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Posts Tagged ‘convertible reviews’

First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Convertible

The new “people’s car” goes topless.

by on Nov.28, 2012

VW engineers worked hard to maintain the Beetle coupe's shape - while also enhancing the top-down fun of the Beetle Convertible.

VW is ready to blow its top – and, in the process, reinforce its reputation for engineering, innovation and sportiness with the introduction of the new 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, which is debuting this week at the 2012 LA Auto Show.

The new model, which follows into showrooms a year after the debut of the third-generation Volkswagen Beetle Coupe, shares the same basic dimensions – in fact, one of the more notable accomplishments for VW engineers was the way they were able to maintain the distinctive shape of the new Beetle with the ragtop version.

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Another accomplishment was maintaining the fun-to-drive character of the classic “people’s car,” with the top up, but especially down – as learned during a drive of the new VW Beetle Convertible in the days before its official LA Auto Show reveal.

It’s one of those situations where VW engineers had to make some significant tweaks to keep everything pretty much the same.  That meant subtle modifications to the chassis to maintain stiffness and drivability of the new Beetle Convertible. Even though it carries some additional weight, even the base version of the new ragtop delivers a firm ride, responsive steering, and reliable and predictable cornering. Oh, and toss in a good set of brakes.

Even with the base 2.5-liter engine, the new Beetle Convertible delivers 170 horsepower, which is plenty of power for enjoying open air motoring. The two more expensive versions, with VW’s TDI diesel, and the maker’s 2-liter gasoline turbo with its 200 horsepower, offer more punch and have an edge in traffic by providing the extra boost needed for passing and other maneuvers.

The Beetle Convertible also is surprisingly quiet.  The ragtop’s fold-back roof contains three separate layers which helps minimize the road noise when the roof is up.

In addition, the top is powered by two electric motors and latches and unlatches automatically at the touch of a button, which is located on the upper rail of the windshield surround. The top takes just 9.5 seconds to stow and 11.0 seconds to be raised, the extra time needed to latch the roof’s header to the windshield.

Incidentally, the top can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 31 mph. An integrated wind blocking system is available on the Beetle Convertible as a Volkswagen Genuine Accessory.

Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer, Volkswagen Brand, noted the Beetle Convertible was not just a copy of the original, insisting the design of the third-generation Beetle Convertible can stand on its own.

However, the Beetle Convertible retains the bold, purposeful stance of the Coupe, thanks to a wider tracks and a longer wheelbase than the previous New Beetle Convertible. Compared with the 2006 version of the “New” Beetle, the latest Convertible is 3.3 inches wider at 71.2 inches; 1.1 inches lower at 58.0 inches tall; and 6.0 inches longer at 168.4 inches overall.

“Retro is not our thing: we are always looking forward. Volkswagen has reinterpreted the Beetle Convertible’s timeless design with a sportier and more dynamic silhouette, just as it did with the Beetle Coupe. The car is substantially wider, has a longer hood, and has a more upright windshield that sits further back than before. The standard rear spoiler reinforces the car’s sporty look,” he said.

Nonetheless, at launch, there will be three special editions of the Beetle Convertible with design themes echoing the 1950,’60s and 70s when the Bug was in its heyday.

The extra attention from Volkswagen engineers and designers comes at a price. The base model for the new convertible starts at $24,995, the TDI version jumping to $30,295. And the 2-liter turbo package carries a stiff price tag of $33,000 – all these figures adding the $795 destination charge to the sticker.

VW has been building convertibles since 1949 and the Beetle has been one of the most popular open-top cars ever built. More than 330,000 examples of the first Beetle Convertible were manufactured over a 32-year span, while another 234,619 New Beetle Convertibles were produced in an eight-year period.

The new Beetle Convertible is definitely a worthy successor to the earlier versions and a whole lot of fun to drive.  For Volkswagen, it could be one more motivator to get more Americans back into what was once the most popular ragtop in America.


First Look: Ferrari 458 Spider

Maker offers a tease before Frankfurt unveiling.

by on Aug.23, 2011

The new Ferrari 458 Spider gets a folding hardtop roof.

The Frankfurt Motor Show is still nearly a month away but we’re already getting a good hint of what’s to come at the most important European car show of the new model-year – including this first look at the Ferrari 458 Spider.

As its name suggests, it’s a drop-top version of the current 458, though Ferrari has opted for a folding hardtop design, rather than conventional canvas – and, in something of a surprise the Italian supercar maker claims that strategy actually saves a full 55 pounds.  More typically, metal fold-ups, like those found on a BMW 3-Series cabriolet, are the heavier option.

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Even with the origami metal, the Spider weighs in about 100 pounds more than the conventional Ferrari 458, adding about a tenth of a second to its 0 to 100 kmh time, which remains a still-impressive 3.4 seconds.  As for top speed, the 458 Spider will hit 198 mph compared to 202 for the standard 458.


First Drive: 2011 Nissan Murano

A comfortable highway cruiser with nimble urban moves.

by on Jul.08, 2011

The Nissan Murano is one of the most distinctive offerings in the midsize CUV segment.

Nissan joined the crossover game with the Murano in 2002, and since then, the Murano has spawned smaller clones such as the Rogue and the Juke urban ute in Nissan’s lineup.

The Murano was last redesigned in 2009, and for 2011 the big news is the addition of the CrossCabriolet convertible and the SV trim level.

The SV essentially slots between the base S and the mid-level SL, providing a touch of luxury without increasing the sticker price too much.

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Just a touch of luxury, though, since our SV all-wheel-drive tester still had cloth seats and did not offer a navigation system, which is only available on SL and LE models.

What the SV offers over the S is a moonroof, roof rails, fog lights, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, a wireless cell phone link, an alarm system, a rearview camera, and satellite radio.


First Drive: 2012 BMW 650i Cabriolet

This is one quick, comfortable shark.

by on May.16, 2011

BMW introduces a more classically aggressive design with the 2012 650i Cabriolet.

Heading up a steep grade, we squeeze the throttle of the new BMW 650i Cabriolet and its twin turbo V8 is only too happy to respond, the roar echoing through the canyons of stone bleached white by the relentless sun.  Mile after mile, we tear through blind switchbacks that wend their way up and back down the hills, finally emerging onto a long flat stretch, the Sea of Cortez suddenly emerging into view, where we can push the new convertible to triple digit speed.

We’ve come to the Southwest tip of the continent to get our first sense of what BMW has delivered with the latest iteration of the legendary 6-Series.  The new line will be rolled out in phases, starting with the 650i Cabriolet’s arrival, well- timed for warm weather.  The 6- Coupe will make its debut later in the year followed by the M6.

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For BMW aficionados the design of the 2+2 should seen familiar, though in some ways, the 2012 650i Cabriolet harkens back to an earlier version of the 6-Series, rather than the model it immediately replaces.  There’s the classic shark’s nose, its lower twin-kidney grille framed by new LED headlamps.  The 2012 remake feels sculpted, rather than stamped of sheet metal, capturing the rippled muscles of an athlete.  Low and wide, the new convertible is the visual definition of aggressiveness.


Ragtop Renaissance Threatened by Fuel Economy Concerns

Assortment of new drop-tops debut in New York.

by on Apr.27, 2011

Bentley adds the Supersports Convertible to its line-up.

Spend some time wandering New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center and you might think there’s a ragtop renaissance underway.  There are a score of new and more familiar convertibles on display at this year’s New York Auto Show.

But despite their seeming abundance, convertibles are barely making a dent in U.S. automotive sales charts, and some analysts warn that demand for al fresco driving machines may continue to slide as consumers shift focus to more fuel efficient products.

“We think there’s a small but viable market for a convertible like the CrossCabriolet,” suggests Mike Drongowski, senior product planning manager for Nissan, which is just launching sales of the new model, which shares the basic platform of the maker’s hardtop Murano – making it the world’s first crossover-based convertible.

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The New York Auto Show served as the backdrop for the introduction of both the Fiat 500C convertible (Click Here for more), and the Bentley Supersports Convertible.  But there are plenty of other new models on display, including the BMW 6-Series Convertible and Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, as well as more familiar offerings, such as the Mazda Miata, Volkswagen Eos, Mini convertible and Audi’s R8 Spyder and A5 convertibles.

Prices range from $23,905 for the Miata to $280,400 for the new Bentley, which goes on sale this coming summer.


First Drive: 2011 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible

Kick-starting the brand.

by on Mar.23, 2011

Elegant and aggressive, the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible is the most popular offering the maker has ever brought to the U.S.

During the winter-that-never-ends it doesn’t take much to lure a sun-deprived Detroiter to Florida – especially if someone is waiting there with the keys to a new Maserati GranTurismo Convertible.

Few brands have so much drawing power – or deliver such visual stopping power.  And the new GT cabriolet is a worthy addition to Maserati’s long-running line-up.

The look is precisely what you’d expect out of Modena, sinfully curvaceous, with an oversized trident logo set in the 4-seater’s toothy grille.  There’s a trend, these days, towards overstyling, with designers apparently being paid for every line and crease they can find room for.  Not so the GranTurismo Convertible.  It is the automotive equivalent of a Mozart aria, where the loss of a single note – or line – would be deeply missed.

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Appearances can be misleading, however.  An initial glance is likely to under-estimate the bulk of this beauty.  The GT is actually the largest vehicle in its class, even bigger than such competitors as the BMW 6-Series and the Bentley Continental GT.


First Drive: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Answering the unasked question.

by on Mar.22, 2011

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet reaches showrooms next month.

Is it a stroke of genius or the answer to a question no one asked?  That’s what I was left wondering after getting my first close-up look at the new Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.

There’ve been plenty of innovations in the convertible world, in recent years, notably the introduction of the fold-away hardtop, which operates like some magical metal origami.  But the Nissan CC, as many are bound to call it, goes in a distinctly different direction.

Unless your definition stretches to include the awkward, ungainly and largely unloved Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, Nissan has come up with the world’s first crossover convertible.  The Murano CrossCabriolet is certainly distinctive, and it fills a niche that nobody else has yet targeted.  But whether that matters was the other question I set out to answer during a day of driving through the Nashville countryside near the Japanese maker’s U.S. headquarters.

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Nissan has a history of doing things differently, dating back to the days when it stamped “Datsun” on the back of its product.  The original Murano itself was a significant addition to the then-emerging crossover-utility vehicle segment.  Where other makers played it safe, making their car-based CUVs look like conventional sport-utility vehicles, Nissan opted for a sleekly rounded shape that was more sports car than sport-ute.


First Look: BMW 6-Series Coupe

Shanghai show to bring official debut.

by on Mar.15, 2011

The new BMW 6-Series Coupe is scheduled to make its debut at the upcoming Shanghai Auto Show.

No car manufacturer can get around the fact that China is rapidly becoming an essential part of the global auto show circuit. Indeed, BMW has recognized that perhaps better than any foreign maker.  It went there, several years ago, to reveal an advanced styling exercise, one of the very first major foreign products launched at a Chinese car show.

Now it is heading back for the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show which – unfortunately – coincides with the annual New York Auto Show.  But China has won, it seems, a reflection of the reality that the Asian nation is now the world’s largest national car market.  So the all-new version of the BMW 6-Series Coupe will make its big debut in Shanghai.

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The third-generation 6-Series Coupe is the fraternal twin brother of the BMW 6-er Convertible that debuted in Detroit last January, and which will arrive on the North American market in May, just in time for open air season.

Just like the Convertible, the Coupe has jumped in size compared to the predecessor that debuted in 2004. It grows 2.9 inches in length and 1.5 inches in width, while the wheelbase increases nearly 3 inches, to 112.6 inches.


First Look: 2012 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

First drop-top Golf since 2003.

by on Feb.23, 2011

The VW Golf Cabriolet returns to the line-up, in 2012, after a 9-year absence.

Volkswagen has some big news for drop-top fans, starting with the 2012 Golf Cabriolet, which will make its formal debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

It’s the first time you could roll back the roof on a Golf since 2003, and the advanced electro-hydraulic system the new model uses will permit it to be opened or closed in less than 10 seconds.

Significantly, the Golf Cabriolet will build on an already expanding line-up of Volkswagen convertibles, joining the slightly longer Eos model, while an all-new version of the Beetle – to include a cabriolet edition – is in the works.

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Unlike the folding hardtop Eos, the 2012 VW Golf Cabriolet will use a canvas roof, but that should permit for significantly more cargo space than permitted by the compromised Eos trunk.  Volkswagen officials claim you can raise or lower the electro-hydraulic Golf Cabrio top in just 9.5 seconds – and that it can be operated at speeds of up to 18 mph.


First Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

This is no "boulevard cruiser."

by on Feb.04, 2011

Better late than never, the 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible will finally reach showrooms by spring.

For those who’ve been wondering whether General Motors really can get its proverbial mojo back and deliver the sort of products that once propelled it to the head of the class, you only have to look at the new Chevrolet Camaro.

The reborn pony car has won plenty of kudos from the motoring press but, more importantly, it’s won over the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of pony car buyers – last year overwhelming its age-old rival, the Ford Mustang for the first time in a quarter century.  That’s all the more impressive when you consider Camaro did it with a coupe alone.

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But, just in time for spring, Chevy will be rolling an all-new Camaro Convertible into showrooms, a model the market has been anxiously awaiting since it made its debut, in concept form, at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.  The ragtop was delayed more than a year because of both General Motors’ financial woes and the collapse of the parts manufacturer originally tapped to deliver the foldaway roof.

Ironically, that may have worked out to Chevy’s advantage, laughs Russ Clark, Camaro’s marketing director.  History shows that sporty coupes and pony cars tend to have an 18 to 24-month shelf life before buyers head off looking for the next big thing.  Ford has wisely read the tea leaves and regularly rolls out significant updates to Mustang to keep demand hot.  So, the unplanned delay may have wound up timing things perfectly for Camaro.