I've been writing about the VW Beetle since I started covering the automotive industry back in 1982 - it seems we all have several stories about this cute and lovable bug. I for one had a 1963 as my first ever car and the anecdotes are endless. But while this fun little car doesn't have the power nor performance of a ZO8 or a Carrera, or the Italian design of a Lambo or Ferrari, it has definitely earned a very special place in our hearts worldwide since its inception back in 1949. Forward almost 50 years and in mid 1998, Volkswagen re-introduced the Beetle coupe and once again it has taken the world by storm, but ragtop fans had to wait a full five years before they could get their hands on the convertible version - yup, that's how long it took back then, but the German automaker didn't delay this time around - heck, people love that convertible - VW sold more than a quarter of a million of them over 8 years, thus in as little as 1 year after the new generation made its unveiling in late 2011, the new ragtop will hit the pavement in all its glory!
The folks at Volkswagen surely know how to introduce a new model worldwide, so to allow hundreds of automotive journalists from all over the world enjoy the new Beetle convertible to its fullest, they invited us to Santa Monica, Ca and a gorgeous test drive through Malibu a few weeks ago. Ironically, our time with the Beetle convertible was plagued by rain, but even the inclement weather did not prevent us from having fun and enjoying how much better this new bug drives and performs. We were able to put down the top from time to time and with the help of this wind shear in back and a large-sloping front windshield, we barely even got damp, it felt almost like having this invisible protective force field over the car, but I'm sure it would not work that well in heavier rain.
Like its predecessor, the Beetle convertible is equipped with a rag top which goes up in less than 10 seconds and down in about 11, with no effort beyond pushing a button, but most importantly, it doesn't need that fabric/ tonneau cover, now when the roof is lowered it looks more like a tiny spoiler rather than the previous bulk the prior model had. It also feels much stiffer thanks to copious use of high-strength steel in the windshield pillars and other key stress points in the car's structure.
Two roll bars are hidden behind the rear seats and they raise almost immediately when an imminent rollover is detected, and the A-pillars have been beefed up as well. The Beetle convertible seats four adults comfortably, while trunk space can be increased by folding down the rear seat. The coupe’s dashboard carries over, with its clean design marking a strong departure from the cutie patootie type of look the prior generation offered. And for the first time ever, you won't find any flower vases, which may help VW attract more male buyers.
The new Beetle comes with a 2.5 liter 5 cylinder engine which administers 170 ponies and 177 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels and it is coupled to a standard 6 speed manual transmission capable of rendering about 21/27 city/highway mpg.
If you are interested in a more nimble and playful bug, the choice is the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which offers 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque coupled to a 6 speed manual tranny which comes standard or the optional six-speed dual-clutch "DSG" automatic - both capable of offering between 21 city and 29-30 mpg on the highway.
It is worth noting that the base engine Beetle Convertibles feature an inexpensive torsion beam rear suspension, while the sportier Turbo model uses a more sophisticated multilink setup. The two models also use different steering systems, with the standard Bug utilizing a hydraulically-assisted setup and the Turbo employing electric power steering.
But the most impressive performance of any of the bugs when it came to great fuel economy was the amazing TDI model, which features a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine capable of producing 140 horsepower with 236 lb-ft of torque. This economical powerplant easily reached 28 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway with a six-speed manual transmission and 28/37 mpg with a six-speed "DSG" dual-clutch automatic.
When all of these Beetles are parked next to each other, they all look almost identical, however, the diesel bug differs in some minor way, primarily inside, on the dashboard where you'll find a supplementary pod on the top that includes gauges for oil temperature and turbo boost level as well as a stopwatch. Underneath, the TDI retains the standard Beetle's front struts and rear torsion beam, although it features the rack-and-pinion electric power steering from the gasoline turbo model.
Every 2013 Volkswagen Beetle comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the new bug received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars awarded for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection.
Whether cruising or bruising while listening to the amazing and impressive Fender Premium sound system, this new Beetle is a blast to drive and quite comfortable indeed. Even the Turbo's optional sport suspension shrugs off bumps and average potholes in the road. Road noise is reduced to a hollow rumbling, yet isn't intrusive. All in all, this new Beetle is a great selection vehicle for any type of road trips and if you really want to have some typical California funshine, this bug makes almost all possible!