By Al Vinikour
Few of us were around in 1949 when Volkswagen introduced the type 15 Convertible. Over a 32-year span, the Beetle Convertible sold more than 330,000 copies, and that doesn’t include the 234,619 New Beetle Convertibles built over an eight-year span. Unfortunately, the oh-so-cute New Beetle, a vehicle that was well-built and nicely finished, fairly oozed estrogen. In its latest incarnation, VW has pulled out all the stops to wipe out memories of the New Beetle’s “Barbie Car” image, much as it has with the hardtop Beetle, but without alienating the buyers who made that car a big seller. One way to do that is to tie it to its past.
The third-generation Beetle Convertible will launch with three specific special edition models that hearken back to the three distinct decades of the iconic vehicle in American history: the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Each has its own unique paint: the ‘50s is classic black with a tan interior; the ‘60s has two-tone seats and Denim Blue paint that is reminiscent of what VW alludes to as the “attire of that decade;” and the ‘70s edition has a handsome Toffee Brown exterior with chrome-look disc wheels. (Thankfully, VW’s designers didn’t go for avocado green velour with Formica accents…)
Although the new Beetle bears a resemblance to Beetles of old, Volkswagen Brand head designer Klaus Bischoff prefers to see the current Beetle as a reinterpretation of an icon, not the retro vehicle the New Beetle was. Part of the reason is that the new car is sportier and more dynamic than the “people’s car” and, therefore, a specialty vehicle that appeals to a more discerning market.
Compared to its immediate predecessor, the 2013 model is substantially wider, has a longer hood, a more upright windshield that sits further back, and something the original Beetle never had: a standard rear spoiler to give it a sportier look. In terms of overall dimensions, the new car is 3.3 in wider, 1.1 in lower and 6.0 in longer than the New Beetle. In actuality, even with the top up, the Beetle Convertible has a lower roofline than the Coupe. Moreover, since the soft top takes up less space than a folding hardtop, the vehicle offers more trunk space than that solution would have offered. The immaculately lined and fitted top also is more in keeping with the Beetle’s heritage.
Speaking of the top, it has an outer shell made from an outer one of polyacrylic woven fabric, a middle layer of synthetic rubber, and an inner lining of polyester. Beneath that lies a three-layer (polyester nonwoven fabric, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) insulating fleece, and polyester spunboard) insulating tier. It doesn’t end there. Foam-laminated fabric makes up the headliner. The electrically powered top uses two electric motors, and latches and unlatches automatically. VW claims it takes 9.5 seconds to lower and 11 seconds to raise. The difference is due to the time it takes for the top to latch when raised. If that’s not enough, the top can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 31 mph. If you want a wind blocker, you’ll have to order it from the dealer. This “Volkswagen Genuine Accessory” sits in the trunk under the top well when stowed, and allows full use of the trunk.
However, once you cut the top off a coupe, it becomes less rigid. To make up for this, VW added a number of reinforcements. These include:
- An A-pillar interior bar 0.5 mm thicker and made from ultra-high-strength hot-formed steel that includes a reinforcement in the “bend area”.
- An additional central plate in the front roof crossmember.
- Additional ultra-high-strength (hot formed) steel tubing between the B-pillars as well as a stronger heel plate.
- More sheetmetal in the lower body side members.
- An extra rear panel made of high-strength steel that integrates the Automatic Rollover Support System.
This has increased body stiffness by 20% over the New Beetle Convertible, and increased torsional rigidity to 17.8 Hz. Whatever that means. It also boasts an Automatic Rollover Support System—two roll-over bars concealed behind the rear bench seat-back that, when activated by the chassis computer, deploys the airbags in the case of a crash. It also includes VW’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard lights if the car is involved in certain types of collisions. Even with all of this structure and stuff, the curb weight ist 3,206 lb for the 2.5L w/automatic transmission and goes up to 3,296 lb for the TDI w/automatic.
Three engine choices are available for 2013:
- A 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder that develops 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.
- VW’s 200 hp/207 lb-ft 2.0-liter turbocharged, 16-valve four.
- The 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection 140 hp/236 lb-ft Clean Diesel engine.
When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the diesel version has an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 28 miles per gallon city/41 mpg highway, making it one of the most economical convertibles on the road. The other transmission choice is a six-speed automatic. And while the other engines aren’t as economical as the diesel, they’re no slouches either. The 2.5-liter is rated at 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway, and the 2.0-liter turbo returns 21/29 with the DSG automatic and 21/30 with the six-speed manual gearbox.
What’s better than driving through the sunny skies of Southern California with a convertible top down? Don’t ask me because I don’t care WHAT Albert Hammond said, it DOES rain in California, and the skies took out their vengeance on us journalists as we test drove the new Beetle Convertible through a series of twisty mountain roads, along freeways and through the city and suburban streets of the greater Los Angeles area. However, the real surprise came when we were able to experience first-hand the amazing interior quietness. The only reason to raise your voice while riding in the vehicle is if you have rear-seat noises that constantly cackle about how long it’s taking to get where you’re going. Another surprising feature is how good the visibility is even with the top up. The heated rear glass window, though on the small side, doesn’t really block much, if any, of your vision.
The new Beetle’s ride is very good. All convertible models are fitted with a strut-type front suspension with lower control arms and an anti-roll bar. The back gets a multi-link independent rear suspension with coil springs, telescopic dampers and an 18-mm anti-roll bar. Depending on how it’s equipped the vehicles comes standard with 17-in wheels and available 18s.
As I’ve heard asked many time, “Who put eight great tomatoes in that little, bitty can?” The same could be said about how VW managed to create room for four full-sized adults. I personally witnessed a man who could play center at 73.6% of any colleges ease himself into the rear seat of the new Convertible. Granted, it was made easier by his first lowering the top, but the old adage of “man do what man got to do” still rings true. Front seat legroom is a very comfortable 41.3 in. and total interior volume is 51.9 ft3. Cargo volume is an acceptable (for what it is) 7.1 ft3.
I could recount all of the models and equipment available on the Beetle Convertible, but I won’t. Instead, I’ve decided to not let the work of the press kit writer go to waste, and shamelessly copied the model rundown for your edification:
The Beetle Convertible, which has a starting MSRP of $24,995, comes standard with: six-speed automatic transmission; leather-wrapped steering wheel; manual air conditioning; Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod adapter; three-color adjustable ambient lighting; Bluetooth technology; heated front seats; V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces; 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; eight-speaker sound system with aux-in; cruise control; and power adjustable, heated side mirrors. The ‘50s Edition adds leather seating surfaces, chrome exterior mirror caps, and “Heritage” wheels; it costs $26,095.
Beetle Convertible with Technology
Opening at $26,695, this trim adds the following to the Beetle Convertible’s standard equipment: a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel; Keyless access with push-button start; Premium VIII touchscreen radio; high-line trip computer; and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
Beetle Convertible with Sound and Navigation
In addition to the features on the Beetle Convertible with Technology, this adds: 18-inch “Disc” aluminum-alloy wheels; the RNS 315 navigation system; and the Fender Premium Audio System. The Beetle Convertible with Sound and Navigation starts at $28,495. The ‘70s Edition adds chrome exterior mirror caps and a unique Toffee Brown metallic color, for an MSRP of $28,595.
Beetle TDI Convertible
Starting at $27,895, the TDI receives the following equipment that’s additional to the Beetle 2.5L’s: six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic transmission; leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel; Keyless access with push-button start; a leather-wrapped gearshift knob; Sirius XM Satellite Radio; the Premium VIII touchscreen radio; and the auxiliary instrumentation cluster. The six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission is an $1100 option.
Beetle TDI Convertible with Sound and Navigation
With a base price of $29,195, this version takes the TDI’s standard equipment and adds the RNS 315 navigation system and the Fender Premium Audio System.
Beetle Turbo Convertible
Starting at $27,795, the Turbo adds the following equipment over the 2.5L model: a six-speed manual or DSG automatic transmission; a sport suspension; 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; aluminum-alloy pedals; black-finished exterior mirror housings; front fog lights; a leather-wrapped gearshift lever; and the auxiliary instrumentation cluster.
Beetle Turbo Convertible with Sound
This package adds a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel; Keyless access with push-button start; the Premium VIII touchscreen radio; the Fender Premium Audio System; a highline trip computer; and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The base MSRP is $29,195.
Beetle Turbo Convertible with Sound and Navigation
The topline Beetle Turbo starts at $31,195 and adds: leather seating surfaces, door trims, and dashboard; sport seats; and the RNS 315 navigation system. The ‘60s Edition has two-tone leather seats and Denim Blue paint: available only with the DSG transmission, it is priced at $32,395.
About the only thing missing from this list is the Beetle Convertible with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, which is good news for the Beetle Convertible’s competition. This includes the Fiat 500c and Mini Cooper Convertible for the TDI and the Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang and Mini Cooper S Convertible for the Beetle Turbo. That’s a rather eclectic list, and one that many may argue with based on performance, image, etc. That said, were there things about the new Beetle Convertible I didn’t like or care for? Probably, but I was having too much fun driving it to notice them. I’m easily spoiled by grandchildren and fun-to-drive small cars that are built to please. The Beetle Convertible fills that bill.