Volkswagen has created a new, third-generation Beetle Convertible for the latest model year. Like the Beetle coupe, it offers throwback style, seating for four and a wide array of powertrain options at an affordable price.
While the previous Beetle Convertible was without a doubt the most adorable drop-top on the market, the latest version dials back the cuteness level and adopts a tauter, less rounded look. Inside, the cabin is more businesslike than before - the old flower vase is nowhere to be found - although the flat dashboard and retro-tinged circular gauges are plenty stylish in their own right.
With plenty of rear seat space, the Beetle Convertible is more than capable of carrying four adults for around town trips, and the 7.1-cubic-inch trunk can be expanded to accommodate bulky items via split-folding rear seats.
A fully insulated power soft top with a heated glass rear window is fitted as standard. It can be raised or lowered in just 10 seconds to take advantage of parting clouds or guard against sudden downpours.
Three engines: two gas mills, one oil-burner
The Beetle Convertible's engine choices range from mild to wild to super economical.
The standard motor is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that sends 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. Paired with a standard six-speed manual, it returns 21/27 city/highway mpg.
Those looking for a ragtop with a bit of scoot can opt for the VW Group's ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which churns out 210 (an increase of 10 for the latest model year) horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque in this application. A six-speed stick is standard while a six-speed dual-clutch "DSG" automatic is on the options list; the former returns 21/30 mpg, while the later is rated at 21/29 mpg.
Notably, base-engined Beetle Convertibles feature an inexpensive torsion beam rear suspension, while the sportier Turbo model uses a more sophisticated multilink setup. The two models also use different steering systems, with the standard Bug utilizing a hydraulically-assisted setup and the Turbo employing electric power steering.
Finally, the mileage champ of the Beetle Convertible lineup is the TDI model, which features a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder with 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. The oil-burning mill returns 28 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway with a six-speed manual and 28/37 mpg with a six-speed "DSG" dual-clutch automatic.
Physically, the Beetle Convertible TDI is essentially identical to its gas four and five-cylinder brothers, although it gains a supplementary pod on the top of the dashboard that features gauges for oil temperature and turbo boost level as well as a stopwatch. Underneath, the TDI retains the standard Beetle's front struts and rear torsion beam, although it features the rack-and-pinion electric power steering from the gasoline turbo model.
Standard and Optional Equipment
The starter-kit Beetle, the 2.5L model, comes standard with power windows and locks, A/C, and eight-speaker sound system with USB/AUX input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, leatherette seating, 17-inch alloy wheels and cruise control.
The sportier Beetle, the Turbo model, gets all the features of the 2.5L while adding 18-inch "twister" alloy wheels, a locking front differential called XDS that improves high-speed traction, sports seats, faux-aluminum pedals and a rear spoiler. For the latest model year, all Beetle Turbos receive R-Line bumpers with grained black surfaces and chrome-framed turn signals to help denote their more powerful status.
A dedicated R-Line variant of the Turbo adds 19-inch "Tornado" alloy wheels, a flat-bottomed R-Line leather-wrapped steering wheel R-Line badging, sports pedals, R-Line badging, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, stainless steel kickplates and a "chrome vanadium" panel for the dashboard.
Optional features, which can be bundled together in various packages depending on the model, include a panoramic sunroof, a Fender premium audio system, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, a keyless entry system, a multi-function trip computer, a touchscreen navigation system, leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
TDI Standard and Optional Features
The diesel Beetle can be had in three different trim levels: TDI, TDI with sunroof and TDI with sunroof, sound and navigation. As the names imply, each trim builds upon the last, although all come standard with V-Tex leatherette, a secondary glove box, Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, keyless entry with push-button start and iPod integration for the audio system. Sunroof models add a large panoramic moonroof and an upraded audio system with a CD changer and an SD card reader. The range-topping model adds navigation and a 400-watt Fender/Panasonic audio system.
Special Edition Models
At launch, VW is offering three special edition Beetle Convertibles - called the 50s, 60s and 70s - that borrow period-correct design cues such as interior and exterior colors and whitewall tires from their respective decades.
The 50s edition features black exterior paint, beige leather sports seats, beige interior details, brushed chrome exterior mirror caps and 17-inch Heritage alloy wheels. The 70s edition brings Tofee Brown Metallic exterior paint, a beige soft top, Beige V-Tex leatherette seats, 18-inch disc alloy wheels, brushed chrome exterior mirror caps and a beige trunk cover. Both utilize the 2.5-liter five/automatic transmission powertrain combo.
The 60s edition starts with a DSG-equipped Turbo model and adds Denim Blue exterior paint, Denim Blue dash and steering wheel trim black and blue leather sports seats and 18-inch "Twister" alloy wheels.
As its name implies, the limited-edition iBeetle is the product of a collaboration between Volkswagen and California-based Apple. The iBeetle can be ordered with either a turbocharged 2.0-liter TSI or a 2.0-liter TDI.
The iBeetle's main selling point is that it comes standard with a dash-mounted iPhone docking station that plays music and allows the passengers to access nearly all of the smartphone's functions, including navigation and hands-free calling.
A purpose-designed Beetle application called "Volkswagen Car Net The Beetle" features a social media integration function and enables the passengers to send their families virtual postcards. The app can also turn the iPhone into a second instrument cluster that display the engine's oil and coolant temperature, a chronometer and a compass, while a Trainer mode provides fuel economy figures for different trips.
In addition to the docking station, the iBeetle comes with a few unique bits and pieces that include gray trim on the outside as well as Apple-inspired exterior colors. The cabin gains Galvano Gray accents on the steering wheel and on the dashboard as well as sport seats upholstered in black leather.
18-inch Disc alloy wheels, "iBeetle" emblems on the front fenders and Volkswagen's Chrome pack all come standard.
Buyers who want the iPhone docking station without the iBeetle goodies will be able to order it as an option later in the production run.
All Beetle Convertibles come equipped with dual front airbags and combination side/curtain airbags. Other safety systems include traction and stability control systems as well as an Intelligent Crash Response System that automatically unlocks the doors, disconnects the battery terminal from the alternator cable, shuts off the fuel supply and turns on the warning hazards and interior lights in the event of a collision.
To protect passengers in the event of a rollover incident, the Beetle Convertible comes with two concealed rollover bars behind the rear seats that pop up when needed
As an inexpensive front-wheel-drive convertible with seating for four, the Beetle Convertible's most direct competitor is the MINI Cooper Convertible, which is less roomy than the VW but more fun on a curvy backroad. Other alternative include the diminutive Fiat 500c in addition to bigger, more powerful rear-wheel-drive bruisers like the Ford Mustang Convertible and Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.