There's always a bit of a numbers game at Automobile when you're handed the keys to a convertible in the throes of winter. We've learned that 32 degrees F is the point at which it becomes inadvisable to lower your soft-top. Moisture in or on the top can freeze while the top is stowed, damaging it when you stretch everything out again, so we try to get our top-down fixes only above that number. Thankfully, the Beetle Turbo comes with heated seats and a wind deflector. I packed a pair of gloves and a puffy winter coat for my drive, which took place when it registered 34 degrees F in Ann Arbor. Once I found the power top button (behind the Bluetooth controls at the top of the windshield, out of a tall person's line of sight), and erected the plastic wind deflector (which took me, um, a few minutes), I was off.
I like convertibles, but the Beetle Turbo scores extra points for being both a convertible and the kind of Volkswagen we enthusiasts like, which is to say one with a manual transmission, the stellar 2.0T VW engine, and lots of standard features. The seats were warm enough to prepare a DiGiorno pizza, the stereo was loud enough to be heard at highway speeds, and the wheels look fantastic. There's a bit of structural drama typical of a convertible from time to time -- a shimmy-shake here, a rattle there -- but once you cross from "leisurely driving" to "enthusiastic motoring," the DNA of the GTI begins to shine through. Believe it or not, this chop-top likes corners.
I know that the new VW Beetle's raison d'etre is its newfound manliness, as its all-new design is hopefully supposed to shake the oh-my-god-a-bud-vase stigma of the last model. While I'm not sure if men will warm up to the idea of owning a Beetle with a soft-top, I'm happy to report that those who do will enjoy the driving experience.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Spending a weekend with the new Beetle Convertible got me excited, since we have a near-identical model coming into our Four Seasons fleet later this year. Based on my three days with this short-term tester, we're going to have a very good year.
Mechanically, the VW Beetle Turbo is identical to the much-loved GTI hot hatch; the two cars share their suspension setups, their slick six-speed manual transmissions, and their 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo-fours. The six-speed paired with the 2.0T is a hoot to drive, as the shift linkage has reasonably short throws and the clutch take up is smooth, while the power delivery is predicable and strong.
So why get the Beetle over a GTI? Well, in the U.S., the Beetle Turbo Convertible is the only way to get the fun of the GTI-style performance combined with top-down, wind-in-your hair joys. (In Europe, VW offers Golf, GTI, and Golf R convertibles that we're not slated to get.) The Beetle also looks much cooler than your average GTI, which, save a couple bits of trim and different wheels, looks just as pedestrian as your run-of-the-mill Golf hatch. On the other hand, the Bug manages to pull off both sporty and cute in one cohesive package.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
As Timmins and Nordlicht have already elucidated this car's virtues, allow me to note two annoying characteristics. The cramped, tight pedal box has a low accelerator pedal that is very close to the center console, so it's easy for your right foot to become tangled between the console and the comparatively tall brake pedal. The super-cool gauge pod atop the dashboard isn't canted toward the driver, so parts of the gauges are obscured from view. Small gripes, I admit.
Otherwise, the Beetle Turbo Convertible is a quick, powerful car. It's less sporty than the Turbo hatchback I drove last year, though, and I would hesitate to call this drop top a true enthusiast's car. It's a bit too heavy and a bit too flexy; I'd rather have an actual GTI or a Beetle Turbo hatchback for really feisty driving. That said, this is definitely the model to get if your driving partner desperately wants a Beetle Convertible and you have a need for speed. Both parties will be satisfied.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor