Want people to look at you like you’ve lost your mind? Drop the top on a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible on a sub-freezing day, and roll over Loveland Pass.
Yeah, I was that guy you saw doing that, back in April — the Spyder hat did help make up whatever difference the Beetle’s blast-furnace heating system and seat heaters could not quite muster, as it was indeed pretty cold out.
But it did help illustrate that, with the right amount of crazy, you really can get year-round functionality out of the newer, topless version of the third-generation Beetle — the newer Beetle initially re-introduced in the late ’90s. It’s so plausibly implausible that VW itself even mimicked the same experience in a recent TV campaign.
While I’d had a chance to motor around in the turbo version of the Beetle Convertible back at Christmas in considerably warmer Southern California, my mountain jaunt was in the standard, 170-horesepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder powered Beetle — equipped with the regular six-speed automatic transmission, versus the sporty twin-clutch DSG option. Yet I never felt like power loss was much of an issue, even on top of the pass.
As you may have seen out on the roads, this newest reimagining of the perennial Volkswagen classic has taken on a design that’s much less old-school Bug and a little more like its contemporary cousins, the Jetta and the Golf — both inside and out.
True, the Beetle’s still unmistakable, with its rounded (but now more angular) outline, its iconic round headlamps and that bustle of a roof behind the back seats when you drop the canvas top — a fully automatic procedure that’s easily done while waiting at a red light, or can be done while driving up to 31 mph.
The whole car is longer, flatter and wider than the 1998 or 2003 New Beetle models, very comfortable up front and moderately so for a couple of rear-seat riders. And the interior is upgraded and consistent with other members of the VW family, with a whole lot of black on black plastic.
Ride does tend to be a little stiff but you can eke some reasonably sporty character and tight turns out of the little machine; alternately, it’s wide and heavy enough to feel confident on even icy roads with just all-season tires, so there’s legitimate year-round capability.
A friend who tested the car earlier in the winter pointed out that it seems nearly impossible to turn off the Beetle’s traction control, so do be mindful so you do not end up stuck in deep snow.
Driving on anything but less-than-ideal days is also aided with heated rear glass in the convertible top — though that lid on the car seriously hampers your visibility, so drive with the roof down whenever humanly possible.
Both of my Beetles were outfitted with very impressive Fender audio systems, a 400-watt, high-fidelity, nine-speaker stereo setup, developed by the noted guitar maker and Panasonic.
My five-cylinder model’s gigantic, super-chromed aluminum alloy wheels, shining like oversized aluminum pie tins (unfortunately not pictured in the yellow model shown here), may be an acquired taste for some drivers, I will admit.
Overall comfort is pretty decent, though the deep seats did give me a little bit of back strain when I spent some long days on the road. The extra-large doors also call out for some very large parking spots unless you want to do a uniquely ungracious Lambada-styled slither into the seats. So it goes.
Rear seating is pretty small with near vertical seatbacks, but you can also drop those seatbacks for better visibility and considerably more cargo room, provided you’re not hauling extra passengers. In an accident, roll-over bars also pop up from a bar behind those headrests.