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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 2, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Volkswagen Beetle 1.8 Turbo GLS Convertible


As the great Yogi Berra once said, "its deja-vu all over again." After I took delivery of the new Volkswagen Beetle turbocharged convertible this week, I repeated the phrase. VW has brought back the popular 'Aquarius Blue' paint color this year, and it exactly matches the Beetle convertible that I owned in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was a wilder and crazier guy.

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

Years melted away as I drove and enjoyed this much-improved new generation VW Beetle convertible. The Beetle was a symbol of 'flower power' and you can still find a dash-mounted plastic vase to hold a flower or two.

That was yesterday. Today is today, and you can still see the original Beetle exterior design. Everything else is changed for the better in the new Beetle convertible - and the turbo adds that much needed horsepower and torque to the heavier cabriolet.

Under-powered was the word when the Beetle coupe first came back on the scene in 1998. But, now with the 1.8 liter turbocharged engine, the car is nearly perfect for a budget minded convertible consumer looking for the most for the money in exciting, top-down driving.

This front-wheel drive Beetle with the 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine uses five-valve per cylinder technology, plus the turbocharger and intercooler to optimize intake air volume and temperature - making near six-cylinder-like power of 150 hp at 5,800rpm and 162 lb.ft. of torque from 2,200rpm to 4,200rpm. Also new in the 2004 turbo-charged Beetle convertibles is an optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic semi-manual shifting for more fun and excitement. With six forward gears, the transmission keeps the engine rpm in the power band for increased performance. There also is also a S-shift in the automatic mode for even quicker acceleration. All new Beetles come standard with a smooth shifting 5-speed manual transmission. For enhanced performance and handling, the tuned suspension of the 2004 Beetle turbo cabriolet includes independent MacPherson struts, a stabilizer bar up front, and an independent track-correcting torsion beam axle and stabilizer in the rear. The Beetle cabriolet 1.8 Turbo GLS comes standard with an Electronic Stabilization Program, Electronic Differential Locks and Anti-Slip Regulation traction control. The systems automatically assist when the vehicle is operated at its performance limits, while power-assisted rack & pinion steering delivers precise and responsive control. The new turbocharged Beetle cabriolet stops quickly and safely thanks to power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, 10.1 inch vented discs up front, and 9.0 inch solid discs in the rear. Braking control is enhanced with ABS. The new turbo-charged GLS Beetle cabriolet that I tested came with newly optional 17x7 inch alloy wheels wrapped by bigger 225/45R17 all-season performance tires for a more comfortable ride and enhanced traction.

Going from a covered coupe to a top-down tourer is quick and easy with the semi-automatic top release that is standard equipment on the new Beetle GLS. The power top opens and closes in about 15 seconds simply by unhooking the single, front latch and pushing the power button located on the front of the locking, center console. When folded down and stowed inside the standard boot, the effect is much like the classic top-down look of the original Beetle convertible. For increased comfort and less wind noise during top-down driving, a windblocker is optional. On the outside, the new Beetle convertible is distinguished by chrome accent surround, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and a redesigned rear truck lid with integrated third brake light. Projector-beam halogen headlights, HID Xenon headlights are optional, and fog lamps present a modern front fascia. Daytime Running Lights are also standard.

Inside, the novel dome-shape architecture gives the new Beetle convertible spacious front headroom and contributes to the generous 78 cu.ft. of passenger volume and 5 cu.ft. of trunk space. A lockable armrest pass-through is convenient for carrying long objects, such as skis. The big, centered instrument cluster gives you instant feedback for speed, rpm, fuel and gear selected. Bright LED lights surrounding the cluster warn of system or safety concerns. The front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive. The stick shifter is right where you want it to be and all switches, dials and levers are within easy reach, and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving.

My test Beetle came with the optional Monsoon Sound System, featuring a powerful AM-FM stereo radio and eight premium stereo speakers. Other standard equipment includes CFC-free AC and integrated pollen and dust filter, rear-seat air and heater vents, power side mirrors with defrost/defog, a glass rear window with defroster, power locks and power windows with pinch protection/one-touch up/down switches and a driver's door single-switch for simultaneous operation of all the windows, a central remote locking system, height adjustable, telescoping steering column, map lights, door panel storage slots, thick-pile carpeting/floor mats front/rear, cruise-control and illuminated, covered vanity mirrors. Options include a Cold Weather Package with heated front seats, and heated windshield washer nozzles, a leather package comes with 3-spoke, leather wrapped steering wheel, leather-seating surfaces, leather shift knob and handbrake grip.

Safety is a primary design factor in the new Beetle convertible. Standard safety equipment includes an automatic rollover support system in the rear that use electronic 'smart' sensors to pop-up in the event of a rollover to bridge support to the front windshield. Airbag supplemental restraints include the head-thorax airbags in the sides of the front seats with active restraint headrests, plus driver and front-passenger front airbags. Front seat 3-point safety belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters and 3-point safety belts in the rear outboard seating positions provide primary protection. The LATCH system in the rear outboard seating positions aids proper installation of child seats. The new VW turbo-charged Beetle convertible has come a long way from the old days but it is still a bargain with prices for the 'top-of-the-line' GLS 1.8 liter turbo starting at just $24,820.00. The loaded model that I tested was priced at just $27,555.00. What a great ride!

© Harvey Schwartz

For David Gardner's take on the non-turbo Beetle Convertible, see The Love Bug. For more information on Volkswagen products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: VW Beetle turbo 1.8 convertible Price: $27,555.00 Engine type: 1.8 liters, DOHC, 20-valve aluminum alloy block/heads Horsepower: 150 hp at 5,800 rpm Torque: 162 lb.ft. at 2,200 to 4,200 rpm Drive configuration: front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: 6-speed automatic with S-sport shift and Tiptronic semi-manual Front suspension: independent MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: independent track correcting torsion beam axle, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 17x7 inch alloy wheels/P2325/45R17 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front: 10.1 in. vented disc Rear: 9.0 in solid discs Full ABS Overall length: 161.1 in. Overall width: 67.9 in. Overall height: 59.1 in. Curb weight: 3,082 lbs. EPA mileage: 22 mpg city / 29 mpg highway 0-60 mph: 8.8 sec.

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