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Old 5th August 2010, 21:20   #1
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Default VW Beetle in Chicago

What do you do when your Chicago - Paris flight gets cancelled and the next available flight out is the next day? Simple - you head out to the nearest car rental and rent a car for the day - some car you haven't driven as one day rental, whether high or low, won't be that big a deal.

I had not driven a Beetle till date because, frankly, to me it looks a bit girly. Probably it is because of the colors it comes in. or maybe, it is the shape. Anyway, I was not alone and my colleague pursuaded me enough to try out the one available at National. Thankfully it was not pink - but light blue color.

We finished the paperwork and went straight for the downtown. With my colleague at the wheels (since he knew Chicago better than me) we roamed around in the weekend traffic before finally heading to the waterfront near the aquarium. Here's where the one big positive of the Beetle dawned on us. Parking! Eventhough it has almost the same interior space as a Camaro (minus the boot of course), you can park it in half the space.

We stopped for about 15-20 minutes clicking the architecture inspired by (or is it which inspired) Any Rand's 'The Fountainhead'. Then it was my turn to get us back to the airport.

My first impression about the interiors was - plasticky! Considering the amount of money you need to shell out to own one of these, a better job could have been done. Same can be said about the PRNDL shift quality. Its as if the stick wants to go to manual mode by itself while moving from 'D' to 'N' or 'P'.

Despite having a 6-speed transmission, the car did not feel agile. Soon I noticed the reason. I was doing 40 mph and the instrument cluster showed 6th gear! Driving over the gentle fly-overs in the city, the transmission controller was quite busy shifting up and down and again up. Probably the engine is slightly underpowered as well.

The steering was quite nice and probably the only clear positive. Although light, it was still responsive. The ride was also good - no trace of roll or pitch at least through the city traffic or the low-speed limit highways in Illinois. Seating was more upright than the Malibu I was driving otherwise on the trip. The shape feels more normal from inside than outside.

A quick stop at the McDee's and we were ready to return to the hotel. Here we got the shock of our lives. In Hilton at Chicago airport, even if you are a guest staying at the hotel, the parking costs you 45$. It was almost the same as the rental. So we drove back to the National around midnight and paid the extra 10$ for returning outside office hours.

Overall, I was not impressed by the vehicle. I am now very much curious to try out the Fiat 500 which seems to be a more practical car. I would probably recommend a Porsche instead if you really like the shape.
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