Los Angeles ? We were going to be in Los Angeles for a couple of days for a new vehicle introduction, so we decided to take a few extra days and visit Big Bear Lake, high in the San Bernardino National Forest about 115 miles east of Los Angeles.
We asked ?if we could borrow the 2013Volkswagen?Beetle Convertible for the trip. When we drove it earlier in the year, it had rained the entire week. We reasoned, if we were going to write about a convertible, we should at least have the top down for a while.
We wanted to get as much top-down driving experience as possible, so the first thing we did was press the button above the rear view mirror to lower the three-layer cloth top. It takes less than 10 seconds to neatly fold just behind the top of the rear seat backs. One other impressive feature of the top is you don?t even have to stop; it can be lowered or raised at speeds up to 31 mph.
Another reason we wanted the top down was for easier access to put some of our luggage in the rear seat. The small 7.1 cubic foot truck would only hold our larger piece of luggage; the rest had to go in the rear seat. The rear seat is large enough for two adults, plus seat back, can be half or totally folded flat to make a flat surface for extra cargo.
Bill started the little turbo diesel engine, set the mirrors, zeroed-out the trip computer and shifted the DSG transmission in to drive and we pulled out of the garage and into traffic. With the top down, it was also easier to experience the sensations of diesel engine. The engine sounds were barely noticeable, and only at idle. There was no smell and no smoke; this really was a clean and quiet diesel. However, there is distinctive turbo lag period — floor the accelerator from a stop and it takes a second for the power to be delivered to the front wheels, but then it really takes off. From a stop, 0 to 60 mph acceleration takes 8.5 seconds.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is available with three engines, a gasoline 170-hp 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder, a 200-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine and the 140-hp, direct injection turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel. The standard transmission for the Beetle is a six-speed manual and a six-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) is the optional automatic. The DSG transmission makes quick, positive shifts in the automatic mode, or manually using the console mounted shift linage or the steering wheel mounted shift paddles.
Most of our drive to Big Bear Lake was on crowded Los Angeles area freeways, but the last segment is on Highway 18, is a curvy 30-mile two-lane asphalt ribbon that climbs more than 5,000 feet above the valley floor into the mountains before arriving at Big Bear Lake, which is at about 6,800 feet elevation. The entire trip we drove five to ten miles per hour faster than the speed limit and aggressively up the mountain thanks to the light Sunday evening traffic. Fuel economy on the way up was 26.5 mpg. Driving the same way on the return trip and then spending a couple of hours driving in the downtown LA area we recorded 46.1 mpg on the trip computer, giving us an overall average of 36.3 mpg. We never tried to maximize fuel economy; we just drove to have fun. The diesel has an EPA rating of 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. If Barbara had been driving full time, we?d probably have averaged between 45 and 50 mpg, because she has much more fuel frugal driving habits.
The Beetle Convertible rides comfortably, perhaps a little on the soft side. It also has a little body lean on tight corners but it didn?t affect the handling. The body is 20 percent stiffer than the last generation and we could feel no body twist or shake.
The new Beetle Convertible has that great new design that captures the essence of the original but with a more muscular look and less cuteness. Needless to say, the bud vase attached to the dash on the previous generation has been eliminated. The interior is comfortable and controls are user friendly.
The interior has some nice little touches like the second glove box, mounted higher up on the dash ? VW calls it a ?Beetle bin? or the kaeferfach, if you speak German. The TDI also has an extra set of gauges (oil temperature gauge, a sport chronometer and a boost pressure gauge for the turbocharger) mounted on the center top of the dash above the audio / navigation system. Rear visibility is a weak link for the Convertible. With the wide rear pillar section of the top section and small glass rear window, rear visibility is very restricted when the top is up. This makes lane swapping difficult — we?d like to see a blind spot system as standard equipment. Likewise, backing up, when the top is up is difficult. A backup camera is not available currently but the government is wavering on make a backup camera mandatory as early as 2014.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible has abundant safety features including an Automatic Rollover Support System with two roll bars concealed behind the rear bench seat back. They deploy instantly if the computer senses a rollover is likely.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible prices range from $25,700, including the destination charge for the base model with the 2.5-liter engine and manual transmission, to $29,790 for the TDI with DSG transmission, to $33,090 for the Turbo with the DSG.
The Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is high on our list of personal favorites for our own garage. It?s fun to drive, comfortable and we love the great fuel economy ? it was certainly impressive on our Big Bear Lake trip.