The Volkswagen Beetle: it’s known for being, above all other things, like, really super cute. In 2012, however, the Beetle (no longer called the “New Beetle,” just “Beetle”) was redesigned to pay more direct homage to the original and rid itself of the previous model’s “chick car” image.
That was last year. For 2013, VW is introducing the Beetle Convertible you see here just in time for the dreary winter months ahead (Seriously VW? you spent 4 years working on this new convertible. You couldn’t have stuck it out a couple more months to launch this thing during spring’s warm embrace?).
Can the redesigned, more manly Beetle retain it’s new-found chest hair even with the top lopped off? Yes, but it depends entirely on which one you choose.
It’s a VW Beetle alright, there’s no denying that. The tell-tail “Beetle” calling cards are all there in full force: round, non-confrontational headlights and a vintage inspired body complete with faux 1930s fenders. What Volkswagen has done in this second generation new Beetle is make it look far more like the original. This, in turn, makes the car more masculine thanks to longer, wider, and lower looking proportions plus a chopped roofline. Surface detailing is also more crisp, giving the Beetle a level of chisel and purpose the original, bubbly New Beetle lacked. The original New Beetle of 1998 was the Jellies sandals to the 2013 model’s Chuck Taylor high-tops. The Beetle is now firmly unisex, at the very least.
Of course the big story here is that VW has gone and chopped off the top of the Beetle to make the convertible you see here. That top is of very high quality and could easily be fitted to an Audi product without looking out of place. It’s extremely thick and insulating. The frustratingly damp weather that during my time with the car demonstrated the Beetle Convertible’s ability to keep moisture and cold outside the cabin seemingly just as well as its fixed-roof counterpart.
A fully automated experience greets all owners of the new Beetle Convertible as it’s standard equipment across the board. Hit the headliner mounted switch and sit back as the top unlatches itself and falls gracefully to the back of the car, stacking neatly but rather protruding-ly at the rear. There is no automatic tonneau cover to hide the top, it just plunks in the back like on Beetles of yore. That pays major dividends in the time it takes to operate the top, though: nine seconds to lower, and 11 seconds to raise. Additionally, you can also raise and lower the top at speeds up to 31 mph. Score.
Wheels are also a big story for the Beetle. Ranging from base rims made to look like old-timey hubcaps to the Turbo’s flashy 18 inch 5-spokes, the Beetle has been blessed with some of the most inspired and visual stimulating wheels I’ve seen in a long time. Somehow though, the TDI gets some rather ordinary looking 17 inchers (the silver car pictured above). Certainly all Beetles deserve something special in the wheel department VW.
Volkswagen is launching the Beetle Convertible with three special editions named ‘50s,’ 60s,’ and, ‘70s.’ These special editions each have paint and interior colors chosen to represent their different decades. I was smitten with the 70s edition you see here in these photos. Its all-brown theme really does things to me. It’s like a delicious gingerbread car. If only the interior carpets had been ‘avocado green’ shag. Now THAT would have been totally bitchin’.
For the manly among us, the Beetle Convertible retains it’s dom-top looks only when outfitted as a Turbo model in dark colors with the big rims. That may be some pretty blatant stereotyping but let’s be real: a denim blue Beetle Convertible with caramel interior and the TDI’s b*tch wheels is not going to pass as bi/masc/discrete at the local gay sports bar. Truth talk.
Your mom will be disappointed: the beloved bud vase is gone. In fact ‘cute’ has been completely eradicated in this new Beetle, with the original’s “Britney Spears, lollipop, curved-everything” aesthetic banished. In it’s place is a no-nonsense, upright design that pays homage to the original Beetle. Those looking for flair and oddity will have to settle for the little old-fashioned secondary glove box sitting right in front of the front seat passenger. The rest of this cabin is pure business.
Materials are improved from the old car, if only in texture and color. Hard plastic is still the name of the game here but VW does a very good job at making those plastics feel high quality. Fit and finish was superb in all models tested.
A couple niggles though. I was a put off by the amount of open “blanks” below the climate controls. These pesky little place holder buttons serve no purpose but to sit there and remind you of the options you DIDN’T get in your car. The thing is, I couldn’t figure out WHICH options those “blanks” were holding the place for as all the test cars in the fleet had the same number of “blanks.” Also, seriously VW, you couldn’t find it in your hearts to put automatic climate control in a car costing over $32,000?
Back to the positives, though. The Fender audio system, which Volkswagen says 40% of all Beetle buyers have been popping for, is phenomenal. Easily the best audio offering in its competitive set, the Fender system pushes out 400 watts through an amp, subwoofer, and eight speakers and sounds absolutely fantastic with very little distortion. Pump up that Carly Rae Jepsen with the top down, and the people in the cars around you will be bobbing their heads in sync with your jam. It’s that powerful and clear.
The Beetle Convertible will arrive in showrooms with three engine options: a base 2.5 liter 5-cylinder with 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, a delectably sporty 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder pumping out an even 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, and for the diesel-minded, the 2.0 liter turbocharged diesel mill putting out a meager 140 hp but a pavement churning 236 lb-ft of torque.
Of course the driving experience is largely dependent on which engine you choose. I sampled all versions so let me break it down for you like this:
2.5 – There is a reason this is the base engine. Though not really underpowered there is truly very little fun to be squeezed out of this unit. The Beetle Convertible is a hefty vehicle, ringing in at 3206 pounds in 2.5 guise. That’s about 400 pounds more than a VW Jetta for comparison, a vehicle which itself feels slow with the same 2.5 liter mill. On top of all of this not-much-funness is the fact that this base engine smacks you in the face with WORSE fuel economy than the to other engines (both of which are more fun to drive, not to spoil the rest of my article for you) at 21 city, 27 highway. If you can afford to, skip on up to the 2.0T or the 2.0 TDI as they are both more rewarding engines.
2.0T – The belle of this ball if you ask me, the 2.0T is perfectly suited for the Beetle’s small and sporty demeanor. Though not a light vehicle, the Beetle, by nature of its small stature, is inherently toss-able. The small but powerful 2.0T strikes the perfect balance for this chassis. Not only is this engine the most fun, the suspension has been firmed up for the Turbo offering better handling that is significantly more connected and sporty than either the 2.5 or the TDI. It gets even better as the 2.0T gets better gas mileage than the base 2.5 at 21 city, 29 highway (auto). If you’ve got a little extra cash to burn on your Beetle purchase this is where I’d throw the money.
2.0 TDI – The big story for this engine is the fuel economy. Rated at 28 city and 37 highway (for the automatic that most customers will opt for) the TDI achieves great fuel economy without the need to lug around a ton of batteries. While only rated at 140 hp the 2.0 TDI delivers more torque than either engines and that pays off in spades. This little engine has plenty of power for the average user and is even a bit fun when you really poke the pedal in some twisties. Plus, the TDI makes a pleasant puttering at idle that you can’t help but smile at. It somehow fits the nature of this happy looking vehicle.
Pricing for the 2013 Beetle Convertible starts at $24,995 for the base 2.5 automatic and heads up to $32,295 for the all options included with the 2.0T automatic. The TDI starts at $27,895, with a manual transmission standard on that model. Those are fair prices when you consider that all Beetle Convertibles come with a fully automatic top, alloy wheels, heated front seats, bluetooth for both calls and music streaming, and adjustable ambient lighting in the doors.
Regardless of any gender stereotyping, this new Beetle Convertible is a solid, high-quality vehicle with a lot to offer someone looking for a relatively affordable, sporty-ish, small car. This truly is a no-compromise convertible, you’ll never feel like you’ve made trade-offs to be able to catch some Vitamin D on sunny days. We all win. You’ll only need to figure out which model suits the image you’re trying to project best, whether that be droptop diva or turbocharged tough-guy.
Drive on Sunshine, drive on.