By Derek Price
When it comes to the Volkswagen Beetle, drivers either “get it” or they don’t.
After a week driving the 2015 Beetle Convertible in unseasonably warm weather, I can definitely see what this car is all about: putting a ridiculous, permanently embossed smile on your face.
If the ordinary Beetle is a 10 on the cute-o-meter, the drop-top slug bug is off-the-charts adorable. It’s puppies, rainbows, kittens and Care Bears all mashed together into a rolling piece of nostalgic art, and I can’t help but have a silly grin when I drive one.
Granted, this isn’t the most practical car in the world. Its design favors huggable good looks over functionality in some ways, such as its smallish trunk and limited rear-seat legroom. But Volkswagen does add some features to make it more livable, like an extra glove box up front and split-folding rear seats for hauling bigger cargo.
Aside from the endearing, retro-themed body lines, the Beetle Convertible’s best feature is its brilliantly engineered top. It’s thick with heavy insulation that does a good job blocking wind noise at highway speeds, making it nearly as quiet as the hard-top Beetle.
Even better, it can raise and lower electronically in around 10 seconds, making it one of the fastest power convertible tops I’ve ever seen on a car. It can operate at speeds of up to 31 mph, too, which means you can comfortably raise or lower the top any time you’re at a stoplight. Even if the light turns green, you can pull away while the top continues to stow itself into place.
Pricing starts under $26,000, which might seem high for people who remember the original Beetle’s dirt-cheap cost. And my loaded test car rang up around $10,000 more than that, with an out-the-door price of $35,915.
That price includes the kind of performance and luxury that would be unthinkable in original Beetles, though. A touch-screen navigation system, powerful Fender stereo, keyless start, heated leather seats and club-like ambient lighting all combine to make it an upscale, thoroughly modern cabin.
Because my test car had the R-Line performance package, it came with a 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that sent heaping scoops of sweet torque to the front wheels. It’s easily the best performing Beetle I’ve driven, made better by the fact that VW still offers a six-speed manual transmission. It’s a great choice for driving purists.
The R-Line package includes a firmer suspension and a lot of sporty trim bits, too, including revised front and rear bumpers, red brake calipers, gloss black mirror housings and special badges on the fenders.
The base version has a 1.8-liter engine that makes 170 horsepower, and you can also get it with a new TDI diesel engine that’s rated for 41 mpg on the highway.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 2.0T R-Line with Sound and Navigation ($35,095). Options: None. Price as tested (including $820 destination charge): $35,915
Wheelbase: 100 in.
Length: 168.4 in.
Width: 71.2 in.
Height: 58.0 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder (210 horsepower, 207 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Estimated Mileage: 24 city, 32 highway
2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
Why buy it?
It’s a cute, fun-to-drive car with impressive German engineering. The sporty suspension and powerful engine in the R-Line performance package make it more exciting.