- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

We've been anxiously waiting for Volkswagen to bring a convertible version of the popular New Beetle to showrooms. They teased us with concept drawings and models that only raised the enthusiasm for such a vehicle. The wait is over and I think most of you will not be disappointed.
The New Beetle convertible carries with it all the heritage and feel of uniqueness that early Bug convertibles had. It also provides all, or at least most, of the features today's buyer's demand.
Available in three models, GL, GLS and GLX, it can be outfitted in many ways to match your needs. This VW convertible is powered by either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder normally aspirated engine, or a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The 2.0-liter engine produces 115 horsepower and 125 foot-pounds of torque. The 1.8 turbo version bumps the convertible horsepower up to 150 and the torque up to 162 foot-pounds.
With 115 horsepower the 2.0 engine performs adequately, but doesn't impress the enthusiast. The additional structure needed to keep the platform rigid adds pounds to this VW and 115 horsepower just isn't enough to make this any more than a nice commuter car.
Just about the opposite can be said about the 1.8 turbo engine. There is just a bit of the inherent turbo lag present, but the added power is so noticeable you will quickly put it out of your mind.
You know performance numbers are not why you would buy a New Beetle convertible. It is the whole experience, the uniqueness this Beetle brings to your everyday drive. This little car does exactly what you expect it would. You will get as much attention, maybe more, driving down the street as those exotic sports cars costing tens of thousands of dollars more than your VW. This is a car you will enjoy driving day in and day out.
The main reason buyers head toward convertibles, and specifically the New Beetle convertible, is the carefree manner they can go from snug top-up driving to wind-in-their-hair open-air motoring. The top mechanism on the VW is well engineered and simple to operate. Unlock the hoop-shaped handle on the windshield header, give it a twist. From there it is just a flick of a switch and the top glides down to its resting place behind the rear seat.
I am glad that VW engineers wisely decided to not overengineer this top. It doesn't stow under some high-tech tonneau cover. Instead it follows VW convertible tradition by sitting up high in the "baby buggy" style made popular by those early VW convertibles. It is unique. The tradition continues. This design does not hinder the driving experience at all. Visibility is compromised only slightly and is quite tolerable.
If I have any complaints beside the power issue, it would be the lack of storage space provided by the small and not easily accessible trunk. But, then again, you do have the rear seat to use because I wouldn't expect anyone over 12 years of age to sit there. In a pinch the rear seat might be fine, but only for a very short trip.
The interior gives a wonderful expansive feeling much like the sedan does. Plenty of headroom even with the top raised.
If there is one thing that most folks like about the New Beetle, sedan or convertible, it is the feeling of lots of room in the passenger compartment. That's saying a lot when you talk about a compact automobile.
The New Beetle convertible is that and a great deal more.


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