Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet. FIRST DRIVE takes on the US of A in the most powerful Beetle Cabriolet ever

Engine Power Torque 0-100kph Top speed Weight Basic price
Inline 4cyl TSI, 1984cc 207bhp @ 5300rpm 207lb ft @ 1700rpm 7.4secs TBC 1487kg $34,855
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Alert acceleration, solid balance through the corners
Could still use some agility

Being female, a lot of my male friends (basically the majority of my friends) say I have their dream job, and I’d have to agree, especially since I recently got to drive across America. Granted, ‘the ultimate dream’ would have included American-based muscle, but the new convertible Beetle was a worthy alternative, particularly since our drive would take us nearly 220km from New York to Boston on both highway runs and through winding back roads. Ideal convertible terrain.

Really? Excited about a drive in a Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet? Actually yes. It’s not had the best reputation over the years, but changes to the design and significant tweaks to the underside mean the new convertible is not just for girls anymore.

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“I’ve never really been a fan of the previous generation Beetle (the iconic mk1 design is a classic in my eyes) but this, the third generation convertible, is actually very pretty, especially with the roof down.”

It has a more angular and more elongated look about it, with a wider on-road presence and a flatter roof than its predecessor. The new VW also has the same 2.0-litre TSI four-cylinder as the Golf: it may boast slightly less power output at 207bhp, but it is still the most powerful Beetle cabriolet to date. Said unit comes mated to a six-speed DSG automatic transmission and climbs to 100kph in 7.4 seconds. Hardly sprightly, but that combined with the seventh generation Golf’s chassis and some suspension work spell, theoretically at least, significantly improved handling. These updates and new angles, coupled with the loss of the flower on the dashboard, have changed my expectations somewhat.

The interior meanwhile has a fresh, modern feel with solid materials. Upon getting inside the car, the driving position is very good, with solid reach and rake options for the steering rack and a surprisingly sporty – and lowered – seating position. Visibility is also good from all angles, and I don’t just mean with the top down. The perfect weather meant I had to force myself to put the top up to test out noise levels: there was minimal road roar and the hood can be closed in 9.5 seconds at speeds of up to 50kph.

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How does it handle?

On the move, two things were immediately apparent: though no American road trip is complete without a quick stop off at McDonalds, I don’t think they truly understand the concept of a ‘light snack’. The other was the manner in which the new Beetle Cabriolet picks up speed: acceleration is responsive without being overly abrupt, and though it doesn’t feel quite as alert as the Golf on which it is based, it’s still a significant improvement over the slightly second generation. Changes through the six-speed DSG are similarly smooth, the only frustration – albeit a minor one – on downshifts, since these could be a little quicker.

Steering meanwhile is direct and reliable, similar in precision to its Golf sibling although given the extra weight the Beetle has to contend with, the latter is not quite as agile through the corners. A certain benefit of the doubt is needed: this being a convertible and all, and though I had the confidence to push a little through the corners, this really isn’t a car you generally want to hoon. It’s meant to be a new ‘sporty Beetle’ but it still lacks in composure at pace, even if the brakes, although occasionally a little sharp, were very responsive. There’s little to complain about the ride, however, the Beetle Cabriolet comfortable across some not-so-flush side roads, as well as the highway at ample speeds: I’m happy cruising along in auto, singing along to 80s power ballads.

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So, does the most powerful Beetle Cabriolet ever stack up?

Even though it’s the most powerful Beetle convertible to date, it isn’t the most powerful soft-top in the world (then again it is one of the more reasonably priced, starting from $34,855). This attractive price tag plus the fact it is very easy to drive makes it, for me, a good choice if you’re looking for a cruiser soft-top. It’s compact enough to be a great city runaround but it is also comfortable enough as a long-haul car (road-trip, remember?) The new Beetle has a more dominant presence and stronger look than its predecessors. But a sporty convertible it ain’t

Technical specifications available on page 2

Categories: Car Review


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