2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo First Test
Beach Bug: Now Suitable for Transporting Males to Muscle Beaches
The old New Beetle was a charmer, but its Hello Kitty cuteness, standard bud vase, and Malibu Barbie editions meant that the female/male ownership ratio approached that of the Lifetime and OWN cable channels viewership. The lowercase-n new Beetle manned up last year, and its convertible spinoff does so to an equal or greater extent for 2013.
Remember the Ragster concept of 2005? Turns out it did indeed foretell this ragtop's raffish speedster-like roofline, which stands 1.1 inch lower than that of its bubbly forebear. Combined with the hardtop's longer (6.0 inches), wider (3.3 inches) bodywork, it has a meaner, more purposeful stance. And while only the turbocharged tin-tops get a spoiler, all convertibles get their chromed beltlines extended with this racy appendage. Functionally, Beetles are Golfs making a fashion statement, and to heighten that statement, the convertible will launch with three "decades" special editions, badged "50s" (black over tan leather with "heritage" moon-look wheels), "60s" (denim blue over two-tone blue-accented black leather), and "70s" (toffee brown over tan leather with chrome-disc wheels).
The reshaped roofline slices off 1.4 inches of (arguably surplus) front headroom but adds almost a half-inch of welcome rear-seat noggin space, and the wider body adds a much-needed inch of rear shoulder-room. (Broad-shouldered adults may still find themselves angling inboard to clear the side panels.) Overall interior space is up from 78.0 to 81.4 cubic feet.
Along with the dimensional bulking up has come some toning effort to harden this topless model's physique by 20 percent in terms of torsional rigidity. Those efforts include thicker A-pillars hot-formed of ultra-high-strength steel with increased reinforcement in the area where they meets the body. The B-pillars get additional steel tubing (also ultra-high-strength) and stronger panels by the rear occupants' heels and where the pop-up rollover protection system mounts. Laser welding of certain parts also helps beef up the open Beetle.
The convertible top mechanism went on a P90X workout regimen too. It now stows itself in just 9.5 seconds at the touch of a single button, and you'll only feel 11.0 seconds of rain before the top latches itself closed. Best of all, it's strong enough to open or close at speeds of up to 31 mph, meaning none of those raindrops need actually hit you.
That seven-layer top still stacks above the bodywork (harking to its 1949 forebear), but it's compact enough not to block visibility much, and this keeps it from impinging on the roomier 7.1-cubic-foot trunk space (up from 5.0), which expands by lowering the split-folding seats. There's a partially rigidized vinyl top boot that's pretty easy to install, with the various clasps and tabs numbered in the order they're to be clicked and tucked into place. Be forewarned that it consumes much of the trunk space if you carry it with you. (Please remember to retrieve it from the attic when trading in your Beetle cab.) Not so, the accessory windblocker. It stows well out of the way in an inch-and-a-half thick tray that attaches to the trunk's ceiling. It's also quite easy to install without instructions.
Drivetrain options are all shared with the closed Beetle, meaning a choice of three engines--2.5-liter I-5, a 2.0-liter TDI diesel, and a 2.0 direct-injected turbo--backed by a six-speed manual or DSG (anticipated low demand axed the 2.5-liter manual option). Yes, that means there will be a diesel convertible available in the U.S. (our first), but fear not--you'll never catch a whiff of sooty stink, because there's virtually none to whiff in this modern, sanitized oil-burner. One curiosity: taller manual-transmission gearing means that both the gas and diesel engines achieve better fuel economy (and suffer slower acceleration) than their DSG counterparts, bucking an industry trend. In the chassis department, all Beetle cabs get the turbo hatchback's multi-link rear suspension, while turbo convertibles are further upgraded with a larger front anti-roll bar (23mm versus 22) and other dynamic tweaks.
The launch event coincided with a rare rainy spell on the beach in Malibu, California, but wet drives in the 2.5 and TDI models revealed them to behave almost exactly like their hardtop brethren. Quivers and cowl shakes were minimal, and I applaud VW's decision to spring for an independent rear suspension on all models. It must isolate the body from one-wheel inputs better than the beam could, further improving the sense of rigidity.
I chose to drive away a top-performing Turbo DSG model, complete with leather, Fender audio, and navigation, ringing in at $33,090 (the base 2.5 starts at $25,790, a modest $4100 up from the automatic hardtop). Impatient by nature, I quickly fell in love with the ability to raise or lower the top while entering and leaving parking lots, and also with the stunningly crisp, clean sound of the Fender audio system. (No wonder 40 percent of Beetle buyers are springing for it). I never fell for the guttural exhaust note, which sounds like it's doing an impression of the five-banger's moan. I guess that basso note is supposed to sound manlier, but this very same engine sings sweeter in other VW/Audi models.
Performance-wise, it behaves like a Beetle that's 155 pounds heavier: 0-60 takes the same 6.3 seconds, and the quarter-mile falls in 14.4 seconds at 94.4 mph (strangely quicker by 0.5 seconds and slower by 0.3 mph). That's quicker, by the way, than Mercedes' turbo SLK250 and it puts VW's pricier Eos hardtop convertible on the trailer as well (6.5/15.1 at 92.9 mph). Handling is little diminished, as evidenced by figure-eight performance of 27.1 seconds at 0.65g, just 0.1 second off the tin-top's pace.
Convertible-wise, the optional wind blocker maintains a calm, easily conditioned cockpit, and along with the standard seat heaters, extends the top-down season. The driver's window switch can raise or lower all windows; the visors pivot out (unlike in many convertibles); and cabin noise with that seven-layer top raised is suitably hushed. A 40-minute top-up ride in the back seat even proved tolerable. The seat-back angle is reasonable; the visibility is acceptable; and the head and leg room feel sufficient, though the shoulder space seems as tight as the front-seat shoulder room in a vintage Super Beetle convertible VW brought along for comparison. (It's willowy, slow, and the controls are mysterious, but that trademark ping-y exhaust note and carrot-in-Cuisinart shifter have a charm all their own.) Best of all, both front seats have an easy-entry flip and slide function, and their mechanical tracks remember your backrest and seat-track positions. This feature is reportedly rolling out in all VW two-doors this year.
Yin/yang-wise, this newbie is far better balanced. Blacked-out turbos are now sufficiently butch for any he-man, while pastel hues should help retain the Malibu Barbie-edition faithful. Which way to the beach?
|2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$33,090|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||2.0L/200-hp/207-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3330 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||168.4 x 71.2 x 58.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 94.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||21/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||160/116 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.81 lb/mile|