- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

Back in 1979, the Volkswagen Cabrio replaced the original VW Beetle convertible — more than 570 million sold worldwide.

With that in mind, it seems somehow fitting that the VW New Beetle Convertible moves in to take the Cabrio’s place.

The fanfare associated with the New Beetle has subsided, the new has worn off, and the introduction of this latest drop-top New Bug should be sufficient to boost enthusiasm one again.

Initially, this latest ragtop New Beetle will be offered in two trim levels with one engine — a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 115 horsepower.

Later, 1.8-liter turbocharged models will become available, upping the horsepower to 150.

The 2.0-liter models appear in GL trim and an upper-scale GLS trim, both available with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission.

The GLS will join a GLX model with the 1.8T-liter engine providing power and mated to a choice of the two transmissions.

Pricing for the GL with a manual transmission starts at $20,450. The beginning tag for the 1.8T GLX is $26,725, with the GLS falling comfortably in the middle.

This is not a sports car, mind you, but rather a sporty boulevard cruiser that successfully combines driving fun and comfort.

The transition from closed car to open tourer is accomplished quickly and easily with the optional semi-automatic top — it is necessary to first manually release and twist the header top latch before pushing the power top button.

Fleeing from the elements is just as easy, only in reverse (the top, not the car) — time required: a paltry 13 seconds. A manual top is standard.

The Convertible looks good either way, exuding a playful aura. The top folds into its own pseudo-tonneau cover, resembling the look of the classic original.

Automatic Rollover Support deploys behind the rear seats when special sensors indicate a rollover scenario.

These emergency supports add to the protection provided by the head restraints.

All tops are currently black, with gray and cream to be added soon.

The New Beetle Convertible adheres to the same nostalgic, but not retro, design as its Coupe counterpart, sporting a bright beltline surround strip to set the cloth top stylishly apart from the bodywork.

The test New Beetle Convertible was a GLS model with the 2.0-liter engine and manual gearbox, finished with a Uni Black exterior and a black and gray interior.

The total sticker came to $24,515 after adding the semi-automatic top, a wind blocker, heated seats, the Monsoon sound system, a ski sack and the destination charge.

The sound system incorporated a center-console-mounted six-disc CD player that beats a trunk- or glove box-positioned unit for convenience. The cup holder unit is placed ahead of the gear shift and pivots toward the passenger side.

There are lots of standard features and cool colors to ensure that cruising is fun, safe, comfortable and entertaining. There’s even a fifth window switch for operating all windows simultaneously.

Handling is precise and the New Beetle Convertible is stable with no objectionable cowl shake.

The GLS drop-top New Beetle is no Boxster S but, all things being relative, two for the price of one isn’t bad.

For the ultimate in cool however, we’re waiting for the Microbus.

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