The Volkswagen Beetle is an undeniably cute car -- from the original all the way to today's retrofied-Jetta -- and we won't question that. But after having the car for just one month, we're already beginning to question whether or not the cute factor is enough to make the Beetle Turbo Convertible.
"I don't understand the appeal of a Beetle cabrio with a 2.0T engine," wrote senior web editor Phil Floraday. "It's just a floppy GTI to me."
Considering that the GTI is a perennial favorite at Automobile -- snagging yet another All-Star award this month -- that's not necessarily a bad thing, although it is the reason Floraday wasn't swayed too much by the Beetle. "I suppose my real problem with the Beetle cabrio is it's so close to being a GTI, and the GTI is one of my favorite cars. It's like if you knew you were going to have steak for dinner, but instead of coming out medium-rare, it came out well-done: the ingredients are there, but the end product isn't as good." Perhaps it would look better in black with a red leather interior, then?
Metaphors and cow jokes aside, Phil wasn't the only person to note the car's floppiness. "It cowl shakes along rough roads like a Brazilian dancer," wrote associate web editor Donny Nordlicht.
Then again, this is a convertible -- some shimmy and shake are to be expected, a sacrifice in order to gain access to the outside world. "The best part of the Beetle is the roof, or lack thereof," wrote Nordlicht. "With the roof down, the convertible isn't much louder than the Beetle hardtops I've driven, and being able to drop the top adds a great fun factor to the car."
That top, it should be said, is a power-operated number that goes up or down in about ten seconds at speeds of up to 30 mph. That feature alone impressed senior editor Joe DeMatio: "You can have the top up on the freeway drive to work and put it down as you're decelerating on an off-ramp, then cruise the surface streets with the top down." The convertible comes standard with a large wind deflector that sits atop the two rear seats: while it does an admirable job of keeping turbulence to a minimum, the folding mechanism takes some practice, both removing from its latched perch in the top of the trunk, to attaching it to the car (using four rubber pegs).
With just 1036 miles on the odometer, associate web editor Ben Timmins (yours truly) embarked on a weekend road trip from our offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Brooklyn, New York. For any detractors of the Beetle Convertible who dislike its "cute" design and attitude, I'll say this: I received four or five unsolicited compliments about this car, unprompted, from complete strangers on my weekend behind the wheel -- more than any other car I've driven. Sure, you won't win any masculinity contests with the Beetle's bulbous styling, but the car fit in on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, where convertible-happy drivers pop their tops at any sign of warm, dry weather.
Along the way, I averaged 30.2 mpg over 1244 miles (90 percent of which was at freeway speeds), matching the EPA's highway mileage rating. That pales in comparison to the 35 mpg combined I achieved in the Beetle TDI Convertible, but the 2.0T and its extra 60 horsepower make themselves known when you floor the gas pedal in fast-paced, tight New Jersey traffic. Around town the clutch is light and pleasant, as is the steering, and parallel parking the bug is easy once you learn where the car actually ends (this car could do with a rear-view camera, as its rear haunches are fairly blind).
As for the interior, we have no major complaints so far about the lack of navigation unit, especially because it means no RNS 315 -- the unloved, small-screened unit we grew to dislike in the Four Seasons Passat TDI. In the coming days we'll be installing a Garmin Nuvi portable nav unit, complete with HD Radio traffic and Bluetooth/smartphone connectivity, to bring functionality back to the car's dashboard.
That leaves only one grouse left: the color. The red Beetle you see in our short-term Editor's Notebook entry has a classic, red paint/black top combo, but our Four Seasons model ditches the black for a tan top and tan leatherette interior. The response was mixed: DeMatio thought that "we spec'd this car very well," noting that "the tan top over red body over tan interior is a very nice combo." Donny Nordlicht wasn't so convinced: "The beige is a bit too yellow, and the dash plastics look and feel especially cheap."
The Beetle Turbo Convertible has a healthy 11 months left in our care, and a good handful of those months will be warm ones. Will we warm up more to the car as the weather gets hotter? We'll see.