There is little doubt that a lot of people have an emotional tie to the VW convertible. This little car has a special place in our hearts and history. You could take a 1952 VW convertible, like the one displayed right next to the 2013 model VW displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show, anywhere in the world and people will get excited. Incidentally that vintage Bug was first shown at the 1952 Berlin Auto Show and receives nearly as much attention today.
Giving ode to previous success through the decades, VW has introduced three special edition Beetle Convertibles that are meant to evoke American cultural history from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The ‘50s Edition Beetle Convertible is classic and classy in dressed black with a tan interior, and to our eyes the most attractive of the three. The ‘60s Edition has two-tone seats and a pastel paint that VW calls Denim Blue. We found the wheels to be more of today’s style than the 60s. The ‘70s Edition Convertible emulated the 1979 Beetle Convertible sitting next to it with Toffee Brown exterior and chrome-look disc wheels.
Unlike that 25 horsepower classic, the 2013 version comes with three exceedingly different power sources. The one that is making the biggest splash is the 2.0-lliter TDI diesel. But enthusiasts will no doubt be excited to see the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline motor in their convertible. Let’s not forget the anything but base, 2.5-liter, which helps keep the financial outlay in check.
During my drive through the hills of Malibu, CA along the Pacific Coast, VW Head Designer, Klaus Biscoff told us that while they honored the original in spirit, the design is meant to be more dynamic. “…We are always looking forward. The car is substantially wider, has a longer hood and has a more upright windshield.”
This sportier direction is evident as the profile is leaner and meaner. Lengthening and widening the body has given the VW Convertible a more aggressive look as well as a more substantial hold on the road, no matter the type of road. The new design includes a lower sleeker top that gives the Beetle a speedster-like look with lower side glass. But even with smaller windows visibility is not compromised. I had a good view around the vehicle.
I found the top to be heavily insulated to keep the elements outside when desired, plus compact when lowered so not to interfere with enjoying the outdoors. In fact, even though southern California was experiencing a rare rain shower, hardy soul that I am, I lowered the top and motored about, remaining quite dry and comfortable. There is an old convertible owner’s slogan. “Put the top down, that is what heaters are for.” Unlike that 1952 version this new convertible has a heater that will cook you right out of the car. This sure made me happy.
Though the diesel powered VW Convertible will no doubt get most of the interest at first, being the first convertible to be so powered, I can’t discount the other power sources. Most cost conscience buyers will probably opt for the base version as it is the model that offers the most features and value. The 2.5-liter not only has a reasonable 170 horse power and 177 pound feet of torque it has plenty of standard equipment to let a buyer know they did not sacrifice. Beyond the leather wrapped steering wheel, the base Beetle gets 17-inch alloy wheels, heated seats, Bluetooth and much more.
The other gasoline engine is VW’s tried and true 2.0-liter turbocharged-four that produces 200 horse power and 207 lb-ft. of torque. As it has proven in other VW models this engine adds a much more spirited driving experience. If driver can keep from stomping on the throttle like we seem to do, this engine gets better fuel economy numbers than the 2.5, 29 highway as opposed to 27.
The diesel powered Beetle is equally reliable with the 2.0-liter turbocharged clean diesel engine that equals the 2.0-liter gas engine in horsepower but outdoes it with a whopping 236 lb-ft. of torque. Plus the diesel achieves EPA numbers of 28 city and 41 highway. I did not get a chance to do my normal fuel mileage testing, but just by watching the fuel gauge I could seeI was in the upper reaches of these numbers in combined driving.
VW has been at the forefront on developing the Dual-clutch transmission and this refinement shows in the unit fit into the new convertible. A DSG offers the comfort and ease of an automatic transmission with the solid performance of a manual. Think of it as a manual transmission with automatic manners.
Where this DSG shines is pushing it hard through tight turns I found driving the coastal hills of California. Using the steering column paddle shifters, I dashed through the canyons shifting up through the gears then down shifting to squirt through the corners. Let’s face it, the Beetle convertible isn’t a Porsche Boxster, but for those who do not have the resources to reach that plateau, the Beetle is a reasonable compromise.
Building a convertible can be a daunting task as you lose rigidity without a full steel top. Volkswagen obviously found the answer with using copious amounts of high strength steel in the structure. I quickly noticed the absence of cowl shake that comes with convertibles not having the requisite bracing. VW engineers made excellent use of high strength steel. One other area that show a structural weakness is the door openings and the manner with which the doors open and close. Again, VW did their work, the doors close with the familiar "thunk."
Volkswagen wanted to make this Beetle convertible make a mark on the market with crisp styling, ridged structure and sporty driving. Granted it doesn’t exhibit the abilities of a sports car, that isn’t the direction they intended. The Beetle Convertible is fun, sporty and stylish, in an individualistic way. This is an automobile that will be practical when needed and exuberant when wanted.