The Sun Gods must have been smiling on us – we got a brief warm snap in the weather just as we tested the all-new 2013 Beetle Convertible Turbo. And while its thickly-lined convertible top and bun-toasting heated seats would make it quite comfy for more appropriate February conditions, the point of a convertible is top-down driving, no?
Yes! The Beetle Convertible follows on the heels of the all-new Beetle introduced for 2012. We recently tested a Turbo Coupe and came away completely smitten. With it’s more muscular look, nicer interior and solid performance manners, it was a giant leap for Beetle kind. We wanted one for our very own.
Well, we’ve changed our minds. We want the 2013 Beetle Convertible instead. Let’s start with the looks. Like the new Beetle Coupe, the drop-top is longer and wider than before, with nice fender flares that give it a broad-shouldered look. Instead of the previous convertible’s roofline, the new one is hunkered down, looking a lot more hot rod coupe or Porsche Boxster than Barbie’s new Volkswagen convertible. Being a turbo, ours also enjoyed large 18” multi-spoke “Twister” alloy wheels and a fixed rear spoiler for some added menace. Our tester looked especially smart in Tornado Red with black top (beige is available too), but if we ordered one, we’d opt for Deep Black Pearl Metallic with black interior, and enjoy having the baddest bug on the block.
And if you’re going to look bad, you better be able to back it up. Fortunately, the Beetle Turbo serves up a heaping serving of driving fun. Your first concern with any convertible made by chopping off the roof of a hardtop is structural rigidity. VW took special care to make the chassis stiff, beefing up key areas with ultra high-strength steel. The result is a very solid chassis with nearly zero flex and an impressive feeling of solidity.
Dropping the power top is easy – just push the button above the rear view mirror and in 9.5 seconds it stows itself away. (Raising takes an equally quick 11 seconds). If you’ve ever had to raise or lower the top at a stop light, and had the unfortunate luck of having the light change while in the act, you’ll appreciate that you can raise or lower the Beetle’s top at speeds up to 31 mph. Mind you, if you have a manual transmission like we did, that could make driving a bit of a challenge….
You’ll be well rewarded though, because the Beetle Convertible Turbo takes all the driving fun of the Coupe, and adds the unique joys of top-down driving. Being a bit heavier, the Convertible is marginally slower, but the wind rushing through your hair and the sun shining in your face makes up for it, so we’ll call it a wash.
The 200 hp, turbo 2.0-liter 4 is more than up to the challenge, and scoots you quickly around town with a throaty warble to the exhaust that reminds us of the air-cooled flat-four thrum that VW has made famous for decades. Power is very good, with lots of low-end torque and a happy snarl as you wind it out. We loved the 6-speed manual on our tester – the shifting is crisp and the clutch is light. Volkswagen's available DSG automatic is an amazing gearbox and we wouldn’t fault anyone for buying it – but we say, try the stick first. It adds to the driving fun when you’re in the mood, but doesn’t detract when you’re in easy cruising mode.
The Convertible’s chassis is up for either mission. Unlike the Coupe, where non-turbo models get a simpler rear suspension, all convertibles get the independent rear suspension, which gives a supremely smooth ride while still being able to take advantage of the strong grip of those meaty 18-inch wheels and tires.
We suppose if you’re really after all-out performance you should just snag yourself a Beetle GTi, which really is a tremendous driver’s car with plenty of real-world flexibility. But we’d happily lose a little of that edge for A: the charm of the Beetle and B: the open-air exhilaration of the Convertible. Feel free to disagree.
We won’t be listening, because we’ll be soaking up the sun and the ambience of the Beetle interior. Here, it’s much the same as the Coupe, which is all good. The space utilization is hugely improved over the previous model, materials are much nicer, and there’s a general feeling of being surrounded by high quality.
Like the Coupe the front seats are extremely comfortable and supportive even for long trips. In the back, you can squeeze in adults, but it’s probably best for shorter journeys. Although with the top down, you don’t notice the cramped quarters nearly as much.
We also found the cabin to be breezy but not blustery, and if there are just two of you, the available wind blocker makes for a draft-free cabin. Speaking of room, there’s a removable cover for the convertible top, but it takes up a fair amount of the Beetle’s trunk space, so unless you’re sure you’re going to be top-down the whole time, we’d leave it at home.
While we are certainly at the driving enthusiast end of the motoring scale, VW has a Beetle Convertible for just about anyone who’s interested. You’re most basic model features a 170-hp ,2.5L 5-cylinder engine (a nice Audi-like one at that), and includes Bluetooth, and iPod interface and power top along with all the standard goodies you’d expect for $24,995. You can add technology, sound systems and navigation from there.
You can muscle into a Turbo as low as $27,795. Our Turbo tester with Sound & Navigation was pretty much as loaded as they come, and carried a sticker of $31,195. That strikes us as pretty much of a bargain. While the Mini convertible is close in price, it is much smaller. And when you start look at other European competitors like the Audi A5 and BMW 3-series, you’re looking at least $10-15,000 more.
One very cool thing VW is offering are some special editions, including a 50’s Edition in a classic Black with a beige interior and “moon” style alloy wheels. There’s also a 70’s Edition in Toffee Brown on Beige with chrome on the Disc-style alloy wheels and outside mirrors. Both editions are exclusive to the non-turbo. Fear not Turbo buyers, there’s the 60’s Edition with a Denim blue exterior, dash and steering wheel trim.
And if that’s not enough choice, VW even offers the Beetle Convertible in TDI Clean Diesel with an EPA estimated 41 mpg on the highway!
Well, we’re back now to our regularly scheduled weather. So we’ll be driving our remaining time with the top up, seat heaters on, and snug as a bug. (Pun intended). Hey Sun Gods! How about one more warm day before we have to give our Beetle back to VW?