Competitors: Mini Cooper convertible, Fiat 500c, Ford Mustang convertible, Chevrolet Camaro convertible
Powertrains: 2.5-liter I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft; 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4, 200 hp, 207 lb-ft; 2.0-liter TDI, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 21/27 (2.5-liter), 21/30 (turbo), 28/41 (TDI)
What's New: Last time around, ragtop fans had to wait a full five years. That's how long it took VW to release a ragtop version of the cute and lovable New Beetle coupe introduced in 1998. People loved that convertible?Volkswagen sold more than 230,000 of them over eight years. So this time around, the German automaker didn't delay. This slightly more butch Beetle convertible hits our roads a little more than a year after the new generation's debut.
Planning from the beginning for the new New Beetle to be a ragtop, VW built it 20 percent stiffer than the old car. The Beetle gets those gains through specific reinforcements in the trunk pass-through, windshield A-pillars (0.5-mm-thicker high-strength steel), windshield header, and a specific brace that runs across the underside of the car where the B-pillar would be. The additional structure, along with the top's folding mechanism, twin electric motors, and the emergency hoop support system (launched by pyrotechnics in the event of a rollover) add 229 pounds to the weight compared with a Beetle Coupe. So a bare-bones Beetle ragtop comes in at 3206 pounds. The heaviest model, an automatic TDI, hits the scales at 3340 pounds.
Under the Beetle convertible's hood are the same powertrain options as the coupe. The base 170-hp 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder is paired exclusively to a six-speed automatic. But the 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo and the torquey 140-hp turbodeisel are available with a manual or VW's fantastic DSG automated twin-clutch transmission.
VW's top raises in just 9.5 seconds and lowers in 11. And these moves can be made while the car is traveling at up to 31 mph. The top latches and unlatches automatically, too, which makes the whole process simple.
Tech Tidbit: The ordinary Beetle coupe uses a nonindependent, beam-axle rear suspension. But convertible Beetles get a bonus: the more compact and sophisticated multilink independent rear suspension from the Beetle turbo coupe. The reason for the switch? The beam axle and related components wouldn't fit in the droptop once all its chassis structural bracing was in place.
Driving Character: Once you have the top and windows down, the Beetle feels much more spacious and open than it actually is?just like droptop Beetles of the past. The Beetle Convertible gives its driver an even more pronounced chop-top sensation than the coupe does, because the convertible's roofline is even lower.
The convertible's top has three outer layers and three inner ones, so wind and traffic noises are nicely muted. The engines, thankfully, are not; VW tuned all three Beetle engines to sound good with the top is down.
The base car and TDI gave us smooth riding around town. But when we pushed them hard on a challenging road, they fell apart?the suspension bottomed out on undulating curves and generally felt a little unsettled when pushed. So there's a very good reason (besides the additional power) to pony up an extra $2800 for the Turbo model. The Turbo's includes firmer damping, a thicker front sway bar, larger front brakes, fatter 18-inch wheels and tires, and VW's XDS brake-based limited slip system. All this equipment conspires to transform the exceptionally soft-riding Beetle convertible into a car that can have a little fun in the canyons.
Whichever Beetle convertible you pick, VW has made sure you'll be comfy. All cars come standard with heated seats and either artificial or real leather seats. Why no cloth? In case you happen to leave your top down on a rainy day.
Favorite Detail: The Beetle has been a VW icon for more than six decades. So VW chose three of the most distinctive decades of the Beetle's life as inspiration for three models that will be available at the car's launch. The 1950s Edition is black with a tan interior and wears alloy wheels that look like the steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps of the early Beetles. The 1960s Edition is painted light blue and uses two-tone seats. The 1970s model (and our personal favorite) is painted a rich brown.
Driver's Grievance: VW has a small plastic shelf in the trunk designed to store the folding windscreen. It is certainly not the most intuitive storage solution, and the directions printed on the shelf are cryptic at best.
The Bottom Line: The convertible certainly adds some open-air fun to the angrier new Beetle. We like the style and wide range of options, including the TDI that breaks the 40-mpg barrier on the highway. The downside: At just under $26,000, the new Beetle convertible is priced within $100 of a Mini Cooper Convertible. And the Mini offers a sporty suspension you don't have to pay extra for.