2013 VW Convertible first drive review: The Lone Ranger in Beetle clothing

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible ©Ron Moorhead

In a cloud of dust and high-oh Silver the Lone Ranger returns. But this lone ranger isn’t riding on four legs it has four wheels and a top that goes down. The newly introduced Volkswagen Convertible is the lone ranger by being the first diesel powered convertible in the United States. Being the first drop top to have an oil burner under the hood is quite an accomplishment, but this convertible has much more to offer.

The VW convertible has a long and emotional history not only stateside but around the world. You could take a 1952 VW convertible, like the one displayed right next to the 2013 model VW displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show, anywhere in the world and people will get excited. Incidentally that vintage Bug was first shown at the 1952 Berlin Auto Show and receives nearly as much attention today.

Unlike that 25 horsepower classic, the 2013 version comes with three exceedingly different power sources. The one that is making the biggest splash is the 2.0-lliter TDI diesel. But enthusiasts will no doubt be excited to see the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline motor in their convertible. Let’s not forget, the anything but base, 2.5-liter, which helps keep the financial outlay in check.

As was the case with the newest VW Beetle coupe, the new Convertible has gone through substantial change, becoming a more muscular vehicle that is sporty and cool to drive, not because you can put the top down. But, it helps.

During our drive through the hills of Malibu, CA along the Pacific Coast, VW Head Designer, Klaus Biscoff told us that while they honored the original in spirit, the design is meant to be more dynamic. “…We are always looking forward. The car is substantially wider, has a longer hood and has a more upright windshield.”

Even with the fowl weather we found the VW Convertible was a kick to drive with top down. ©Ron Moorhead

This sportier direction is evident as the profile is leaner and meaner. Lengthening and widening the body has given the VW Convertible a more aggressive look as well as a more substantial hold on the road, no matter the type of road. The new design includes a lower sleeker top that gives the Beetle a speedster-like look with lower side glass. But even with smaller windows visibility is not compromised. We had good views of all the areas surrounding the vehicle.

We found the top to be heavily insulated to keep the elements outside when desired, plus compact when lowered so not to interfere with enjoying the outdoors. In fact, even though southern California was experiencing a rare rain shower, hardy souls that we are we lowered the top and motored about, remaining quite dry and comfortable. There is an old convertible owner’s slogan. “Put the top down that is what heaters are for.” Unlike that 1952 version this new convertible has a heater that will cook you right out of the car. This sure made us happy.

Giving ode to previous success through the decades, VW also introduced us to three special edition Beetle Convertibles that are meant to evoke American cultural history from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The ‘50s Edition Beetle Convertible is classic and classy in dressed black with a tan interior, and to our eyes the most attractive of the three. The ‘60s Edition has two-tone seats and a pastel paint that VW calls Denim Blue. We found the wheels to be more of today’s style than the 60s. The ‘70s Edition Convertible emulated the 1979 Beetle Convertible sitting next to it with Toffee Brown exterior and chrome-look disc wheels.