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2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Quick Drive

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible adds open-air flair to the automaker's emotional halo.

Shortly after getting underway in the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, I realized I could have slept an extra two minutes: the time I spent combing my hair was instantly futile, and with this car the blow-drying comes free. Volkswagen chose the beaches of Los Angeles to launch the drop-top version of its most iconic, recognizable model: the Volkswagen Beetle. L.A.'s mild climate this time of year would seem to be reason enough, but cars in Southern California -- like many places in the U.S. and around the world -- encompass so much of our lives. For better -- the pleasure and exhilaration of a ride, or worse -- the reality of traffic and hours-long commutes, maintenance and difficulties. But get behind the wheel of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle and a commute can effortlessly become a ride.

The heightened sensory experience of having the top down more closely connects you with your surroundings. And because sometimes you'd rather not be so connected, with the push of a button and just 11.0 seconds the Beetle Convertible top closes and latches automatically. Once closed, you find yourself in the confines of a sporty, cleanly-styled cabin. We've test driven the mechanically identical 2012 Volkswagen Beetle; check it out for the full rundown. Here, we're concerned with what makes the convertible special.

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Model and Price

With three different engines, both a regular and a DSG automatic transmission, a six-speed manual gearbox, a variety of packages and even three unique era-inspired trims, buyers will have plenty of choice. The entry-level 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible comes well-equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels, Bluetooth, iPod adapter, and heated front seats all as standard features. If you've owned a convertible, you'll appreciate the satisfaction of slow-roasting your rear in a toasty seat while cool wind whips all around you.

A standard automatic transmission comes on the entry-level Beetle Convertible, which starts at $25,790 after delivery. The 2013 Beetle Convertible tops out at $33,090, and that includes the 2.0-liter turbo-four-cylinder 200-hp DSG model, with premium Fender audio, navigation, and sporty-looking 18-inch wheels. We drove several models to get an impression of each engine, both manual and automatic transmissions, and the various features.

Safety and Key Features

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible comes standard with the same equipment as the non-convertible model, but Volkswagen has given the Beetle Convertible an Automatic Rollover Support System -- especially important in the event of a rollover accident -- and includes roll-over bars concealed behind the back bench, and a reinforced roof crossbar.

While entry-level Beetle Convertibles come well equipped, there are a few available options well worth exploring. Music lovers will want to sample the premium Fender audio system, which provides a markedly better, clear and crisp listening experience with the top up or down. There's also keyless access with push-button start, leather to lavish the interior, and a user-friendly navigation screen.

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Family Friendliness and Utility

Generally speaking, if you've got a family or are looking for utility, you're not likely looking to buy a compact convertible coupe. But if you've got a few passengers to tow, the Beetle Convertible's backseats are surprisingly comfortable, and roomier than they look. There's also a nice cushy pillow-like area where your knees press into. Car seats and boosters will fit in back, but you wouldn't want to make a career of latching and removing them. Volkswagen also emphasized the 7.1 cu.-ft of cargo space you'll find in the trunk, which bests the topless Bug's main competitor, the Mini Cooper with 6.0 cu.-ft. The split folding rear-seats mean extra storage and utility if needed, and room for a shortboard, snowboard, or elongated Ikea cardboard box -- the last of which ensures a disheartening and mildly depressing evening of assembling low-quality plywood furniture.

Comfort and Quality

Sitting in the new Beetle Convertible and glancing in the mirrors, the high beltline and curved wheel arches hearkens back to the motor coaches of yore. But inside, the cabins vary so much, there's seemingly a Beetle interior to suit everyone. A cherry red diesel model has a cherry red interior to match, one that's attractive and playful. The standard Beetle is clean, simple and streamlined. The economy of buttons and controls is refreshing; it makes having separate buttons for AM and FM radio seem excessive. The sun visor is fixed, goes up and down and can be swung to the side, but it doesn't slide, a minor annoyance.

Entry-level models feature a stereo screen with low-res graphics and font that are difficult to see in sunlight, but the media screens on higher trims with navigation are much better, if small. And while the cabins can be simple and playful, they can also be extremely sporty. Some models feature an extra instrument cluster above the center stack; there the three-gauges give the cabin a cockpit feel, and make the Beetle decidedly more athletic. Regardless of which interior package you get, you'll have a steering wheel that gently flattens at the bottom -- and Volkswagen's industry-best containment of the airbag in a neat sphere, dead center of the wheel -- and of course the standard heated seats.

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How it Drives

Your impression of the Beetle Convertible can vary greatly, depending on the engine and transmission combination you choose, and what you're looking for. The entry-level 2.5-liter engine is mated exclusively to an automatic transmission and churns out a respectable 170 hp. This was the first car I drove, and I chose the most aggressive drive loop to start. Although buyers of the base Beetle Convertible are probably more interested in the car's fun-factor and playful quirkiness, rest assured this car is more capable than you'd expect. Cruising alongside Malibu's infamous Pacific Coast Highway -- ground zero for seductive beaches, celebrity homes, Mel Gibson rant-lore, mudslides, fires, and on this day, twenty insect-inspired cars zipping around -- the Beetle Convertible is an able cruiser. But once we found ourselves on precarious cliff-side roads, our drop-top cornered with sports car verve. The 2.5-liter model isn't especially fast, but it's no slouch either, and apparently it's got a penchant for curves.

But there are other engine options as well; performance-minded enthusiasts can also rest assured, the 2.0-liter turbo variant delivers the satisfying release only a 200-hp turbo can. Quick on its feet, the turbo stays focused and planted on twisty roads, and is surprisingly confidence-inspiring. The 2.0-liter diesel has 140 hp, but with an abundance of low-end power that nourishes the soul, and excellent fuel economy, the diesel makes a case of its own. These options also provide a sportier engine and exhaust note. Enthusiasts will also enjoy the six-speed manual transmission. The rounded sporty shifter falls nicely to hand, and shifts are smooth and precise. I'd prefer the pedals to be spaced a little further apart, but it's something drivers who aren't writing reviews may not notice. The clutch engages nicely, and is well weighted.

While I gave the DSG paddle-shifters a go, and they performed artfully, this isn't a transmission I particularly care for. Sure it may be marginally faster to shift on a track than a manual transmission, but this is a Beetle, not a Bugatti. I like the regular automatic transmission, and the six-speed manual. Of course if you do have a DSG, you can always just stick it in "D," and avoid the video-game fuss of the paddles.

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Summary

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible widens the appeal of the Beetle and adds open-air thrill to the automaker's iconic coupe. There's a powertrain and transmission to suit all tastes, and a variety of alluring interiors. Volkswagen has ditched the in-cabin vase and the more power, less flower mantra has come to fruition. Whether it's a playful Beetle convertible, a sporty one, a fuel efficient drop-top, a beach cruiser or a get-about-town city slicker -- regardless of flavor this car delivers on a promise of fun.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $25,790 - $33,090 including delivery.
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 2.5-liter 21 mpg, 2.0-liter Turbo 21 mpg, 2.0-liter TDI 28 mpg.
EPA Highway: 2.5-liter 27 mpg, 2.0-liter Turbo 29-30 mpg, 2.0-liter TDI 37-41 mpg.
Cargo Space: 7.1 cu.-ft.
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Good. While latching won't be an issue, frequent placement and removal could quickly become cumbersome in the coupe. Having the top down makes it much easier however.
Estimated Combined Range: 14.5 gallon tank, range depends on engine choice.
IntellichoiceCost of Ownership: N/A

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