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5 December 2012

Almost 565,000 Beetle Convertibles have been built over the last 40 years – 234,000 of those were New Beetle Convertibles alone. Few automotive icons are as recognizable as the Beetle Convertible and this newest version is no exception. It still draws people to it wherever it goes with lots of people taking cell phone pics of their friends next to it and people approaching us with their Beetle stories. We spent the day driving the new Beetle Convertible around the Los Angeles and Malibu area and came away impressed.

Typically when you remove the roof from an automobile, you end up compromising the main structure of the car. This forces engineers to come up with creative solutions to try and bring the rigidity back into the chassis. Volkswagen used ultra-high-strength hot-formed steel in two key locations – the thicker A-pillars on either side of the windshield and in the B-pillars just to the rear of each door. Combined with other key high-strength steel cross members, cross plates and heel plates, this new Beetle Convertible is more than 20% stiffer than the old New Beetle Convertible. One of the first things every journalist looks for in a new convertible is how much vibration and flex occurs – usually manifesting itself in cowl shake near the A-pillars and in the steering column. Truthfully, some convertible models are downright terrible in this regard as adding things like hot-formed high-strength steel is both costly and time consuming during production. So this new Beetle Convertible is quite good when it comes to chassis flex (or the lack thereof) with hardly a vibration felt in the A-pillars or through the steering wheel. Is it as stiff as the hardtop coupe? No, but we’ve yet to drive any convertible that pulls that off and this Beetle Convertible ranks up there as one of the best.volkswagen beetle convertible 028 e1354727354743 960x491

The soft-top folding roof is a three layer affair with remarkable ability to block outside noise and weather. With the top up, the interior is extremely quiet with very good insulating qualities. This new roof doesn’t require any type of manual latching mechanism, you simply push the button located next to the rear view mirror and the entire electric mechanism folds down in less than 9.5 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. Likewise, to close the roof you simply pull on the same button and the roof will close itself in 11 seconds including electronically latching at the windshield base. Windows automatically lower when you open the roof and close after the roof is done raising. Trunk space is up 2.1 cubic feet over the old New Beetle Convertible and that space isn’t any different with the top up or down, saving all of us the hassle of guessing if anything is in the way when you want to lower the roof. Overall it couldn’t be any simpler.

Out on the road the Beetle Convertible feels nearly identical to the hardtop coupe. Handling is similar, ride is nearly the same and the only perceptible difference is that the convertible feels a tad heavier which also makes it feel more substantial. The additional 200 lbs. of weight in the convertible versus coupe doesn’t seem to take anything away from the handling though as the car soaks up bumps well yet still provides a sporty ride that is flat in corners with very little drama. All convertibles get the multilink fully independent rear suspension aiding the handling and ride.volkswagen beetle convertible 025 e1354727440308 960x577

With the top down, windows down and wind deflector stowed away, wind noise isn’t as bad as you would think. VW spent some time in the wind tunnel making sure the air flow in and around the passenger compartment was optimized. With the windows up and wind deflector screen setup in the back seat you can ride with the top down with little fuss and hardly any wind intrusion at all. Just remember that the wind deflector screen renders the back seat unusable. Luckily the wind deflector folds up into a compact piece that has a stowage tray on the top of the trunk keeping it out of your way.

To celebrate the launch of the Beetle Convertible, Volkswagen will have three special launch editions called the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Editions. Each one pulling inspiration from style trends during those decades. The all-black 50’s Edition features a beautiful gloss black paint with tan interior and VW’s cool retro wheels. The 60’s Edition features a retro-inspired light blue paint called Denim Blue with a matching two-tone blue and black interior. Lastly, and our clear favorite is the 70’s edition with a beautiful Toffee Brown metallic paint, tan convertible top, chrome mirrors and the 18″ dish wheels. The 70’s Edition looks fantastic and will likely sell out quickly given the extremely low numbers being offered. Only 450 50’s editions, 250 60’s Editions and 100 70’s Editions will be available. The 50’s and 70’s Editions come with the 2.5l inline-5 engine while the 60’s Edition is available with the 2.0T turbo (we’re not exactly sure what the logic is there, but oh well). Scoop them up while you can – VW may build more if there is demand for it.

Volkswagen will offer the Beetle Convertible with the same engine choices available in the hardtop coupe including the TDI engine which is a first in this segment. The 170hp 2.5l inline-5 is available with a six-speed automatic only while the 2.0T and 2.0l TDI are available with either six-speed manual or six-speed DSG. Trim packages align closely with the hardtop Beetle with a few miscellaneous items that may be delayed options (like HID headlamps). Pricing starts at $24,995 and runs up to $32,395 for the 60’s Edition Turbo. You can build your own on Volkswagen of America’s website using their configurator and they are arriving in dealerships already.

Overall we like the Beetle Convertible and consider it a well thought-out successor to a cultural icon for the VW brand. We’re already scheming on a project car – maybe a wide-body version. Hmmm….

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