Thirteen years since the New Beetle arrived on the scene, and more than a million examples on, the new to replace the New is finally here – The Beetle, as the new one is simply called, made its global debut today, and quite literally at that.

The latest generation bug was unveiled earlier in Shanghai, Berlin and New York, embedded in MTV World Stage Concerts, with the official introduction at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal – on the eve of the Shanghai Motor Show – kicking off things.

Breaking free of the geometry of the previous model and displaying a sportier appeal, the new Beetle (not New, but new) features, among other design changes, an extended bonnet, sharply swept-back windscreen and a longer wheelbase. The interior has been worked on considerably, and now offers a driver-oriented coupé experience as well as a distinctly improved feeling of space, aided by a longer roof section.

Working on a “design a new original” objective, the design team, led by Walter De Silva, VW’s design chief (from Group) and Klaus Bischoff (from Brand), have come up with a Beetle that’s bolder, more dynamic and more masculine than the old car.

Indeed, nothing remains as it was on the 1998 car. The Beetle not only has a lower profile, it’s also substantially wider and features a longer front bonnet, while the front windscreen is shifted further back and has a much steeper incline. While the New Beetle was defined by three semi-circles (front wing, rear wing, domed roof above it), the new model has broken free of this geometry – the roof profile actually runs distinctly lower and can be considered a continuation of the Ragster concept car, which was shown in Detroit in 2005.

The new bug is 1,808 mm wide, 1,486 mm tall and 4,278 mm long, which makes it 84 mm wider, 12 mm lower and 152 mm longer than the New Beetle. The new car’s track widths and wheelbase have also been increased. The gain in length means that the roof is now extended further and the front windscreen shifted back, with the rear section following the contour of the original Beetle, the new focal point now being the C-pillar.

Here’s something for the anorak: If you take the original Beetle and the new Beetle and place them in a room together, shining light just over the roofs and viewing them from the side, you’ll see that the lines of the rear sections are nearly identical.

Traditional design characteristics remain, including the round headlights (optional bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights are available for the first time in this model series), the flared wings as well as the shape of the bonnets, sides and door sills.

There’s a new rear spoiler that is homogeneously integrated in the design, available as standard on some variants. Incidentally, the top surface of the rear spoiler is always black, while its underside is painted in the body colour, which are available in 12 different hues. Sizeably, the new bug can accomodate wheels up to 19-inches, good news for those who like their round bits large.

Inside, The Beetle’s cockpit has been reworked, with everything pretty much redesigned, with key items within reach and sight. Classicists will love some of the cues in here. Similar to the original Beetle, the new car has an extra glovebox integrated in the front fascia, whose lid folds upward (the standard glovebox that is also integrated opens downward). Another classic feature is the optional auxiliary instrument grouping above the selected audio/navigation system, which display oil temperature, clock with stopwatch function and boost pressure gauge.

Improvements abound too in terms of boot space, with 310 litres compared to the 209 litres on the older car. As usual, the car has a split, folding rear seatback and a wide opening bootlid, making for easier loading and unloading of cargo.

Engine-wise, the US will get petrol engines in 170 PS and 200 PS output form, as well as a 140 PS 2.0 TDI turbodiesel lump, the first time that one is available there. Partnering gearbox configurations for the diesel variant are a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG, while choices for the petrol versions are a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, with the larger output TSI available with DSG as an option.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world gets 105 PS, 140 PS, 160 PS and 200 PS mills. In markets such as Asia, Australia, Europe and New Zealand, the new Beetle will be offered exclusively with charged four-cylinder engines, in TSI or TDI guise.

The three charged TSI petrol engines are the 105 PS 1.2 TSI (with BlueMotion Technology, and including Stop/Start system and battery regeneration), 160 PS 1.4 TSI and 200 PS 2.0 TSI, while the two diesel engines are the 105 PS 1.6 TDI and 140 PS 2.0 TDI jobs (incidentally, the TDI engines are not going to be offered in China). All five engines get DSG transmission as a drivetrain option.

The 160 PS (European version) and 200 PS (worldwide) petrol-engine variants come with a factory-installed XDS electronic differential lock as standard. XDS – which extends the familiar EDS functionality – improves handling in fast curve driving and calibrates the car toward more “neutral” steering; it does this by using active brake intervention to prevent wheelspin of the unloaded wheel on the inside of the curve, and this improves traction. Elsewhere, electronic stabilisation programme comes as standard, as is a network of six airbags.

Three equipment lines will be available for the car, these being tagged Beetle, Design and Sport, each with their own unique character. Among the key features in the equipment lines are the aforementioned bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights; 15 LEDs frame the xenon module on the outer perimeters of the headlights, and implement the daytime running lights and parking lights.

Elsewhere in the mix are a transparent panoramic tilt/slide glass sunroof, Keyless Access, radio-navigation systems, even an optional Premium sound system by Fender, replete with an additional woofer and 400 watts of output power; bagging the system gets you adjustable interior ambience lighting as well, and this includes two light rings around the loudspeaker boxes in the doors.

The Beetle will be launched in the US first, around September/October this year, followed by Europe sometime in October/November. Then Asia gets its turn in February 2012, followed by South America in late 2012 or early 2013. You’ll find the photo gallery of The Beetle after the jump.

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