Volkswagen introduced the “new” Beetle back in 1997. It was a modern take on their iconic bug.
|1. The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible ‘70s Edition is only offered in one color, the exclusive “Toffee Brown.”
2. The only engine available in the ‘70s Edition Beetle is a 2.5L 5-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque.
3. The car is rated at 21 MPG city and 27 highway, figures that result in a combined score of 23 MPG.
4. Base price is around $29,000, about three grand more than a non-‘70s base model.
The reinvented small car ditched its rear-mounted, air-cooled engine in favor of liquid-filled powerplants installed in ahead of the passenger compartment. There were other sweeping changes as well, particularly in the design department. The reborn model featured an overly curvaceous body that was essentially a characterture of the original. For many customers it was far too cutesy and compact two-door soon became the quintessential “chick car.”
Fast forward to 2011 and Vee-Dub introduced a new version of the “new” Beetle, one with appreciably more masculine styling. Now, guys probably haven’t been flocking to it like seagulls congregating around a dump truck full of croutons, but at least the embarrassment factor has been tremendously reduced, especially if the car’s got those killer retro-styled hubcaps that look like they came straight out of the 1950s.
But what about the Beetle convertible? Is it a safe option for men or is it still the ovarian overload? We put a special version of the car through its paces for a week to find out.
CAN YA DIG IT?
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The model provided for evaluation was a limited-production version called the ‘70s Edition. Since it pays homage to the grooviest decade of the 20th century it was painted a disco-approved color. The Vee-Dub was slathered in sparkly “Toffee Brown” paint that made it appear as if it had been dunked in milk chocolate tainted with aluminum filings.
Furthering the retro look are those special 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome-clad side-view mirrors. The beige ragtop is also decidedly old-school, but its performance is thoroughly modern. It lifts or lowers in all of 10 seconds. A supplemental cover clips on over the folded top making everything look neat and tidy; OCD motorists will love it, though they probably hate wind in their hair so it really doesn’t matter.
The Beetle’s interior is exactly what you’d expect from a reasonably priced C-Segment car. It constructed almost exclusively of hard plastic, but it’s nicely textured and doesn’t look blatantly cheap. Assembly quality is more precise than a Starrett micrometer.
Adding a dash of personality to an otherwise straightforward cockpit, designers opted to carry the Beetle’s exterior color throughout the interior. Large painted pieces run across the door panels, dashboard and steering wheel, adding a dash of fun, especially if you’ve opted for an exuberant color. Floppy woven door pockets seem out of place in an otherwise well-sorted interior.
At first, dual glove boxes make it look like you’ve hit the storage mother lode, but in truth they’re a bit misleading. The lower unit is as you’d expect: wide, deep and commodious. But the upper one is something of a bait and switch. It’s got a fairly large door but is only roomy enough for a pair of eyeglass cases or a pack of kosher hotdogs. Pack accordingly; trunk space is limited as well.
The seats are trimmed in fairly convincing imitation leather that’s attractively grained and feels nice to the touch; VW calls it “V-Tex leatherette.” It’s probably a better material choice for an open-air car than the genuine article. If the top ever leaks or gets left down during a rainstorm the vinyl will repel water, not suck it up like a chamois.
Moving from the seats to the center stack Volkswagen’s navigation system is a strange blend of old and new. The display is fully touch-enabled, responding to your every push, poke and prod, but augmenting its modern pressure-sensitive screen are hard buttons and a small control knob. It’s an interesting blend of digital and analogue that actually works pretty well. The buttons can be used to control some of the on-screen functions.
Another plus is connectivity. Pairing a phone with the car’s Bluetooth system takes about 30 seconds; the navigation system is just as easy to use.
The ‘70s Edition Beetle drop-top loaned to AutoGuide was equipped with a hard-hitting Fender sound system. It delivered a barrage of decibels without any distortion. Editor-in-Chief Colum Wood’s favorite Alanis Morsette hits (Ed. Maybe her early stuff) or Hanson’s MMMBop never sounded better. Drop the top, crank it up and let the estrogen flow, the Beetle is happy to oblige.
MOANING, GROANING AND DRONING
Buyers opting for this special version of the Beetle will be disappointed by what’s under the hood. The only engine available is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder. It puts out a mediocre 170 horsepower with a torque peak of 177 lb-ft.
In addition to modest output numbers it also delivers a devastating duet of noise and vibration. The engine broadcasts a hoarse, sickly moan during acceleration; it’s an off-kilter thrum that’s more of a killjoy than finding out your girlfriend is neither a friend nor a girl. It also feels grittier than a bucket of crushed glass poured down the front of your boxers. Stay away from this engine, far away.
The ‘70s Beetle is also limited in another area. Other versions of the car can be had with a Gatling gun-fast dual-clutch automatic or even a proper six-speed manual. But this retro-themed model is saddled exclusively with a run-of-the-mill six-gear auto-box. It makes the most of the engine’s output, but it can only do so much. It’s a good transmission but its partner should be serving concurrent life sentences at the bottom of a manmade lake, which is convenient because the company just announced it’s scrapping the dreadful five-banger. Say a prayer to whatever sky deity you may or may not worship; this is great news for customers.
SEE ALSO: 2014 VW JETTA DITCHES FIVE-CYLINDER
Back to reality, fuel economy is another one of the engine’s downsides; it’s something that makes the powertrain situation even glummer. The car is slated to deliver 21 miles per gallon city and 27 highway, figures that result in a combined score of 23 MPG, a number we nailed in real-world use, though to be fair we were weeping all the way.
Thankfully the Beetle’s powertrain situation is not all bad news. A super-efficient TDI diesel is on the menu as is a smooth and powerful 2.0-liter turbo. The former delivers up to 41 MPG highway, the later a spunky 200 horsepower. If you want a Beetle do yourself a favor and get one of these engines.
ON THE ROAD, OFF THE CHART
Believe it or not most convertibles are heavier than the coupe models they’re based on. You’d think chopping the steel roof off a car would result in something lighter, but that’s not the case. Drop-top Beetles are more than 200 pounds heavier than their two-door counterparts. It turns out the roof is a major structural component and without an iron umbrella over the occupants vehicles tend to go all wobbly, like an overcooked lasagna noodle.
Just like Franklin Roosevelt the solution to this problem is extra bracing. Open-air models get additional structural elements to help keep the front and back ends connected and working in tandem; this is where a lot of that extra mass comes from.
Even with additional supports, gussets and buttresses the most rigid of convertibles tend to shimmy and shake a little over rough pavement; it’s just the nature of the beast. How does the mass-market Beetle fare? Very well, actually. The car is tight and mostly rattle free. Only the biggest of chuckholes and frost heaves cause any meaningful wiggle and jiggle; some drop-tops shake like an 8.0 on the Richter Scale but not Volkswagen’s retro offering.
Base price for an entry-level Beetle convertible is about $26,000 including $795 in destination and delivery fees. That’s about five grand more than the least expensive coupe offered. The special ‘70s Edition is a bit more expensive than that, stickering for a smidgen more than $29,000, ancillary fees included.
The Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is a solid small car with some nice features and a reasonable base price, but even with more masculine styling it’s still almost exclusively the domain of women. The car is just too cute for guys.
The coupe, however, is another story. It exudes far less estrogen and is a viable option for masculine motorists, and best of all it costs less! Just make sure to avoid the five-cylinder engine.