First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

 

Awww, Look at the Cutey Wooty New Volkswagen Beetle Convertible!

The new Beetle droptop is miles better than any before it, but it’ll never again be as important as the originals.

Okay, girlfriends and bitches!!!! Get out your rainbow flags and throw your office heels in your shoulder bags! It’s time for the new Beetle Convertible, yay! Oopsy – the Europeans call it a cabriolet. Tee hee.

I can’t call anything I drive a cabriolet; sounds like I would be drinking it on a bearskin rug by a fire instead of driving it.

The Volkswagen folks are doing things so well these days and this frontal commitment to re-attacking the U.S. market is kicking major ass and taking names. And now the good and talented marketing person stands before me at the Santa Monica beachside presentation and says that during the lifespan of the first New Beetle Convertible over 72 percent of purchases were by women, “but” that…”the Turbo edition achieved a 50 percent male audience”.

Whoo-hoo!!!!!! Damn, yeah! Beetle Convertible TURBO. So eff-ing macho! I am there, sister!

I mean, well, this is a fine car, but…I mean, LOOK at the shots of the bald-headed dude in specs driving this thing. He looks like a bobble-headed doll in a chubby gumdrop of a car. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with the lifestyle or sexual orientation, but……gay. Or maybe just eunich-y. All over, I mean. Happily, gloriously gay or eunich-y. I luvvvvv Desperate Housewives DVD full season box sets, Bette Midler, and sassy winebars. All of these can be wonderful things, too. WUNN-derful! Just fa-BOO.

A more macho gal-craving sort of dude, let us say, sauntering into a Volkswagen dealership and saying he needs to slice him off a piece of that Beetle convertible action is like the same guy finding out his 30-year old date still has her bedroom filled to the brim with lovely stuffed animals yet thinking this is still okay. Not gonna’ happen. And Volkswagen marketing needs to abandon all notions that this isn’t okay, because it sort of has to be okay if they are to sell any Beetle convertibles.

VW hauled my sorry-ness out to gorgeous Santa Monica during the recent Los Angeles auto show and I drove a few Beetle convertible trims through the rain and clouds and fog between SanMo and furthest Malibu. Once out at Zuma Beach at a fancy shack-like restaurant that was having flood problems that day, I also took a few loop drives in a Jetta Hybrid, a well treated 1972 Beetle convertible from the VW heritage garage, and the latest Beetle convertible Turbo with 197 horsepower and six-speed manual that all those dudes apparently want to buy.

And this latest Beetle is longer by a whopping 5.9 inches, wider by 3.4 inches, but stands lower a bit by 1.1 inches. In this bigger convertible design – i.e. versus the previous one – with the roof open the proportions get scarily close to those of the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible which is found on almost everyone’s “Ugliest Cars of All Time” list. Fortuitously, this VW avoids ugliness at least. The new “boot” that can be put on to hide the opened cloth top and clean up the lines of the car’s design is really nice, but it can take a while to get it on there correctly.

I insisted on keeping the roof open the entire time. I was not going to travel all the way to California for a new convertible drive and then leave the roof freakin’ shut. It was raining much of the time, yes, but it wasn’t cold and all I needed to do was drive faster and avoid red lights or stop signs. It’s 9.5 seconds to open the robust and large six-layer cloth top, too, and then 11.0 seconds to close it. All automated from start to finish, too, and it can be done while moving at up to 31 miles per hour. Luggage space is not affected either.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel that VW did enough at all to update the Beetle design this time around, much less the last time. The original New Beetle and its cabriolet/convertible were never a huge success sales wise in any country and this new generation will not set things on fire either; the design is portly, featureless, asexual. It just sort of stares into space with those airheaded lights. Everyone I speak with in the car world keeps trying hard to love this thing but it is manifestly only a little likeable really. I can’t say anything really bad about the look or packaging either – it’s just that eunich-y.

My first test was with the new 138-hp 2.0-liter TDI (diesel) and six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. Heavy, bigger car, pretty heavy transmission, and so not even the 236 pound-feet of torque could really help make this roofless Beetle pop for me. Having VW TDI motors in smaller convertibles is a nice move, especially as this is coming to the States as well, but the operative adjective here would be “sluggish”. It’ll get to 60 mph in an acceptable 9.2 seconds, but this version of the four-cylinder turbodiesel feels overmatched, which is not helped overmuch by a fairly ho-hum transmission response. I would definitely stick with the six-speed manual here.

Things improved when I jumped into the Tornado Red gas 2.0-liter Turbo trim with said six-speed manual. Overall, lightyears better so far as the driving satisfaction. It must be recalled that the super-zippo new MQB architecture from VW Group that I’ve tried so far on the Audi A3 three- and five-door, VW Golf VII, and five-door Seat Leon, is not present on this Beetle ragtop. And it is felt in this slight sluggishness and in the steering behavior. The PQ35 chassis of yore was terrific back in times of yore, but I expect my MQB by now on all new VW Group smaller cars with transverse engines.

This Beetle convertible is much finer than the original New Beetle droptop ever was, but it is not a high investment project for the company, seeing as the Golf is the new icon and not this former hippie mobile. And the car frankly feels and drives this way. People will buy it exclusively for the style and not for the tech details that may differentiate it from other cars. But, dang it, I cannot love the recipe much in the end. VW keeps on acting like this Beetle family is a continued big success, that the car is an icon of sorts, and that therefore they need to “evolve” the design carefully instead of revolutionize it. Which is glaring bullshit. So, I and you must wait another seven or so years before we perhaps get a Beetle that really matters again. This one will pull its unambitious weight capably, and that is all.

A very long and conditional way of saying that the Beetle convertible is fine for a niche crowd of motoring ignoramuses. In that way at least I guess it actually does live up to the legacy of the far more important originals.

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