2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible
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Published on Mon, Apr 15, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Reed Berry Am I dating myself to say that I’m experiencing Fahrvergnügen? Yes, I fully realize that I’m referencing an ad slogan from over 20 years ago, but if Volkswagen can continue to re-introduce the ever-popular Beetle, I can do the same with their clever ad slogans of yesteryear. After all, the word Fahrvergnügen means “driving enjoyment” and, quite frankly, that’s the way I would describe the 2013 VW Beetle TDI Convertible. Upon hearing that I’m road testing a Beetle convertible, one of my friends has commented: “That’s a chick car.” After explaining that it is the sportier, bolder turbo diesel model, he said: “So it’s a faster chick car.” The fact that the Beetle is available in festive pastel colors such as Yellow Rush and Denim Blue may not help break this stereotype, but I think overall VW has done an admirable job of getting the Beetle to man up a bit. The car has a sporty rear spoiler and, yes, colors of a more masculine nature are available. Don’t get me wrong. The car is still unmistakably Beetle with the same basic familiar shape, but it’s a bit more stylish and the lower, wider chassis gives it a somewhat sleeker look. I am a bit confused, however, because I remember a Beetle from a few years ago called the “Final Edition” Beetle. Apparently, just like the “Final Destination” film franchise that keeps cranking out movie after movie, some things are never really final. In this particular case, I consider it a good thing. I can’t imagine a world without some version of this iconic automotive staple.
Imagine taking a Beetle, replacing the oil with testosterone and filling the fuel tank with Red Bull. That’s how this car feels. The Beetle TDI is fast, fun to drive and it certainly gets the looks. Fortunately, my road test was scheduled during a week of incredibly beautiful southern California weather because the first thing I want to do as I enter the car is put the top down. With the touch of one button, the soft top opens and closes quickly and easily - just 9.5 seconds to open and 11 seconds to close and automatically latch. Fortunately, the days of convertibles with tops that require manual latches, snaps, covers and a lot of effort are over. This vehicle is filled with all the most up-to-date convenience features, including Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. There’s even a start/stop button for the engine, a feature once reserved only for higher-end vehicles. For those in need of space for personal belongings, there are two passenger side glove compartments. A door that blends in with the dash panel (the color of which is coordinated to match the exterior color of the vehicle) lifts to reveals one small compartment while a larger compartment below the dash opens downward. The interior certainly has a sporty look and feel. There is a sharp looking tower atop the dash that houses a trio of gauges, and a flat bottom steering wheel not only enhances the appearance but also results in added legroom for the driver. Seating is fairly comfortable, although at the end of a drive that has taken me from South Pasadena through the San Fernando Valley and finally into Malibu, my lower back is starting to give a review of its own. No matter how I tweak the seat adjustment levers, the seating becomes a little less comfortable as the day goes on.
Gone are the days of the original Beetle with nothing more than seats, a steering wheel and an AM radio. While certain elements of the interior were designed to be reminiscent of classic Beetles, this vehicle is loaded with modern amenities, including a top-notch navigation system and a premium Fender sound system. Sound quality is acceptable but not overly impressive. I do like the fact that when I connect my iPod I can control it from the in-dash sound system. An AM/FM tuner, CD player and satellite radio round out the entertainment options for my drive. Remember when Beetles made a lot of noise and sounded like they were going fast but really weren’t? This incarnation of the Beetle is much quieter and offers impressive performance. Obviously, a diesel engine is a bit louder than a gas engine, but with the windows closed and the top up, the car is surprisingly quiet. Almost as surprising is that this car has one of the smoothest rides of any vehicle I’ve driven in recent memory. I do have a good feel of the road, but this car glides over every surface I’ve encountered thus far, from the relatively smooth 101 Freeway to the curvy, uneven canyon roads leading into Malibu. As mentioned previously, this car is fast. Not faster than any other car on the road, but certainly fast for a Beetle, taking you from 0 – 60 in just 8.5 seconds. With a 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine, I’m not going to be so bold as to challenge a Lamborghini owner to a race along Pacific Coast Highway. The 16-valve turbocharged diesel engine paired with a highly efficient 6-speed automatic transmission, however, does produce plenty of power for this type of car and, needless to say, offers impressive fuel economy estimates of 28 city and 37 highway. And, to make me feel almost as sporty as those Lambo drivers, my test vehicle does have steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that allow me to shift manually without the need for a clutch.
The vehicle handles exceptionally well thanks to a number of intelligent design elements working in harmony, such as rack and pinion steering, electronic stability control and strut-type front suspension. VW has also reinforced the vehicle at key points and increased body rigidity to eliminate the shake in the cowl and steering column that is often experienced in convertibles. As someone who has owned a convertible in the past, I can certainly feel the difference and I applaud VW’s successful effort to give this car its solid, confident demeanor. The Beetle Convertible is still a small car, but not quite as small as it used to be. Compared to its predecessor, this Beetle is 3.3 inches wider and 6.0 inches longer. Okay, so maybe it’s not a huge difference but a little extra space in a small car really helps. According to VW, trunk space has increased as well, from 5.0 cubic feet to 7.1 cubic feet. Despite the increase, trunk space is not overly generous but for a couple of suitcases or a few bags of groceries is certainly adequate. Once thought of as just a cute budget-priced economy car, the bigger, bolder Beetle is now a vehicle to be taken seriously. In addition to the 2.0-liter TDI, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is available in two gasoline powered models – the Beetle 2.5 with a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine and the Beetle Turbo with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. For retrophiles, the Beetle 2.5 is available in 50’s and 70’s versions and the Beetle Turbo is available in a 60’s version, each with special color combinations and features.
For more information about Volkswagen products, go to vw.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible Base Price: TDI Clean Diesel: $27,895 TDI with Sound & Navigation: $29,195 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway): Manual: 28 / 41 Automatic: 28 / 37 Engine type: 2.0-liter inline four cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged/intercooled, direct injection Horsepower: 140 @ 4,000 rpm Torque: 236 @ 1,750 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed manual (6-speed DSG automatic is optional) Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive Steering: Rack and pinion, electric power assist Brakes: Power-assisted, dual circuit, vented front discs, solid rear discs Wheels: 17” aluminum alloy wheels Dimensions Wheelbase: 99.9 inches Overall length: 168.4 Overall width: 71.2 Overall height: 58.0