Executive wheels: An updated take on VW’s classic

2013 VW Beetle 2.5L convertible

The Volkswagen Beetle, the iconic “Bug,” has been a mainstay of the American automobile market since the late 1940s – 10 years after it was introduced as the “People’s Car” by Adolf Hitler. VW overcame that stigma and built one of the world’s most profitable car companies, which includes the Audi and Porsche brands. The Beetle – at least in its original version and variations – ran from 1938 to 2003, making it the longest-running single-platform vehicle in automotive history.
This new version of the VW Beetle retains the styling cues that always made the Bug so identifiable, but the car has been stretched some, rounded out a bit and given a more masculine look. It’s zippy – a 2.5-liter I4 engine with 170 hp; it’s economical – rated at 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway; and it drives very smoothly.

The car’s feel and the handling give the driver great command, taking corners without leaning and maneuvering in traffic with ease. It holds the road much better than its predecessor, and while no speed demon, I found the power more than adequate on the highway and in the mountains. I greatly enjoyed driving it.

This convertible model features an automatic top that is the easiest – and quickest – I have ever used. One button, and it is up or down in a flash. When the top is up, the car is quiet and warm. And when it’s down, it is magnificent – it is great fun tooling around in a convertible, and this is among the best.

VW currently has an ad showing four men in a VW Beetle convertible with the top down in the winter. I rode around in some very cold conditions with the top down and the heat on, and I can personally attest to this car’s ability to make you want to use the convertible feature year-round.

And that’s a good thing, because with the top up, the view out of the rear window is very limited. All convertible rear windows are much smaller than a coupe’s, but the VW’s rear-seat head rests further restrict the view.

The convertible, as nice as it is, also contributes to the overall lack of trunk space. The trunk in my test-drive model contained the boot cover for the convertible top when its down (it gives it a nice finished look), but storing the boot in the trunk reduces a six-grocery bag space to two bags. 

But there is plenty to like about this vehicle. Sound system and climate controls are intuitive and feature buttons and knobs and not a lot of extraneous electronic gizmos found in many other German cars. There is easy push-button start, heated seats that get hot quickly and steering wheel controls that are also user-friendly.

A nice little extra is the “Welcome to Your Beetle” display that shows up on the dash every time you start the car. My test-drive model came with the powerful Fender edition sound system – Fender as in the famous guitars – and the Fender logos on the speakers is a nice touch. Makes you want to play great guitar CDs.

There wasn’t a window sticker, so it’s difficult to figure out the bottom line pricing and how the extras might break down. Near as I can tell, the car was $28,495, which included the Fender Premium Audio System, the very nice RNS 315 navigation system, the built-in technology for plugging in other devices, hands-free or Bluetooth phone, and 18-inch “Disc” aluminum-alloy wheels with all-season tires. With an $800 destination charge, the bottom line is the low- to mid- $29,000 range.

This compares with the base price of the hard-top Beetle with the same engine but no extras of $19, 995 and a Fender Edition of that car at $24,440. They are also offering a ‘50s edition in black with a tan interior, a ‘60s edition with denim coloring, and a ‘70s edition in Toffee Brown Metallic and a beige boot cover – all special editions with a limited run (I didn’t discover any pricing). 

VW also has a turbo edition of the Beetle convertible – with a 2.0-liter I4 engine with 200 hp – offered at $27,000 to $32,000 depending on extras, and a TDI diesel edition with a 2.0-liter, 140hp diesel engine (rated at 28/41 mpg) ranging from $27,000 to $29,000. 

I really liked this car, and I thought the pricing was appropriate. I don’t think I would ever buy one that wasn’t a convertible – too much competition – but it would be fun to own the VW Beetle convertible.