A BUG’S LIFE AIN’T BAD
Topless in a turbodiesel Beetle
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, Aug 16, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
EDITOR'S NOTE: On September 22, 2015, Volkswagen of America suspended all sales of certain diesel-engine automobiles following a federal notification that four-cylinder models produced from 2009 to 2015 was equipped with software which caused false readings substantially better (cleaner) than the readings should have been. The company has in part admitted to the wrong-doing and authorities (both state and federal) are in the process of addressing the situation with a recall of the machines in question.
Story by Doug Stokes
As almost everyone now knows, clean-living, clean-burning, high-torque, high-mileage turbo diesels are an important part of the eco-landscape and this Teutonic fun-mobile is a very cool example of that new breed of motors snuggled up front under that reminiscent hood.
I have a little game that I play trying to guess the horsepower and torque of any review car that I drive before looking at the numbers on the spec sheet. I might add that I waste a lot of money on car magazines, not reading any reviews for machines that I might drive for LA Car. My first guess after my first couple of hours in this open beach-mobile was 150/240 (horsepower/torque). The actual figure? A 150 horsepower matched beautifully with 236 healthy foot-pounds of torque. One word with an exclamation point: NICE!
Which brings us to the 6-speed manual gearbox that this Beetle came to us with. It was fun to stir the cogs and, in any gear all the way to 6th, putting any sort of firm pressure on the accelerator pedal at anything over 2,000 rpm produced forward thrust that was much more sports car than beach-buggy. That instant, on-tap, broad-band, distance-shortening torque made traffic situations, and freeway passing much more a pleasure than a task.
In truth, as broad-shouldered that this 2-liter ULEV (certified Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) engine is, I would have preferred VW’s excellent DSG® 6-speed Tiptronic® transmission (easier on my old left knee in LA traffic). But the work was more than worth the effort, and snapping clean gear changes with a good 6-speed is still a noble pastime.
Again, and quite evidently, this car has a fun, jovial, broad-faced SMILE and a gentle look that sort of reminded me of Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. Heck, it’s a VW Beetle with a soft top—not a formal town car or a serious multi-people-transporter sedan. There actually is a back seat (right) but this is far more a true two for the road (and the more scenic the road the better beach, mountains, woods, the great plains, maybe even Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon) machine.
We went topless a lot of the time but, because we also parked in places where we are never real comfortable with leaving an open car out in the open to the curious, outright thieves, birds, squirrels and that ilk it meant that we were opening and closing the top fairly often. So we did not use the trick tonneau cover that smoothes out the top’s lines when the lid is laid back. Its bulk will have owners choosing between using it and loosing fully 50 percent of the Beetle’s (fairly modest in the first place) truck space. By the way, the electrically operated top works flawlessly, putting on an entertaining show with the windows and making a very Teutonic/in-control whirring noise while in the process. In truth, I hardly think that huge trunk capacity is the first thing on the check list of this car’s potential buyer.
Resplendent in its Reflex Silver Metallic paint over a Titan Black leatherette interior, this car (at the time of this review the only VW Diesel Convertible in the country … Don’t worry, by now there’s a plenty of them here) stood on a set of big (17”) alloy wheels that set the style perfectly.
Which brings us to the cool sound system that’s included in the ticket for this model of the convertible. It’s a Fender® premium audio system with eight speakers and a gigantic sub woofer in the trunk. It hooks up nicely with the SiriusXM® satellite radio system as well as the MDI (media device interface) and the Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity. As usual I listened to the Siriusly Sinatra channel and did not try the MDI because I don’t know what that means (and did not lose any sleep over that fact). For all I know, it could have added immensely to the already over-brimming fun (darn!).
There’s no provision for a breeze blocker in this car, so open top driving is …well … open top. Only a few hours into the test drive I noted that paper-on-the-right-seat lift off speed was 27.3 miles per hour. Hats and heavy hair control products are recommended. On the other hand, top up/all windows down, right up to the top legal California freeway speed (and maybe even a bit beyond, hey, we test ‘em so that you won’t risk a speeding ticket) the cockpit is remarkably calm. No, a loose stack of papers will not behave, but the wind whip is nominal and (new LA Car term alert :) the car is fully “conversable” (normal volume conversations are easy … honest).
For this eye (and I KNOW it’s a convertible) this one looks pretty damn cool top up and windows down and that’s just about as sinister as this cutie can muster with its sweet, wide Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent smile. Top down there was still almost something of the old Porsche “bathtub” feel to the cockpit area.
So, what’s this buggy going to set someone back? Well … the sticker bottomed out on this one at $31,945.00 which buys about as (see below) fully-equipped a VeeDub as you can buy. The highlights include all of the latest and greatest in driver helper stuff like anti-slip, ant-lock, four wheel disc brakes, electronic speed-variable steering, a (much needed top up or down) review camera, blind spot monitor, a electronic brake force distribution system, and a whole bunch of other safety items listed in order at the end of this piece.*
The interior of this one is typically Volkswagen, well thought out, handsome, and easy to use. The backup camera is fully to be trusted and (as noted) very useful with the top down (the folded-back top makes for a very high ledge to peer over) and/or top up (while this one is reasonably large, rear windows in convertibles are always much smaller than comparable metal-topped models). And, again top-up, the “B” pillar formed by the thick, soft top is very broad making use the blind spot monitors in the side mirrors mandatory.
German seats are … German seats, firm, comfortable, supportive, and made to seat the driver for maximum control of the vehicle. This car had (you guessed it) German seats. The front ones were also heated for cooler weather top-down drives … looking goood man!
All of the other controls were equally as easy to access and use. Typically over-engineered, we even have a “boost gauge” as part of the auxiliary dash package that comes on this model. Watching it swing was fun, but feeling the kick in the butt that the “boost” (pressurized air from the turbo was producing) was even more fun and far more visceral.
As NAV systems go, this one’s RNS 315 touch screen system worked well enough for my purposes. Although sometime (I didn’t lay a hand on it, I swear) it seemed to widen out and then narrow in on a section of highway without my asking … Maybe it was trying to tell me something.
Is this a practical car? That, of course depends on your own personal rendition of the word. Our one week liaison with this topless dancer featured 90+ degree days and 60 degree nights, neither the optimum outdoor temps for this sort of a ride. But still it was (there’s that word again) sure fun to try.
The power- strong/fuel-stingy TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) engine (you know the hp and torque) delivers an average 34 miles per gallon (30 cities / 40 highways). Our road notes say that at 375 miles on the ticker, the fuel gauge was still reading six-tenths full, and note that one could get a long way up Highway 1 before stopping to fill up. As a side note, fuel prices at a nearby Arcadia (California) gas station during our sojourn were: $3.39, 3.49, and 3.59 for three levels of gasoline, and a bargain $3.19 for the Diesel 2 that this one sipped.
WORLD CAR: While we’re having fun with this one, Senator Mike Munroney’s wonderful Federal window stickers are always an intriguing read. In today’s chapter we find that the major sources for parts used in this car are nine percent USA/Canadian, 40 percent German, 26 percent Mexican, which means that there are a few bits and pieces from someplace else. (Which, frankly, is no problem for me, because everything on this car fit together so nicely?) It was (finally) assembled down in Puebla and the engine and transmission both boasted German citizenship. Oh, and tucked into that $31,945.00 final figure on the sticker there’s a fat $820.00 destination charge (top up all the way from Mexico).
There’s a standard 3 year/36,000 mile powertrain and 5 year/60,000 mile corrosion warranty and 3 years /36,000 miles of Volkswagen roadside assistance. The car comes VW CAR NET-equipped with a limited time trial of the full subscription direct personal two-way contact service that equates to the better-known On-Star System.
And, about that “Highway 1” note above, while you’re enjoying that 30+ miles per gallon of Diesel 2 that this one delivers, you’ll also enjoy some surprisingly sharp and (here’s word that this one evokes often :) fun handling. The electric steering gives good feedback and the braking is right there, strong secure, and positive ever time. I don’t expect to see many of this model posting times at the local autocross track, but it’s not that they’d really be out of place, this Volkswagen runs the corners almost as well as one of its far more “serious” Golf and Jetta siblings.
Summing this one up: Nope, not for everyone (see below) but perfect for someone who finds this neat little bug perfect for them. If you love diesel power and the wind in your hair, this is your car. - DS
PS: Don’t be looking for the precious little flower vase that the New Beetle sported early-on. This Volksie is beyond that stage and on to more important stuff like how a couple is perceived when drawing up to the valet service at the Greek for the Prairie Home Companion Show or Dan Tana’s for a late plate of fettuccini alfredo a la Mark Singer afterward. (Hint: You are lookin’ good!) - DS
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For more information about VW products, go to vw.com.
Name of vehicle:
2015 Beetle TDI® Convertible with Sound & Navigation
$29,675 (base Beetle TDI Convertible) – includes Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), Brake override system, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), including Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD), Engine Braking Assist (EBA), Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Anti-intrusion side door beams, Automatic Locking Retractors (ALR), Driver and front passenger, front and side thorax airbag supplemental restraint system, Crash-optimized front end, Crash-optimized pedal controls, Driver and front passenger, combined curtain and side airbag system, Front safety belts with pretensioners and load limiters, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat anchor points, Passenger Occupant Detection (PODS), Reinforced safety cage construction, Safety belt Emergency Locking Retractors (ELR) for all seating positions, Steering wheel, deformable/collapsible upon impact, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions, Automatic post-collision braking system, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Child safety locks on rear doors, Immobilizer III theft-deterrent system, Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS) and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
$31,945.00 (as tested with Sound & Navigation)
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway):
Manual: 28 / 41
Automatic: 28 / 37
2.0-liter inline four cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged/intercooled, direct injection
140 @ 4,000 rpm
236 @ 1,750 rpm
6-speed manual (6-speed DSG automatic is optional)
Rack and pinion, electric power assist
Power-assisted, dual circuit, vented front discs, solid rear discs
17” aluminum alloy wheels
Wheelbase: 99.9 inches
Overall length: 168.4
Overall width: 71.2
Overall height: 58.0