Insects can be a menace unless the are equipped with a turbocharger. The latest model of the “People’s Car” arrived at our headquarters finished in Bottle Green with a Beige Leatherette Interior. We were hoping for a manual, but the six-speed automatic proved to be a worthy contender. If you are looking for an economical convertible your choices are limited, so allow us to distill a week of commuting in the latest from Volkswagen.
The Beetle has had a long and prosperous history in Mexico, and our test model was built south of the border. Our current administration might resent Mexican imports, but there is something to be said of less regulation. If you value a long-lasting paint job, Mexican built cars are still sprayed with traditional clear coat instead of the water based swill forced upon our domestic cars. Since the factory in Puebla has been building them before your parents were born, they know how to build a quality car. Convertibles must face a litany of crash and rollover tests which vary around the world. To build a car for the world market, the Beetle’s strength is evident after the first few moments.
As with any convertible we test, the first evaluation was trying to invoke cowl shake. This dreaded phenomenon occurs in cheapo drop-tops that prefer to shake the cockpit over small bumps. Try as we might, the Beetle responded with poise and confidence which made us wonder how far we could push it. I won’t elaborate on when or where we lost traction, just know that it understeers enough to warn you before you reach the limit. The latest evolution of the venerable 1.8-liter turbo, it uses direct injection and premium fuel to deliver 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Cars that have more torque than horsepower are always fun. The chunky nature of the little four-cylinder in the lightweight chassis makes for a fun experience.
The gear ratios are tight to keep the turbo happy, and the transmission performs as one would expect. One annoying aspect is the idle speed. Release the brake pedal and you have two seconds of stillness that is interrupted by a launch. In an effort to achieve maximum fuel mileage, the computer engages first gear in an abrupt manner. Crawling in traffic it becomes a rather annoying dance of brake and accelerator, so we found it easier to use the handbrake. As with most convertibles, visibility is limited when the top is up, so you will need to adjust to mirror and windows for maneuvering. The top is powered and easy to operate, with no funky latches to worry about. It is also well insulated for a car under $30,000.
Entertainment is provided by an 8-speaker audio system, but our car did not have the optional Fender speakers. The base model system had all the right inputs, but base model audio in a convertible is a bad idea. Manual climate control was another throwback to a bygone era, along with the term “Leatherette”. For 2017 the Beetle convertible turbo carries a price of $27,570. Sure it’s quirky, but that is the nature of this car.You will be hard pressed to find another turbocharged convertible rated at 33 mpg. Factor in the German build quality and Beetle is the only answer. Stay with us for more VW news & reviews.