2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 70s EditionPosted on March 26th, 2013
Open-air fun for every generation
By Nina Russin
I moved to Arizona because I love the sun, and for the same reason, I love convertibles. Driving with the top down is a visceral experience- as close to a motorcycle as a car can get.
When Volkswagen launched the third all-new version of the Beetle convertible last December, product planners faced a daunting challenge: to celebrate the car’s heritage without being overly retro.
Buyers who remember the original Beetle can choose from special editions celebrating the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This week, I drove the 70s edition, which I have to say is way too attractive to represent a decade best known for the AMC Pacer and shag carpeting.
The test car comes with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels and a rear spoiler. MSRP, excluding the $795 destination charge, is $28,595. Comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, air conditioning, heated front seats, satellite radio, 50/50 split folding rear seats and a Fender audio system.
The Fender audio system and technology package, which includes the push button start, satellite radio and redundant steering wheel controls are separate options on the base model, hence the difference between its starting price of $24, 995 and the special edition car.
Three engine choices
By offering three engine options, engineers expanded the convertible’s appeal to driving enthusiasts. Buyers wanting more than the base 170-horsepower engine can substitute the same 200-horsepower turbo block used in the GTI, or a fuel-efficient turbo diesel.
All three come paired with either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission.
While the 2.4-liter block in the test car wouldn’t me my first choice, it has enough power to satisfy the needs of most drivers. I had no problems accelerating into high-speed traffic, nor moving off the line after a traffic light.
The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, with no obvious shift shock under normal conditions.
Volkswagen adds some additional value in features the average driver might not notice, such as the standard four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes.
The convertible also has a rear back glass, which has the advantage over plastic of not fogging. Visibility is decent with the top in place: the rear window is large by convertible standards, and over-the-shoulder visibility is excellent.
Steering response from the hydraulic rack-and-pinion system is soft but not overly so. I had no problems performing quick lane changes. Thanks to the car’s short wheelbase, the Beetle convertible has a 35.4-foot turning circle, making U-turns a non-issue.
Top down cruising
I first drove the Beetle convertible at the media launch, when the weather was less than cooperative. Fortunately, the weather was sunny and dry this past week when I had the car in Phoenix. I put the top down the first time I drove the convertible, and didn’t put it back up until I gave it back.
A single switch near the rearview mirror operates both the top and windows. An audible chime lets the drive know that the top is locked in place. There’s a boot that slides over the cloth top to protect it when deployed.
One of the most impressive aspects of the convertible’s engineering is how solid the body is. Convertibles tend to suffer from cowl shake, and as a result, get more squeaks and rattles than hard top cars. This one does not.
Engineers were also mindful of safety. Two pop-up rollbars protect passengers in the event of a rollover collision.
Although the pricier Eos convertible hard top stows in the trunk, I’m glad the top for the Beetle convertible does not. The trunk is quite small. With the rear seats in place, it holds a couple of small pieces of luggage. If the top collapsed into the trunk, there wouldn’t be enough storage space for two people to use the car on a road trip.
Designers did a good job of incorporating retro touches such as the ‘Beetle box’ in the instrument panel, while keeping the car modern. The convertible seats up to four passengers, although legroom in the second row is sparse.
Keyless entry and start enables the driver to unlock the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. He can relock the vehicle by depressing a touch pad on the door handle upon exiting.
The leatherette upholstery looks like real leather, and is quite comfortable. I found the manual front seat adjustments easy to operate. HVAC and audio controls are within easy reach of both the driver and front passenger. All are intuitive to operate.
I really like the fact that the rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor: a rarity in the convertible world. It makes the car more practical for buyers with active lifestyles, who might want to stash skis, golf clubs or snowboards in back.
Engineers reinforced the Beetle’s A-pillars, to work in tandem with the rollbars in protecting passengers if a rollover occurs. Other standard safety features include front and side airbags, antilock brakes and stability control.
An intelligent crash response system unlocks the doors, shuts off the fuel system and turns on the hazard lights if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
All scheduled maintenance is covered by the factory warranty for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
The 2013 Beetle convertible is rolling into Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, solidly built convertible with a high level of standard safety, comfort and convenience features.
Dislike: Lack of legroom in the second-row seats. Small trunk opening can make it difficult to load large cargo.
Model: Beetle Convertible 70s Edition
Base price: $24,995
As tested: $28,595*
Horsepower: 170 Hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 177 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 21/27 mpg city/highway
Comment: * Does not include $795 destination charge.
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