Here at “Drive…He Said” home we have plenty of neighbors who have a genuine interest or curiosity in the vehicles that we park outside. The line can queue up pretty quickly when it’s the latest sports car or alternative energy vehicle. Or minivan. One gentleman neighbor, who can offer ninety-three (93!) years of perspective on the automobile, can pass straight to the head of the line. In this way, Melvin “Mel” Erickson, mechanical inventor extraordinaire, becomes the first to submit a guest vehicle review for “Drive…He Said” under the heading “From the Passenger’s Seat.”
On a balmy winter’s day, Mel’s walked over to a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible out front. It could have been the exclusive 50s Edition black cloth roof on black broken-up only by chrome outer wheel rings, lug nut covers featuring bold “VW” emblems that must have brought back memories. The forefather of this Hecho-En-Mexico “New Beetle” was none other than the Volkswagen Type I. With 21 million Beetles sold by the end of its production run in 2003, it went down in the annals as the most popular car ever produced. When the VW Type I , affectionately known as the “Kaefer (German for Beetle) was launched by Ferdinand Porsche in 1938, Mel was a strapping 19 years old! Another forty years passed before Mel took the plunge and actually purchased a used Type I with automatic transmission.
The immediate predecessor to our New Beetle Mk. II Convertible was VW’s jump onto the “retro” bandwagon of the late 1990s. The 1998 New Beetle Mk. I was given a feminine touch, the better to appeal to an exploding segment of car-buying women. Plastic daisy in a dash-mounted holder and all. Rear-mounted air cooled flat engines were replaced by water cooled in-lines at the front. Trunks were relocated to the back. Transmissions got at least one extra gear and synchronizers. Front torsion bar suspension linkages gave way to A-arms and struts. Disc brake rotors were fitted on all four wheels. Mostly Golf Mk. IV under the skin. Women flocked and men ran…the other way.
So for 2013 VW “manned up” the New Beetle. Now built off the U.S. spec Jetta A5 platform, the 2013 Beetle wears the new corporate square-jawed lower front fascia. Despite an unchanged 99″ wheelbase length is up 5″-inches, width increases by 3″-inches and the ride height has dropped .5″-inch. The standard engine is a 168hp 2.5L inline-5 cylinder gas jobber mated to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed Tiptronic auto gearbox. Optional engines are a 140 hp 2.0L clean diesel or the Jetta GLI’s 200 hp 2.0L gas inline-4. An optional 6 speed DSG transmission can be fitted to either optional mill.
The 2013 Beetle revamp brings a spruced-up cabin. The retro shiny lacquer finish of the painted-to-match-exterior plastic appliques has survived. The driver’s gauge cluster has matured incorporating a huge multi-function display illuminated in red. Steering wheel spokes are naked with all secondary controls found on either stalk flanking the fully adjustable column. The wheel bottom gets an infusion of sport with a flat bottom. Front buckets will fit bigger guys but still manage to offer enough cushion for the ladies. The center stack was funneled straight through the Jetta’s cost-cutting sieve. Door mounted speakers and door panel inserts are trimmed in LED’s which illuminate the mood in either Red, White or Blue. Can German market buyer’s specify Red, Yellow, or Black LED mood-lighting (their flag’s colors)?
Our $26,000 black on black soft-top drop top Beetle’s scoot came from the 2.5L inline-5 and Tiptronic slushbox. The extra 300 pounds of structural reinforcement doesn’t trample acceleration that badly with a null-to-60 time of 8.5 seconds. Meanwhile this cabrio will spot you 24 miles-per-gallon. Steering centers naturally. The independent rear suspension is prone to sway on un-even RR tracks. Frost heaves are absorbed like a Bounty “quicker-picker-upper” paper towel. Completely non-defeatable stability and traction control reinforce traction provided by the Continental ContiTrac all-season tires. Low braking force is the polar opposite of the friction in a Golf.
Wide access to the rear seat still doesn’t render it very useful for adults. Better to cover it with the fold-out windscreen which can be stowed in its handy trunk caddy. The 7-cu.ft. Beetle Convertible trunk has room for a medium duffel bag. Fold the split rear seat back and turn ChicagoNow’s resident Girl In the Trunk head first on any attempt to fit Ciminillos in there. Top up the cabin is whisper quiet. Except when traversing underpasses. Press against the headliner and you’d swear they used cloth diapers. A near-vertical windshield make this cabrio uneasy in strong cross-winds. Combined fuel economy of 25 miles-per-gallon is off the mark set by either the Mini Cooper or the Fiat 500. Then, again, neither of those competitors have the ride refinement and cabin comfort of the Beetle convertible.
“Mel’s Likes about the 2013 Beetle Convertible:”
“Well detailed; easy access; room for the [front] passenger to extend their legs, simple to open and close cloth top [9 seconds either way, without any manual latching]; good sound system [including streaming audio through bluetooth].”
“Mel’s Dislikes about the 2013 Beetle Convertible:”
“Hard to reach seat belt [mounted on the B cowl]; a “stiff” ride, limited luggage space, the lack of an integrated garage door controller; lower the base price by $2K and it could be a winner.”
Signed, Melvin Erickson, a former early 1970’s Beetle Type I “Automatic” owner.
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