Review - 2003 VW Beetle Convertible GLS


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SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide

THE AUTO PAGE By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible GLS ENGINE: 2.0-liter inline four HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 115 hp @ 5,200 rpm/122 lb-ft @ 2,600 rpm TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 98.7 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 161.1 x 67.9 x 59.0 in. STICKER PRICE: $25,355

The world is definitely cruel. Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle Convertible in Miami Beach at the former home of Giovanni Versace. The day my tester arrived, the temperature was in the teens and there was shoveled snow that rose higher than the New Beetle's 59.0-inch roof. Go figure.

But the New Beetle Convertible is a car that I welcomed. I was looking forward to driving the car from the moment I heard of it. Here is a vehicle with all the cuteness of the New Beetle (and as a former Original Beetle owner, I feel the cuteness factor is up by an order of magnitude at least) and the fun of a convertible.

And the NBC didn't fail me. I had a ball driving it for a shortened week and really didn't want to give it up. The NBC has plenty of power at 115 horsepower. Normally I'd be the first to complain and say I wanted more horses, but with a six-speed automatic transmission between the engine and the front wheels, what was available was enough to do the job. We had no problems accelerating away from stop signs and lights, and merging onto Interstates was accomplished with ease.

About that six-speed. It was extremely smooth through its entire range of operation. I almost didn't realize how many gear ratios were available until I counted the upshifts. When I got to 5, I said "hey, there," and paid closer attention to the spec sheet. Tiptronic, where the driver can manually shift the gears, is attached, although we had little need to use it. A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic are also available. The gearbox added $1,175 to the $21,850 base price of the GLS. While we're at it, there was an additional $900 for leather heated front seats, $325 for a Monsoon sound system, $280 for the Electronic Stabilization Program, and $250 for a Wind Blocker. A $575 destination charge brought the bottom line to $25,355.

Operating the top requires some driver input. There's a handle over the rear view mirror that must be twisted after pushing a button. This lowers the windows a bit. Then you push the "lower top" button and the rest is automatic. I didn't time it, but VW claims it takes 13 seconds. When the top is down it has the same "exterior" appearance of the Old Beetle Convertible. It's a very European look and fits well with the car. Trunk space is somewhat limited at a claimed five cubic feet. However, when we attempted to put grocery bags back there, all the space was taken up by the cover for the top and the Wind Breaker, so we had to stick the bags in the back seat. Getting to the rear seat (big enough for two small passengers), was easy. There was a lever on the side of the driver's seat that moved it up and forward, so we could put our bags there or passengers with relative ease. The NBC top is fully lined, so there's essentially zero wind noise. It also has the same head clearance as the NB sedan, which is excellent. While I don't ever expect to see it, all these NBA stars who feel they must buy big SUVs to fit their frames, might be surprised by the NBC. While I don't have the height, it's always a pleasure not to have to be a contortionist in order to fit in a two-seater.

Of course, the NBC has all the neat features of the sedan, like front-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, cruise control, power door locks and mirrors. The optional ESP is a system that automatically stabilizes the vehicle in the event of a serious emergency maneuver. Like the New Beetle itself, the NBC always evoked smiles from other drivers. It attracted a lot of interest form other New Beetle owners who hadn't realized the convertible was out. The NBC is a fun car and a comfortable car. I could live with it.

© 2003 The Auto Page Syndicate

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