2013 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TDI ComfortlineView Vehicle Profile
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible cruises in Cali
SANTA MONICA, CALIF.—Feeling like the embodiment of every known SoCal cliché, I’m cruising the Pacific coastline, top down, Wayfarers on, ogling the surfer boys in their neoprene suits as they bound across the sand towards the rolling waves.
The only thing missing is the sun. When they tell you it never rains in California — don’t believe them. It pours; man, it pours. It’s fifty shades of grey all the way, and not exactly the best conditions under which to experience the newest drop-top Beetle.
Fortunately, the drizzle let up long enough to put the roof down, and the remainder of the day, while overcast, was fresh and balmy.
Despite the lack of sunshine, there is no finer convertible drive route than the Pacific Coast Highway, a glorious 198-km road that hugs the breathtaking California coastline. Especially when you’re driving a topless Beetle, a car that’s been interwoven with California surf culture for decades.
Underscoring that relationship, Volkswagen had several vintage Beetles available at the rest stop for those of us who wanted to experience the original air-cooled bug in its element.
A canny move in more ways than one. Aside from the smiling acknowledgement from everyone we passed — driving it couldn’t help but make the newest model appear light years ahead by comparison.
Nonetheless, it was impossible to wheel the chugging old bug through the Malibu hills without an ear-to-ear grin. Ironically, the silver 1970s edition I drove bore a “Don Valley Motors” sticker on its rear boot. I’d come all the way to California to drive a car that originated less than 40 minutes from my home.
The current Beetle, unveiled at the 2011 New York Auto Show, represented a push to attract more male buyers with stronger, more dynamic styling. Longer, lower and wider, the new Beetle has more than a hint of Porsche in its makeup.
The clean, modern gender-neutral cabin was embraced by those threatened by the former’s bud-vase-embellished kitschiness — as the coupe’s current 50/50 male/female buyer ratio proves. The previous model’s coupe was 70/30 female.
The previous ragtop sold more than 230,000 vehicles over its eight-year span, with about 75 per cent going to women. Volkswagen predicts 40 per cent of buyers for the new convertible will be men.
The 2013 Beetle Convertible will offer three drivetrains: a 170 hp, 2.5 L; a 200 hp, 2.0 L turbo; and a 140-hp, 2.0 L, turbo diesel. The first comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the others are available with either manual or DSG twin-clutch transmissions.
Unfortunately, Canadians will only get one configuration to start: the 2.5 L, six-speed automatic. U.S. buyers will also receive some cool nostalgic models that pay tribute to the iconic Beetles of the past, with dog-dish hubcaps and signature colours.
Volkswagen has promised that we’ll be able to buy the turbo-charged 2.0 L with either manual or automatic next fall as a 2014 model.
That’s a relief, because there’s no other choice for the enthusiast. Aside from the additional ponies, the Turbo’s stiffer suspension, larger brakes, limited slip system and bigger sway bars add up to a fun little car that could be considered a poor man’s Boxster. Equipped with the six-speed manual, it’s a nimble and joyful corner carver.
The similarly configured Turbo Diesel, with its vast torque range, is equally delightful — but, alas, there are no plans to bring it to Canada.
All convertibles come with a fully independent suspension — with a multi-link rear setup as compared to the torsion beam axle found in base model coupes. Extensive use of high-strength steel results in a car that’s 20 per cent stiffer than the outgoing model, with extra reinforcement in the A-pillars. We noticed little cowl shake in any of the models we tested.
Along the coastline, the base 2.5 L model proved a comfortable cruiser with plenty of character. I’ve generally got little patience for any extended al fresco cruising, with my mood becoming as snarly as my hairdo. But with the windows up, we noticed little wind buffeting — even at highway speed and were easily able to carry on a conversation or listen to the optional Fender sound system.
Once we headed up into the canyons, though, the softer base model proved to be far less athletic than the sportier Turbo.
The suspension wasn’t happy to be pushed into the tight corners, showing a loss of composure and more body roll when driven hard. Hydraulic steering is slightly less engaging than the new electric-assist setups in the other models.
For a lot of folks, these are probably moot points, since this car will spend most of its time cruising. It’s smooth and comfortable (although the “sport” seats in the Turbo model are much better than those in the base) and lacks the inherent claustrophobia of some convertibles when the top is up.
Unfurling the top takes 9.5 seconds, while stowing it is completed in 11, and both can be done at speeds up to 50 km/h. The roof feels solid and well-insulated, blocking out wind, and the rain that deluged us during the early hours of our drive.
The interior is comfortable and attractive, with none of the plastic nastiness of the Jetta. Tastefully designed dash and rotary switchgear are simple and solid — and undeniably German. Rear seats fold down 50/50, with a pass-through in the middle.
Behind the rear seats is a “pyrotechnic” pop-up roll bar — which sounds alarming, but refers to an active roll-over protection system. Even more reassuring: Volkswagen says the convertible’s safety features are designed with autobahn speeds in mind.
A niche vehicle maybe, but this new droptop Beetle embraces nostalgia, while cruising drama-free.
Available here sometime around Valentine’s Day, with the Turbo model to follow later in the year.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible:
ENGINE: 2.5 L inline five
POWER/TORQUE: 170 hp/177 lb.-ft.
FUEL CONSUMPTION L/100 km: 8.7 combined
COMPETITION: Mini Cooper Convertible, Fiat 500
WHAT’S BEST: A fun cruiser for those who embrace nostalgia.
WHAT’S WORST: Fuel-miser diesel not available.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Pyrotechnic roll-bar system that automatically deploys during rollover.
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