2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible First Drive


Despite the seemingly endless combinations of drivetrains, body styles, and features, there are still a few cars in the U.S. market that are unique in their makeup–and we\’re not talking about the Tesla Model S here.

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is the only convertible available in the U.S. with a diesel engine–and better yet, at least when viewed with the right kind of eyes, it\’s available with a manual transmission.

The combination of these three features (convertible, diesel, manual) come together in a completely unexpected way.

In fact, the new Beetle Convertible TDI may be the most \”Beetle-y\” Beetle of the bunch. Priced from $27,895, it\’s not exactly inexpensive, but it\’s in range of its nearest competitive set.

In the hills around Santa Monica and Malibu, the little diesel engine proved its mettle, ripping around with surprising ease and a readiness owing to its relatively stout torque rating. With the familiar (to Volkswagen diesel fans, anyway) 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder engine under the hood, the Beetle Convertible TDI is good for 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet torque.

At the same time, it should return something near the EPA-estimated 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway in real-world driving–or, as many VW TDI owners have found, frequently even better mileage. It\’s worth noting that the manual does eke out a couple more mpg than the dual-clutch DSG gearbox, in addition to being more fun to drive.

In truth, there\’s no endless surge of torque and acceleration like you\’ll feel in a powerful electric car, or even some of the more spirited hybrids, but there\’s enough acceleration at most points in the rev range, as long as your gear selection is appropriate to the demands of the traffic and terrain.

But the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible\’s chassis is surprisingly rigid, allowing a combination of ride comfort and handling not often found at the more entry-level end of the new-car spectrum. In other words, this Beetle TDI drop-top is just at home carving curving mountain roads as it is hypermiling the commute to work.

Classic Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, Santa Monica, 2012

Driving the new car back-to-back with a late 1970s Beetle that was also on hand, it\’s immediately apparent just how much the new car shares with its historic ancestor, despite the mechanical and visual differences. There\’s a spirit of fun, ease, and simple driving joy that ties the two together–especially on a sunny southern California day.

Perhaps the best praise we can give the Beetle Convertible TDI (and it deserves plenty) is that the diesel-ness does nothing to get in the way of the Beetle-ness or convertible-ness–if anything, it enhances it.

Look for a more in-depth report on the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI in the future, and be sure to read about our first drive experience with the Beetle Convertible TDI\’s hardtop alternative.

Volkswagen provided travel, food, and lodging to enable us to bring you this first drive report.


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