"It needs a warning sticker: meant for top-down driving only."
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible has had little downtime since it joined our Four Seasons fleet. That the Beetle arrived at the start of the summer probably has something to do with the red droptop racking up miles in such an expeditious manner. After returning from a jaunt to the east coast, the Volkswagen was handed off to Scott Corlett, a friend of the magazine, for another summer trip east, this time touring Montreal, Quebec City, Martha's Vineyard, and western Maryland over roughly 3000 miles.
Much of Corlett's road trip was spent on divided highways in Canada and the northeastern U.S., but that may have been for the best as he described the steering as "a bit loose, but probably right for a light-duty cabrio." Some editors have compared our Beetle to the GTI -- with which it shares its platform, powertrain, and transmission -- and have bemoaned the Beetle's neutered handling. However, the general consensus is that this car is meant to be more of a cheeky convertible than a canyon carver.
The first few days of our Beetle's latest trip were spent with the top up, thanks to weather that was cool, windy, and rainy. "I might have driven in fourth gear from Detroit to Toronto," said Corlett, "thanks to the absence of auditory feedback from the otherwise superb six-speed box, despite a surprisingly quiet cabin." While the cloth roof helps to make the styling "sharper, more serious, and showing a bit of an edge," it does limit visibility. "Lack of visibility due to the confining top was a major minus while maneuvering in the tight, unfamiliar city streets of Montreal in a downpour. Add a windshield with a propensity to fog (an homage to the original Beetle, perhaps), and I gladly handed the keys off to the hotel valet."
Another demerit was the unsurprising lack of cargo space: "Picked up my travel partner at the Quebec City International Airport. Two wheelie bags packed the glove box, er, trunk to capacity, and two backpacks filled the back bench, enjoying adequate legroom for their needs (i.e. basically none) with two six-plus-footers in front." After picking up his co-pilot, Corlett was able to finally lower the top on a series of two-lane roads heading from Quebec to Maine. "Hallelujah, the weather finally permits shedding the top, and the caterpillar turns to a butterfly. The one-touch soft top retraction and closure is smooth, but buggy pinch sensors on all four windows required various digital gymnastics to affect full closing."
"On Martha's Vineyard, the Beetle was home. Sunny skies and safe streets: top down nonstop, beach towels covering hot leatherette seats. I scored a place in the Edgartown July 4th parade; many 'great car' comments from onlookers lining the sidewalks." Departing the idyllic Vineyard lead to twisty rural roads and congested east coast freeways. The 2.0-liter turbo four can run out of breath in the hills, but the cabin is relatively calm at highway speeds thanks to the wind deflector.
Thunderstorms on the return trip to Ann Arbor forced the top up once again. Despite cavernous front seating and a edgier exterior design, Corlett ended his trip feeling that the Beetle was missing one thing: " a warning sticker: meant for top-down driving only."
Check back next month to see how the staff at Automobile headquarters feels about our Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible as the end of summer nears.