On a recent trip to South Carolina I was given the opportunity to choose my rental for the next few days. Once at the lot I was greeted by a sea of beige Japanese appliances, and a single colorful German. The path was clear.

Despite my great aversion to red cars, I chose the reddest car on the lot. My rational was that anything German would handle better than anything Japanese, within the rental car realm. Admittedly, I have a bias.


Everything started off dandy. I set the AC to arctic (South Carolina heat & humidity are no joke), plotted my course with Waze, and set off for the hour drive to my hotel. The motor felt decently torquey and I was satisfied with the cushy ride. Plus the interior was familiarly Volkswagen, and far nicer than any of the Japanese appliances.

Merging onto the highway I settled in at a steady 80 mph. A few minutes later I noticed that I was warm. Very warm. The AC had stopped blowing squamish and had gone full sirocco on me. It seemed hotter in the car than it was outside. It was then that I noticed the temp readout showing a stubborn 195 degrees Fahrenheit. A quick stop to check the vitals convinced me that the thing was not actually overheating, so I continued on.

After stopping and starting I noticed that the AC was once again blowing cold. Curious. It blew cold until I hit 73 mph. Then it got hot. Really hot. By this point the gears were turning in my mind and I was thinking that the temp discrepancy was directly connected to speed. I've troubleshot many different cars in many different ways, but this was a first.


I quickly figured out that +/- 6 mph on either side of 80 was the hot zone. Thus, I spent the rest of my 75 mile drive controlling the cabin climate with my right foot. Cool it down at 72 mph until I began to shiver; increase speed to 80 to heat up, repeat. Not the worst quirk I've seen in a German car, but certainly not the best. I jokingly thought to myself of all the things that could slow me down, I'd have never guessed a malfunctioning AC would be so effective.

Ample photo opportunities were afforded by the numerous large and well advertised gun depots in the area around my hotel. I actually waited until this one was closed after playing out a scene in my mind where I pull up to take photos of my masculine red Beetle and am greeted to the business end of a 12-gauge. Probably not necessary but being a skinny kid from the North (in a red Beetle) I wasn't taking any risks (other than renting a red Beetle).

The rest of my trip went smoothly until a few days later when it was time to head back to the airport and relinquish the Beetle. Cruising along with the heavy but well-moving morning traffic, I was once again using the accelerator to manipulate the cabin temperature. I was keeping up with traffic for most of the drive, except when I was overtaking someone or appeasing my goosebumps at 80 mph during a warming session.

Maybe I was too focused on pretending that my right foot was a thermostat, but I completely failed to notice the grey Dodge Charger parked on the median ahead. I noticed real quick when he started moving and pulled a U-turn directly behind me and ignited his blue strobes.


Fucking Beetle. I thought for a moment about trying to explain to the officer why I was going 80, but that didn't play out well in my mind: Officer I'm so sorry...you see the AC is broken and the only way to control the temp is to periodically accelerate to 80 mph in order to warm the cabin up after it becomes freezing at lower speeds. Yea. No.


I took the ticket with the prior knowledge that the SC and NY do not reciprocate points, so I just have to pay the fine and it shouldn't affect my insurance. But still...fucking Beetle.

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