Less Flower, More Power



Pardon our political incorrectness for a moment, but the Volkswagen New Beetle was, undeniably, a "chick car." There was almost nothing that the New Beetle offered to enthusiasts (of either gender), and by the end of its run, VW had even stripped all of the exciting engines from the car's lineup. Looking to resurrect some of the excitement behind the Beetle, the third generation of the iconic car ditched the cuteness when the coupe debuted for 2012, and now the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible aims to show how much fun drivers can have without a top.

Celebrating almost six and a half decades of the Beetle convertible, Volkswagen is offering a trio of distinct special editions that celebrate three of the car's most popular decades (the '50s, '60s and '70s), but as one of the unofficial cars of the 1960s, it would almost be a crime not to test this version, right? Besides, this is also the only special edition to get the turbocharged engine. While our first drive of the 2013 Beetle Convertible was in the fuel-miser TDI variation, our two-week romp in the 2013 Beetle Convertible '60s Edition came just as peak convertible weather was kicking off down in Florida.

The retro styling craze caught like a wildfire in the early 2000s, but quickly fizzled out as automakers realized that redesigning these cars for a subsequent second generation became a challenge in itself. This is likely the very reason why the New Beetle remained relatively the same for almost its entire 12-year run, but in creating the third-generation Beetle, Volkswagen tried to distance itself from adjectives like "cute" and "bubbly" by using more mainstream-friendly cues, which carry over nicely to the convertible form.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible side view2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible front view2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible rear view

VW managed to keep the styling between the coupe and convertible almost identical with the top up.

The Beetle still has an overall shape similar to the previous model, including the signature circular headlights and the wide, rounded fenders, but the longer nose, flatter roofline and D-shaped taillights all do wonders to add a little athleticism to the Beetle's look. As hard as VW tried to get away from the quirky design of the New Beetle, though, it's still kind of hard to pull off the Denim Blue paint job of to the '60s Edition model without having some people refer to it with some sort of dainty phrases. Thankfully, even in this color, the Beetle is hard to criticize with its 18-inch five-spoke wheels, red-painted brake calipers and the subtle rear spoiler.

VW even managed to keep the styling between the coupe and convertible models almost identical with the top up, but the biggest improvement made to this car is the better packaging of the roof when lowered. No longer is there a giant mound of fabric blocking rearward visibility when the top is down, and this is accomplished with a totally redesigned top mechanism, which you can see the differences between in this comparison of VW stock photos showing the 2003 Beetle Cabriolet and the 2013 Beetle Convertible.



The soft top lowers in less than 10 seconds at speeds up to 31 miles per hour.

Looking to take away even more of the New Beetle's quirkiness, the latest Beetle has a conventional interior design that fits in much better with other current VW products and is devoid of a dash-mounted flower holder, but the 2013 Beetle Convertible hasn't lost all of its fashion sense. This car has ribbed seat backs and bottoms for the classic '60s look and a flat-bottomed steering wheel for more of the sporty look and feel. The '60s Edition convertible carries the Denim Blue exterior color into the cabin covering most of the interior including the steering wheel, seats and instrument panel, and like all Turbo models, it comes with a three-gauge cluster mounted atop the instrument panel including an oil pressure gauge, boost gauge and a central dial housing both digital and manual stopwatches.

Coming fully loaded with the Sun and Sound Package, the Beetle Convertible '60s Edition leaves no option box unchecked, ranging from the touch-screen navigation system to the Fender premium audio system. Speaking of the audio system, the door speakers have driver-selectable color-changing lights that add to the car's nighttime ambiance. Of course, when we're talking about the Beetle Convertible, we have to mention the soft top, which has a padded headliner helping to keep most road noise out of the cabin and lowers in less than 10 seconds at speeds up to 31 miles per hour.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible headlight2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible wheel2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible rear spoiler2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible taillight

We tried numerous times to get the vinyl tonneau cover in place to hide the top when lowered, but eventually gave up.

In terms of comfort, there is no shortage of space for front occupants, but the rear seat, like all convertibles, is severely limited. We're sure you could fit four adults inside this car, but you better be quick to call "shotgun" if you aren't holding the key. That being said, one of the features we did appreciate about the Beetle's manual seats is that they come with a memory mode so that when people are getting out of the back seat, the front seats automatically lock back into place.

The overall look and feel of the Beetle's new interior should play just as big of a role in attracting new buyers as the exterior design, but even after two weeks with this car, two things stuck out as being overly complex. First, there is the push-button starter, which, as introduced on the current Jetta, is mounted on the center console next to the shifter in a very non-intuitive position. One of the problems with only having these cars for a short period of time is that it's harder to learn some of their intricacies – for the Beetle Convertible, it was trying to figure out how to install the tonneau cover when the top was lowered. We tried numerous times to get the vinyl cover in place to hide the top when it's lowered, but eventually gave up leaving the lump of vinyl to consume a large portion of the car's 7.1 cubic-foot trunk.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible interior2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible front seats2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible rear seats2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible top

One thing that left much to be desired from the Beetle Turbo is its fuel economy.

Unlike the base Beetle – and the '50s and '70s models – the '60s Edition comes standard with the same engine used in the Beetle Turbo. This turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is widely used by Volkswagen, and it is good for 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet in all applications. Coming in at only a couple hundred pounds more than a GTI using the same engine, the Beetle Turbo Convertible is essentially the closest thing that US buyers can get to a convertible version of VW's hot hatch, including the much heavier Eos. In addition to the turbo engine, those opting for the '60s Edition Beetle Convertible will also get the quick-shifting DSG six-speed gearbox to help hammer the car's performance intentions home. One thing that left much to be desired from the Beetle Turbo is its fuel economy. We get that this car is doing its best to be a fast, peppy drop-top and its EPA ratings of 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway aren't awful, but if the bigger and heavier V6 Camaro and Mustang models can muster up 30 mpg in highway driving, the Beetle Turbo Convertible should be able to do better... especially when sucking down premium fuel.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible engine

Then again, you don't buy a Beetle Convertible for its fuel economy or even its practicality; you buy it for its top-down driving enjoyment, and this car definitely delivers. From the very first push of the push-button starter bringing the turbo engine to life with a surprisingly deep and burbly exhaust note, the Beetle Convertible rarely disappointed. Acceleration is quite zippy, and with the Turbo models getting a sport suspension with thicker sway bars and bigger brakes up front. the Beetle handles and stops really well, too. As usual, the DSG can be rather jerky at lower speeds, but it delivers quick shifts that are really noticeable when you get on the gas hard. There are also paddle shifters and a sport mode for wringing every last bit of performance from this engine. VW does not offer any official 0-60 times, but we averaged just under the seven-second mark after a few runs checking it with a built-in stopwatch. That performance is pretty good for a 3,272-pound convertible.

The fully loaded 2013 Beetle Convertible '60s Edition is priced at a staggering $33,190.

Convertibles usually get a bad rap for cowl shake and excessive wind noise, but we found the Beetle Turbo Convertible to be very solid while driving through corners or along rough roads, and the most noise you'll get in the cabin with the top up is the great exhaust note or the powerful Fender audio system. When it comes to the '60s Edition car (and most Turbo models), though, you're going to pay dearly for this kind of enjoyment.

Despite coming in at a rather affordable $24,995 in base form, the fully loaded 2013 Beetle Convertible '60s Edition is priced at a staggering $33,190 including destination. At that level there is no shortage of competition, including style-driven models like the Mini Cooper Convertible and Fiat 500C, as well as more conventional convertibles like the Chrysler 200 and V6 versions of the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible rear 3/4 view

It still isn't a mainstream vehicle, even though its sales might suggest otherwise.

As many improvements as the 2013 Beetle Convertible received over its predecessor, it still isn't a mainstream vehicle, even though the nameplate's sales numbers so far this year might suggest otherwise. The Beetle's triple-digit year-over-year sales increase is good enough to make the car the third-best-selling product in Volkswagen's US lineup behind the Jetta and Passat... even outselling the Golf!

The restrained styling and enjoyable engine options both help give this Beetle more mass-market appeal to attract new buyers, but this "retro" design continues to resonate with owners of previous Beetles and New Beetles, which was evident in the waves and thumbs up we received while driving the car. For us, it was just good to drive a Beetle without having to defend our manhood.