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.
Another accomplishment was maintaining the fun-to-drive character of the classic “people’s car,” with the top up, but especially down – as TheDetroitBureau.com 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.