By Drew Johnson
Thursday, Dec 6th, 2012 @ 11:45 am
 

After a two-year absence, Volkswagen's Beetle Convertible is returning for the 2013 model year. Following the same general formula as its hardtop counterpart, VW is hoping its latest Beetle Convertible will lure a few more male buyers with a tougher look.

In order to achieve those harder edges, the Beetle Convertible arrives 6.2 inches longer, 3.3 inches wider and 1.1 inches lower than VW's previous Bug convertible. In fact, the 2013 Beetle Convertible is actually half an inch lower than the Beetle Coupe.

Those new proportions lend to a more purposeful stance, even if the Beetle Convertible remains more of a boulevard cruiser than a retro-styled GTI.

Like the Beetle coupe, the convertible can be gussied up in several different trims and themes. Most Bug convertibles that leave dealer lots will inevitably be standard models equipped with VW's 2.5-liter engine, but there are more interesting options available.

Beetle Convertible Turbo

For those looking for performance to match the Beetle Convertible's more masculine looks, a Turbo model tops the range for 2013. Equipped with a 200 horsepower, 207 lb-ft of torque version of VW's ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the Turbo can be had with either a six-speed manual or VW's six-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The Turbo package also includes a stiffer suspension, upgraded brakes and bigger wheels.

The Turbo is a little more sporty on paper than it is on the road, with its turbocharged engine failing to impress at anything less than full song. Still, the Turbo is a worthy upgrade to the Beetle Convertible's standard 170 horsepower 2.5, which can feel overwhelmed on steep inclines or when trying to overtake slower traffic. The 2.0 turbo is also more fuel efficient than the 2.5 - the EPA rates the turbocharged Bug at 21/29 mpg city/highway, whereas the five-cylinder car can only manage a crossover-like 21/27 mpg.

The Turbo benefits the most from the Beetle Convertible's stiffened chassis, which is 20 percent more rigid than the previous model. That solid base means the Beetle Convertible Turbo is surprisingly fun when the road turns twisty, but there are better drop top sports cars if that is your main mission.

Beetle Convertible TDI

In our opinion the most ideally suited engine for the Beetle Convertible, the diesel unit offers good power without any pretenses of performance. The oil-burner can also return better than 40 mpg on the highway and nearly 30 mpg in the city.

Rated at 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-liter four-cyliinder TDI engine offers good grunt off the line and feels much stronger overall than the Beetle's standard 2.5 gas-powered five-cylinder. The oil-burner also has a nice growl to it, which can be heard even clearer when the top down.

Best yet, the Beetle Convertible TDI - which is currently the only diesel-powered convertible available in the United States - is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual. VW's six-speed DSG automatic gearbox is also available.

Only about 2 percent of Beetle Coupe buyers spring for the diesel, and we expect the take rate will, unfortunately, be about the same for the Convertible.

Beetle Convertible generations

In order to commemorate the launch of the 2013 Beetle Convertible, VW is offering three special edition models themed after specific decades, appropriated named 50s, 60s and 70s.

The 70s model is available exclusively in a brown on tan color scheme, which almost perfectly reflects the drabness of the decade. The 70s model we drove was the only Beetle Convertible we sampled with a squeaky roof, matching the build quality one would expect from a vehicle built in that decade. The 1970s wasn't a great era, and we'd be hard pressed to buy a car that reminded us of that every day.

The 60s model has a much more upbeat vibe, due in large to its standard 200 horsepower turbocharged engine and bright paint scheme. However, the 60s model fails to conger up much nostalgia, which kind of defeats the purpose of a throw-back-themed car in the first place. If not for the 60s badges on the fenders, it would be impossible to identify the car as anything but a bright blue Turbo model with some upgraded seat covers. Even the wheels carry over from the Turbo model.

The 50s model, however, is almost the perfect expression of the Beetle Convertible. Finished in black with black painted wheels and chrome hub caps and mirror caps, the 50s model truly looks the part. Inside the 50s model continues that black color scheme on the door tops and dash, which contrasts nicely with the tan leather seating surfaces. On our scenic drive up the Pacifica Coast Highway we found ourself wishing for roll-up windows and a single-speaker AM radio while dreaming of simpler times.

Unfortunately the 50s is only available with the Bug's base 2.5-liter five-cylinder, but this is one case where we'd gladly trade performance for good looks.

Leftlane's bottom line
The retro-inspire convertible segment is heavily populated these days -- with entrants like the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and MINI Cooper -- but if you're looking for an easy-going reminder of days gone by, the 2013 Beetle Convertible has to be on your short list.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible base price range, $24,995 to $31,195.

Words and photos by Drew Johnson.