After what has been very long winter for most of the country, warm weather is finally here. And what better way to fully enjoy it than dropping the top in a convertible and finding that less travelled road to nowhere. Well, open air motoring is what this special edition of MotorWeek is all about. So, let’s start with a near perfect cure for the winter blues, the all-new Volkswagen Beetle Convertible.
Following last year’s intro of a more masculine 3rd generation Beetle Coupe, comes the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible. But, even after the manly makeover, the Beetle remains what it has always been; a cute, little car that turns heads wherever you go.
Impressively enough, all of the Coupe’s powertrain options are available, including the TDI Clean Diesel, which was our choice for this test. And after a few weeks of wheel time, we had mixed feelings on the 140-horsepower oil burner and its 236 lb-ft. of torque.
While you’ve gotta love the torque, it may not be as impressive as you’re expecting and we hate paying extra for both the engine and the fuel to put in it. Especially when there are so many other engine options. Still, we did enjoy watching the range indicator decline very slowly.
The new Beetle drop-top’s handling is still on the soft side, but that’s just fine, as this Bug is at its best on gentle highway curves and straightaways while running the tank dry. When driven at a moderate clip, it feels entertaining, if not roadster fun. Pushed harder, this convertible starts to feel overweight; curb weight is up about 120 pounds over the TDI Coupe; and the sunny bug just doesn’t dart in and out of cones or traffic as eagerly as you think it should.
In a straight line, it has no problem launching with a healthy amount of grunt; but shortly thereafter, the diesel settles into to a relaxed procession down the track. No matter what you try, this Beetle just wants you to take your time and enjoy the ride. Our TDI’s DSG was A-OK with managing its 6-gears all by itself smoothly, if a little slowly, taking us 9.3-seconds to hit 60 and 17.3-seconds to hit 82, and the end of the ¼.
The interior of the Beetle convertible is familiar with the same wide dash and good German fit-and-finish as the Coupe. Rear seats are actually easy to get into, and even when the top’s up there’s a surprising amount of headroom, but unless the front seat occupants scooch fairly far forward, there’s little leg room. Similar to the coupe.
Trunk space is the same whether the top is stored or not, and is actually good for a compact drop top, down from the Coupe’s 15.4 cubic-ft. to 7.1. The opening is fairly small, but the rear seats backs do still fold for good practicality. Top operation is smooth, quiet, and quick taking about 10-seconds at speeds up to 30 miles-per-hour.
We drove in a variety of weather conditions, including very hard rain, and found the 3-layer top to be so well insulated; it was hard to tell you were in a convertible. And when the top is stored, it does so more compactly than before, increasing rear visibility and giving this bug a trimmed down look.
The extra curb weight comes mostly from chassis reinforcements. A-pillar and windshield header supports are thicker, there’s additional bracing under the B-pillars, and there’s a new structure for mounting the Automatic Rollover Support System.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are quite good as you would expect for a diesel coming in at 28-City, 41-Highway, and 32-Combined. We topped off the tank and hit the road for a long weekend road trip and averaged a fine 36 miles-per-gallon.
There are relatively few affordable drop-tops on the market, and the Beetle’s $25,790 entry point certainly makes it one of them. TDI pricing begins at $28,690.
It’s a true testament to the Beetle’s near universal appeal and longevity that you still see plenty of the original open top Beetles trolling the streets. But the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible offers more than just retro style. It packs good comfort, decent practicality, and everyday livability into an enjoyable, fun-looking package that puts smiles on our faces every time we get behind the wheel. And, that’s what a convertible is all about.
Torque: 236 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 17.3 seconds @ 82 mph
EPA: 28 mpg city/ 41 mpg highway