Volkswagen Should Bring Back Its Sexiest Model: The Karmann Ghia


We miss the Karmann Ghia, and think that it could be a hot seller.

The Karmann Ghia was a Volkswagen model sold from 1955 all the way to 1974. Like the Beetle on which is was based, the Karmann Ghia lived a very long production life. However, unlike the Beetle (which was revived in 1997), the Karmann Ghia was never brought back to life. We think that this was a misstep by Volkswagen. Even though the Scirocco was ultimately seen as a replacement for the Karmann Ghia, we think that a sporty, convertible could fit well in Volkswagen's current lineup.

Like the original, we think that this new model could be based on the Beetle. This is not so bad, because the Beetle is now based on the Golf platform, which is excellent. Basically, this new Karmann Ghia could borrow components from the MK7 Golf GTI, which is a fantastic car. Unfortunately, this would mean that the Karmann Ghia wouldn't be rear engined like the original, but don't worry, we have an alternative plan for that. For now, let's just stick with the GTI-based car. The current Golf GTI comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. You can also get a 220 hp with the optional performance pack, which comes with a limited-slip differential.

Even though the Beetle Turbo has always shared an engine and transmission with the GTI, it's tuned for comfort rather than aggressiveness. We think that the Karmann Ghia could drive more like a GTI than the Beetle, making it a better option for enthusiasts. Like the original, we would offer a coupe and convertible model, both with 2+2 seating. The coupe model would have a stylish lift-back like the Audi A5 Sportback, while the convertible would have to have a more conventional trunk. While this concept would be a lot easier for Volkswagen to execute, it is not the only idea that we had for a new Karmann Ghia. If Volkswagen was willing to be a little more ambitious with this project, we have an idea that involves Porsche.

The new Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman shook things up by switching from naturally aspirated flat-six engines to new turbocharged flat-four engines. The base 718 Boxster and Cayman are available with a 2.0-liter flat-four with 300 hp, while the S models come with a larger 2.5-liter engine with 350 hp. In order to make sure that the Karmann Ghia doesn't steal any customers away from Porsche, we would only use the smaller 2.0-liter engine, and detune it to around 260 to 280 hp. By basing the Karmann Ghia on the 718's platform, it would be more like the original with a flat-four engine behind the driver, although this engine wouldn't be air-cooled like the original and it would be mid-engined, not rear-engined.

We still love this idea, because it would give consumers the option to buy an affordable Porsche without tarnishing the Porsche brand. In the past, Porsche has attempted to cater to a more affordable segment with models like the 914 and 924, only to see these models bring down the brand's prestige. By letting Volkswagen borrow from the 718, Porsche could create a true "entry level" car in the form of the Karmann Ghia. We don't think that the Karmann Ghia gets the credit it deserves for being one of the prettiest affordable cars of all time. In 1990, Karmann introduced a Karmann Ghia-inspired concept car called the Karmann Coupe at the Frankfurt Motor Show (pictured below).

While the 1990 design study is not our favorite, we do see potential for how pretty a modern Karmann Ghia could look. In April of 2013, Karmann Ghia do Brasil began a competition for Brazilian students to design a modern interpretation of the car. Enthusiasm for the Karmann Ghia's return is there and it would make for a fantastic flagship model for the Volkswagen lineup.

Julia LaPalme

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