2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
As I have the opportunity to drive a variety of vehicles, I sometimes ask my teenage nieces if they’d be interested in the opportunity to get a ride in a car or truck that they’d probably not otherwise have the chance to experience. A few years ago, they’d invariably take in up on the offer, fighting over who’d get to be in the front seat.
But for the past few years, they’ve given it a pass. Just not interested.
Then I had the Beetle Convertible. And the 19-year-old couldn’t wait to get a ride.
Consider: Even though I’d had vehicles that cost twice what this car does (the MSRP for this vehicle, with the ‘70s Edition package, is $28,595), this was the one she wanted to be in.
© 2012 Mattel, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
While this could seem to be some sort of indication that the whole notion of young people not being particularly interested in cars is not always and everywhere the case, in point of fact, she truly isn’t all that keen on cars or driving.
No, what was the fascinating part about the VW Beetle was. . .it reminded her of the toy Barbie car that she pushed around outside of Barbie’s Play House when she was a little girl.
Which, I suppose, is good news-bad news. Good that she was interested. Not-so-good when you think of what predicated the interest.
Funny thing about the car in question in this regard. It has the Fender Premium Audio System. Yes, that’s “Fender” as in “Stratocaster.” Being the ‘70s Edition, there are chrome exterior mirror caps, chrome wheel covers, and a Toffee Brown exterior color, which is anything but Barbie.
So there is the 19-year-old, to whom the car appealed to more than anyone else who saw it. In 1974, she would have been -20. Clearly the whole Fender ‘70s thing would be lost on someone like that.
Yet there it was, a car with appeal.
Enough about nostalgia.
Because the car is a convertible, one might think that it would be more than a bit wobbly when doing things like going through turns at a brisk velocity. Not so. The clever German engineers went at the car with a variety of reinforcements, like the use of a hot-formed, ultra high-strength bars inside the A-pillars and B-pillars. There is an additional plate in the front roof cross member. There is more sheet metal in the lower body side members and a high-strength steel extra rear panel. And VW is a big proponent of laser welding, which tends to be superior to spot welding in creating strong structures, and that’s been used for this vehicle, as well.
Bottom line here is that this convertible is actually 20% stiffer than its predecessor. The torsional rigidity is 17.8 Hz.
All of which is to say that the car is a damn sight stronger than anything that comes from Mattel. It is the real deal.
OK. One more thing about nostalgia, at least in this case for VW cognoscenti. The Beetle Convertible is a soft top. A multilayer top. There’s polyacrylic woven fabric on the outside, then synthetic rubber, then an inner liner of polyester. That’s for the outer layer. Then there’s another multilayer structure of polyester nonwoven fabric, polyethylene terphthalate insulating fleece, and polyester spunboard. And finally there is a foam-laminated fabric headliner. The rear window is tempered safety glass. A metal-retractable roof might be a little less complicated to put together.
Anyway, this isn’t nostalgia for the Golden Age of Polymers. Rather, it is the rationale for the soft-top approach. Evidently, it results in a roofline that resembles that of the 1949 VW type 15.
The car is, in keeping with what it is, peppy. That’s right: peppy. It has a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic. Yes, you read that right: five-cylinder.
Let’s face it: You’re not going to buy this car because you want to blister some tires at a track event.
You might want to buy this car because bona-fide convertibles are getting harder to find.
You might want to buy this car because you recognize that there really is a fresh take on the interior, even though you might not want to put people you like in the back seat.
You might want to buy this car because once upon a time one of your favorite toys. . . .
Engine: 2.5-liter inline five cylinder
Material: Cast iron block, aluminum head
Horsepower: 170 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 100 in.
Length: 168.4 in.
Width: 71.2 in.
Height: 58 in.
Curb weight: 3,206 lb.
EPA: 21/27 city/highway mpg
Here’s a look at how Johnson Controls creates leading interiors as well as cool ideas for clever products.
Dan Nicholson is vice president of General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, the organization that had been “GM Powertrain” for 24 years.
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