2013 Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio

Spring is here, and what could be a better car for Spring than a convertible? But since Spring weather can be unpredictable and quickly changing in temperature and precipitation -- no matter where you live -- said convertible should have a top that can be dropped or raised quickly, and that top should insulate well against both heat and cold. It would also help if the convertible was actually affordable, by real people, not multi-millionaires. And while we're wishing, why not room for four of those real people, and maybe even a little space in the trunk with the top down?

That sounds like a tough order to fill, but it's not. A convertible that comfortably holds four, is priced reasonably, and offers year-round usefulness in all but the most extreme climates is Volkswagen's Beetle Convertible.

Convertibles have been part of Volkswagen's lineup since the days of the original Type 15 in 1949. More than 330,000 original Beetle convertibles were built, and pristine survivors command top dollar from collectors today. Nearly 235,000 New Beetle convertibles sold during that car's production. And between those two were hundreds of thousands of Rabbit and Golf drop-tops. When the second-generation (new) Beetle made its debut for model year 2012, a convertible was conspicuously absent. Hey, they needed something new for 2013, and that would be the Convertible, starting at $24,995.

The 2013 Beetle Convertible is a two-door, four-seat car. As with the regular Beetle and its sibling Golf, there are plenty of powertrain choices. VW's 2.5 liter, 170-horsepower inline five-cylinder is standard, with the 2.0 liter, 200-hp Turbo available for those who want more power and the 2.0 liter, 140-hp TDI turbodiesel for economy. With 236 lb-ft of torque (compared to the 2.5's 177 and the 2.0T's 207), the TDI is stronger than you might think, and capable of over 40 mpg on the highway. Transmissions are six-speed, both manual and automatic for the 2.0T and TDI, and automatic only for the 2.5.

Because the top of a closed car is an important part of its structure, there is more involved in making a convertible than merely removing the top. So the Convertible gets thicker and stronger material around its windshield, more sheetmetal and structural reinforcement in the lower sides, and an extra rear panel that houses the Automatic Rollover Support System. Structural rigidity is increased by 20 percent over the previous New Beetle Convertible. There is about a 200-pound weight penalty versus an equivalent Beetle Coupe.

With a three-layer outer shell, three layers of insulation, and foam-laminated fabric headliner, the 2013 Beetle Convertible's top insulates passengers from heat, cold, and noise as well as a steel top. Operation is fully-automatic, no manual latching necessary, and it takes only 9.5 seconds to go down or 11 to go back up. The car can be stopped, or traveling at speeds up to 30 mph during top operation. And with the top down, there is absolutely no reduction of trunk capacity. Try that with a folding metal hardtop!

There are/were three special edition models offered at the 2013 Beetle Convertible's American debut, reflecting three decades of the original Beetle's history. The 50s Edition is black with a tan interior and the 2.5 engine, reflecting the style and simplicity of that decade. The 60s Edition (sold out) is an homage to blue jeans, in Denim Blue paint with a two-tone blue interior and the 2.0T. The 70s Edition is more sophisticated, with a Toffee Brown (think metallic root beer) paint scheme, beige interior and roof, and chrome disc-look wheels, with the 2.5 engine.

My test car for the past week was a 70s Edition. With the 2.5 engine and automatic, it's the equivalent of a regular Convertible with the Sound And Navigation package, but has the exclusive Toffee Brown metallic paint and chrome mirror caps. At $28,595, it's only $100 more than the regular model. It's a cruiser, not a racer -- but compared to an original Beetle, even a late one, it's blisteringly quick, incredibly fast, can go up hills in the fast lane, and is full of luxury amenities like a real heater and air conditioning -- and at 25 mpg overall for my week got about the same mileage as the 1969 Beetle that was my first car.

APPEARANCE: Wider! Lower! Longer! Well, not by much - At little over three inches in width, and inch lower, and six more in length than the New Beetle, the newest Beetle Convertible is not a huge car. The shape is familiar, but the proportions are a bit different and give the car more presence, top up or down. What was round is now more angular, but far from Eighties Rectangular. The front is more squared off, with a bumper profile similar to that of the Jetta. Bright trim at the juncture between the top and body adds an upscale look. A small "whale tail" spoiler is found behind the top.

COMFORT: A wheelbase stretch of just over an inch plus over three inches more width improves interior space, and there really is room for four inside unless they're all NFL or NBA first-round draft picks. And the top has no impact on luggage space -- there's 7.1 cubic feet in back, no matter what. Yes, as ever the Beetle, in coupe or convertible form, trades the practicality of the Golf for style. Such is life, and it's a fair tradeoff.

As outside, the interior design is familiar but subtly changed. The closest bit to nostalgia is the body-colored instrument panel face in some models, mimicking the all-metal panel in the original Beetle. A storage compartment is in front of the front passenger; the real glovebox is underneath that -- and locks, a good feature in a convertible. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach and here features a leather rim and phone and information system controls on the spokes. The "V-Tex" leatherette feels more like leather than some leathers. Front seat comfort is very good. The rear has a near-vertical seatback so posture could be a challenge for some passengers, but the convertible experience should make up for that. Visibility with the top up will be familiar to anyone who ever had a real Beetle; top down, no worries. And the rear window is safety glass with a heating element, so no rotting opaque plastic in the near future, and quick defrosting when necessary. The FenderŽ Premium Audio sound system beats an old Beetle's AM radio any time, and adds FM, Sirius/XM, CD, and external player including iPodŽ capability.

SAFETY: A crash-optimized front structure, the Intelligent Crash Response System (which turns off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and turns on the hazard lights if an airbag deploys), antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-pressure distribution (EBD), hydraulic brake assist (HBA), engine braking assist (EBA), electronic stabilization control (ESC), and anti-slip regulation (ASR) are among the VW Beetle Convertible's safety features.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The Beetle Convertible has a fully-independent suspension, with struts in front and a multilink setup in the rear. It's tuned moderately, with good compliance on poor surfaces (and very little cowl shake) yet allows spirited if not sports driving. It's perfect for the standard engine's place in life -- a comfortable tourer. Steering is responsive, with moderate effort. Interior noise levels are surprisingly low with the top up. Top-down, yes there's wind in your hair. What were you expecting?

PERFORMANCE: Five cylinders is unusual but not unprecedented. Here, VW uses displacement and a relatively low state of tune to provide good power and torque, with reasonable fuel economy. With 170 horsepower (at 5700 rpm) and 177 lb-ft of torque (at 4250) motivating a 3200-pound car, the regular Convertible is quick enough for everyday driving, with reasonable mileage at a 25 mpg average for my week. If its 8.0-second 0-60 time seems slow, my `69 Bug took about ten seconds longer and didn't go any further on a gallon of regular. The six-speed automatic is a good match for the car's character. Want to go quicker? There's always the Turbo. Want to go further on a gallon of fuel? The TDI's hard to beat there, especially on the highway.

CONCLUSIONS : Although it's a nod to history, the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible is far from an exercise in nostalgia.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

Base Price			$ 28,595
Price As Tested			$ 29,390
Engine Type			DOHC 20-valve inline 5-cylinder,
				 cast iron block, aluminum alloy head,
				 variable intake cam phasing
Engine Size			2.5 liters / 151 cu. in.
Horsepower			170 @ 5700 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			177 @ 4250 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		100.0 in. / 168.4 in.
Curb Weight			3206 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		18.9
Fuel Capacity			14.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/45R18 94H Hankook Optimo H426
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, HBA, EBD, EBA, ESC, ASR standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		21 / 27 / 25
0 to 60 mph				8.0  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge			$ 795

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