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2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Review

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2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

By Michael Bernstein
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

The VW Beetle, aka “The Bug”, was originally introduced in the 1950’s and over the years it has grown to become an iconic car whose decidedly different styling combined with its dependability and relatively low price created a unique place in America popular culture. Some might contend that it has grown to near cult status. Any why you look at it the former “Peoples Car” struck a nerve and it even spawned a popular road trip game, “Slug Bug”.

Using diesel fuel as a viable option to power our vehicles’ has yet to catch on here in the US mostly because the first ones introduced were sluggish, noisy and their emissions were harmful to the environment and smelled really bad. A lot has changed in the way diesel is refined and the next generation of “clean diesel” is changing minds and is once again making a push for mainstream acceptance in the American marketplace.

So who better to demonstrate the effectiveness of this “new” fuel technology than the folks at VW who have introduced a diesel powered turbo version of the new Beetle? That’s right the 2013 VW Beetle TDI convertible combines VW’s unique styling with this new fuel source and the result is a fun to drive car that you would never suspect was a diesel powered engine.

In fact I had to confirm that it was really a diesel, by opening the fuel door, because there were no pings, odors or the historical sluggish performance that were the hallmarks of diesel powered vehicles. In fact the only real queue that you are driving a diesel is at start up, but even then the noise may not register as a diesel engine, only a throaty exhaust signature.

Instead I was surprised to discover that the Beatle TDI 2.0L turbocharged, direct injection Clean Diesel engine is capable of generating 140 HP and 236 FT.LB. of torque. More importantly behind the wheel it was responsive off the line or at speed. There was barely a lag when the accelerator was depressed and the ABS brakes responded with even more alacrity. This version of the Beetle also has a six speed duel-clutch transmission that combines the comfort and ease of an automatic with the responsiveness and economy of a manual. It also manages the gearing to maximize performance.

The handling was also outstanding as it smoothed curves and raised pulse rates with its efficient steering and the road hugging drive, that is due in part to its compact size and the stiff suspension, was another bonus.

The Beetle TDI has a race inspired interior that features a rally style interment panel that arises from the center dash and contains three gauges, two that monitor critical vehicle information and the other is a stop watch!

The driver’s IP is simple, effective and clean. Again, less is more, as there are only three circular gauges that present the driver with the speed, rpms and fuel level. The center gauge also contains a small cutout that houses a LED display that can be customized to show a variety of readouts selected by a control panel located on the steering wheel.

A modest video screen controls the infotainment options available that include RNS 315 navigation system, Sirius XM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a Fender branded audio system. This system is an audiophiles dream come true because the entire system, which is backed by a partnership between the aforementioned Fender, Panasonic and VW, was customized specifically for the 2013 Beetle and when you select the soundtrack for your drive you will bathed in a rich sound usually heard only in the finest concert venues.

Comfortable heated bucket seats up front also had a race inspired look and feel that featured a solid dark color leather seat covers and headrests. The steering wheel, gear shift and the arm rest are also leather wrapped and this accent helps finish the clean look the interior presents. The remainder of the interior’s hard surfaces are a combination of polished plastic and composite materials that is attractive and easy to maintain.

Like it was with the diesel power, the very attractive and lush soft top that covers this vehicle masks the fact that this “frau-line” is a true rag top; moreover, whenever the mood strikes, there is no need to stop to go topless, because the entire process is powered by two electric motors and with just one push of a button, located on the roof liner, starts the process and the windows roll down, the latches open and the sky appears as the top disappears. Automatically, the top reappears and this feature works even while the vehicle is being driven, up to 31 MPH. More importantly when the top is up the multiple levels of composite materials and the glass rear window ensures a snug fit and limits the amount of road noise that enters the cabin.

This fact, the Beetle’s outstanding performance and its overall quality helps make a practical case for getting one because the limited size of the rear seating, the small cargo truck and the questionable availability and/or the convenience of refueling make the case that this vehicle might be just a weekend pleasure or a second car that doesn’t have to handle life’s heavy lifting. I say get it and when needed have your friends drive Saturday night or rent a truck!

The Volkswagen Beatle TDI convertible with Sound and Navigation has an MSRP of $29,195 and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 28 MPG city and a whopping 41 MPG on the freeway. It is one of eight Beatle convertible models now available at your local VW dealer.