The 2013 Turbo Beetle Drops its Top

VW's premier Beetle loses a cylinder and adds a turbocharger.

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July 12, 2013

The 2013 Turbo Beetle Drops its Top

Make no mistake about it, the refreshed exterior looks much better than the original New Beetle.

Introduction
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo is one confused little car. If you check VW's website, or hell, if you look at the car itself, it conveys a notion of performance. From the 'four-corner independent sport suspension' to the wheels - which are reminiscent of old Porsche Fuchs - to the carbon fiber trim found around the interior, you'd think that this is a yellow-tinted beast on a weak chain, ready to break free at a moment's notice and terrorize the neighborhood, sending small children screaming.

Sadly, that portrayal doesn't make a full transition from paper to practice. To reinforce the performance aspect of the car, both the dashboard and the leatherette seats are covered in faux carbon fiber trim. Just for the turbocharged model, the dashboard features a three-gauge pod that tells the driver about oil temperature and boost pressure, along with a stopwatch that functions somewhat similarly to Porsche's Sport Chrono Package. Without any audio upgrades, the Beetle's steering wheel is entirely devoid of switches and dials, a move that feels very twentieth-century, but it helps to remind you that this car is about driving, not sucking up creature comforts like an upper-class sponge.

However, this is where the performance-confusion comes into play. The clutch and transmission have a hard time working in harmony when you want to drive in a spirited manner - the clutch pedal itself acts as if there is a very strong clutch delay valve installed, making quick shifts frustratingly slow. Furthermore, there is no button to disable the stability control, even partially; this means that any attempt at a serious launch off the line is met with an electronic nanny that made me feel like I drove straight into a brick wall before lurching forward. It's also front-wheel drive, which, when coupled with the torque-laden motor, makes it difficult to drive quickly in a straight line, due to torque steer that makes the Beetle feel as if it's built for crab-walking.

It's a car stuck in the middle of two worlds. Yes, there are many parts of the car that could be seen as performance-oriented upgrades over the standard Beetle. That said, a Beetle is very difficult to market to go-fast aficionados, so Volkswagen has to make sure the car is still soft and consumer-friendly enough for a regular Joe to consider it for purchase. As a result, it's stuck between a rock and a hard place, not given the massaging it needs to be a truly capable performer, but not enough of an upgrade for customers that don't really care about all that speed nonsense.

Oh, but the calipers are red; that counts for performance, right?

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Interior Aside from the confusing carbon fiber bits, the interior is good. The leatherette seats are comfortable and lightly bolstered, and the bare-bones infotainment system is easy enough to understand, although the Bluetooth hands-free speaker is utterly useless with the top down, and the subwoofers don't really transmit bass as much as they distort it. There's not much wind noise when driving with the top and windows up, but the blind spots are huge and aggravating when parallel parking.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior Make no mistake about it, the refreshed exterior looks much better than the original New Beetle. The fenders have a more aggressive flare, and the convertible top maintains the coupe's flat-top aesthetic. The New Beetle was regarded as a car largely built for females; this generation of Beetle seeks to remedy that.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle On the Road The clutch pedal is incredibly light, and seems artificially delayed during faster shifts. There's some slight turbo lag, but once the boost kicks in, expect to feel some serious torque steer pulling you to one side. The steering is direct and communicative, and the suspension is able to keep the car on the driving line without feeling prone to understeer. It wants to be sporty, but it's having trouble doing so.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Final Thoughts While the manual transmission takes some getting used to, as long as you're not taking it to the track, it's a very capable car that won't give you much trouble, if any. There aren't any serious options to tack on, save for infotainment upgrades that feel all but necessary if you listen to anything with bass. The ample torque makes even small bouts of acceleration exciting. Just don't expect a Spec Beetle race car from this 'performance' model.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Specs & Price Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct-injected inline-four

Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual

Power Output: 200 horsepower, 207 lb-ft torque

Fuel Economy: 21 city / 30 highway

Base Price: $27,795

As Tested: $28,415 (incl. $795 destination charge)

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