By David Colman
For: ‘70s Package Handsome and Brilliantly Conceived
Against: For More Grunt Go TDI or Turbo
Leave it to those kooky imagineers at VW to come up with yet another celebratory sales concept no one’s thought of before. This latest brainstorm marks the reintroduction of the Convertible to the redone Beetle model line that debuted last year. Of course, VW product planners weren’t content to offer just any old drop top when they could instead trot out 3 specific models that celebrate the long and storied history of this topless small wonder. The tasty trio pays homage to 3 decades in which VW produced Convertible Beetles. The ‘50s edition is black with a tan interior, while the ‘60s version is Denim Blue with groovy two-tone seats. The ‘70s Beetle, subject of this test, is Toffee Brown, with tan interior and perfectly vintage looking chrome disc alloys measuring 8” x 18” mounting Hankook Optimo 235/45R18 rubber. The exterior color – let’s call it BeeGees Brown – also covers interior dashboard panels. With its matching brown fabric roof, the ‘70s Convertible is understated but stunning.
You can order your VW Convertible with either the 2.5 liter inline 5, the TDI diesel, or the turbo 2.0 liter inline 4. VW equipped our test car with the 2.5 liter engine, which is available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Due to the very high rpm required by the 5 to achieve peak power (170hp at 5,700rpm) , this engine does not produce scintillating zip. The straight 5 is, however, perfect if you’re looking to reproduce the acceleration nostalgia of a vintage VW Convertible. Personally I would opt for either the diesel, which makes 140hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, or the turbo, which posts 200hp and 207 lb,-ft. of torque.
The Convertible’s top is so soundly constructed that there’s no wind noise whatsoever when it’s raised. Attribute the quiet to the fact that the top’s exterior fabric shell consists of 3 different layers covering 3 more layers of insulation plus a molded foam laminated fabric headliner. The only drawback to the raised top is the lack of rear vision it causes. You need to be very careful when backing a Convertible Beetle out of a parking slot. Of course, you could always drop the top for a better look back, as it takes only 9.5 seconds to stow it and 11 more seconds to erect it.
The level of finish inside this Beetle matches the German precision of the top’s design. In keeping with the ‘70s theme, macramé-like door pocket restraints add a festive note to the spacious cabin. Fat latches on the sides of the front seats facilitate access to the pair of shallow rear seats. The back seats can both can be folded flat to convert the modest trunk into a truly useful pass-thru storage compartment.
The flat bottom steering wheel, similar to that used in the VW GTI, is a pleasure to twirl, thanks to the quick 3.0 turns required to travel lock-to-lock. The Beetle’s turning radius is a remarkably tight 35.4 feet, making U-turns practical almost anywhere. In fact, the Beetle Convertible’s handling is so good that it’s indistinguishable from that of the sedan. The reason for its dexterity is the stiffening program VW engineers undertook to alleviate chassis flex in this roofless car. They beefed up the A pillars with hot (rather than cold) formed steel that’s 0.5mm thicker that the sedan’s. They added hot-formed high strength steel B pillars that attach to the chassis with larger heel plates. They added more sheet metal to the lower chassis rails, and provided an extra rear steel panel to anchor the Automatic Rollover Support System that protects Convertible occupants in the event of a flip.
This latest Beetle Convertible, with its Germanic attention to detail, is a delightfully insouciant conveyance. The fact that it’s available in 3 forms of decade appropriate dress makes it all the more desirable and collectible.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible ‘70s
- Engine: 2.5 liter inline 5, DOHC, 20 Valves
- Horsepower: 170hp @ 5,700rpm
- Torque: 177 lb.-ft. @ 4,250rpm
- Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/27 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $28,595
- Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars