Let me start by saying that I grew up in a VW family. We had a 57, 61, 67, 68, 69, 71, 73 and a 75. Most were Beetles, but there were a couple of vans and a squareback thrown in. My family bought them for just one reason. They were cheap and dependable.
My week with the 2013 Beetle was the first time I’d driven a modern version of the classic Volkswagen. It wasn’t anything like the VWs of my childhood. It was much better.
In fact, it’s everything I wanted my parent’s 1973 Super Beetle to be. That’s the one I drove to my prom. OK, the fact that my 2013 test car was a convertible didn’t hurt. The soft top is new this year and just for the record, it works great. Touch one switch and the windows roll down followed by the top releasing itself and opening up. Unlike many cars (and the first generation modern Beetle) there are no levers to twist. One button, that’s it. Same thing to put it up. The top smoothly lands and seals itself in place.
But even I if ignored the glories of the convertible, the Beetle still delivered. My test car “only” had the base 2.5 liter turbo engine. I say “only”, because I was surprised to find it was pleasantly peppy. It’s 170 horsepower mated to a six-speed transmission was enough to get me happily up to speed. Hard to believe my parent’s 1961 model had just 36 hp. I’m surprised that car ever made it to freeway speed. Mileage for this new model is good, 22 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway. If you feel the need for more happiness you can spring for the 200 hp turbo engine. The ride in the new Beetle has a sporty feel. It’s not cushy, but it’s not too stiff. Perfect for this type of car.
Inside the second generation (of the modern version) is much nicer than the first. The dashboard is a huge improvement. The old one had this big pod of controls that hung off the center portion. Starting in 2012, the new Beetle has a much cleaner dash that also has a slight retro feel. The dash mounted glove box is very similar to the ones I grew up with. It’s small inside, but there’s a bigger one below. The rest of the dash is nicely modern. All in all, it’s a very clean look. If you’ve always wanted to play a Fender guitar, now’s your chance. OK, there’s no guitar, but the new Beetle does have a Fender sound system. I can’t say the music was any better, but it was cool seeing the Fender name on the speakers. (If you’re a Fender fanatic, you can even get a Fender Edition Beetle this year.)
There are a variety of packages and special editions you can get in 2013. My test car was the 70s model. You can also get a 50s (can you say simple?) and a 60s (can you say denim?) version. Apparently the best way to say 70s is earth tones. The body is painted Toffee Brown (or root beer as one person called it). I had doubts the first day, but nearly everyone I met loved it. Someone even rolled down their window at a stop light to compliment me on the car’s paint. A beige leatherette interior finished the look. (You can also get the 70s edition in platinum gray.) Apparently brown is the new silver. Who knew. You can watch a brief video of the Beetle’s launch at the LA Auto Show here.
Don’t expect a lot of leg room in the back seat. There wasn’t much in my parent’s 1973 either. I remember well because I was 17 when we bought that one and I had already arrived at my ultimate height of six feet. But the leg room in the latest Beetle is usable and that’s more than I can say for some cars.
Price for my test car was $28,595, but that included the Fender sound system and navigation. Not bad for fun top-down cruising. There’s no cutesy flower holder in this generation, and that’s just as well. You can take this Beetle a little more seriously.
When I was 17 I spent the whole summer driving my one of my parent’s Beetles to Zuma Beach just north of Los Angeles. It’s a summer I’ll always remember. I just wish I could do it all over again with the 2013 70s convertible.