there. Again, it would likely feel super weird at higher speeds, but when you’re tooling around at city speeds, it feels weirdly normal. That’s a testament to the chassis, I suppose, and also a ringing endorsement of owning a plot of land big enough to run unlicenseable cars on.
Ultimately, the Threetle is proof that the world needs more three-row convertibles. Why limit yourself to carrying one passenger around with the top down? Why not carry around eight of your best friends on a sunny day in Puebla? More is more and the Threetle is just better.
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