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Top-down fun in the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI

September 17, 2015

frontWhat’s normally a grind of a ride, from Long Beach to Sonoma, CA and back, turned into a fun excursion, thanks to the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle convertible TDI with sound and navigation. When this silver on black convertible became available a day before my originally-intended hike up the coast, that became an immediate excuse to travel without deadlines or hurry (unlike the trip back to Long Beach).

In its most recent facelift, the VW Beetle became sleek and certainly more stylish, without giving up any heritage points. Yes, this still looks, if you squint sufficiently, like the original Beetle that captivated baby boomers back in the 1960s, but it’s eased into the 21st century with amenities and driving capabilities that were unheard-of back in those days, including a rear wing just above the trunk opening. Just about the only thing I really miss from the first edition of the Beetle (then called New Beetle) is the bud vase.

front sideThe 2015 VW Beetle convertible is handsome in an unconventional manner, one that sets it apart from the crowd. As does its 2-liter inline four-cylinder clean turbodiesel engine, producing an adequate 150 horsepower at 4000 rpm while evincing a hefty 236 lb-ft of torque at 1750, more than enough to comfortably and safely propel this 3389-pound drop-top car. Redline is just over 5000 rpm, high for a diesel. This particular Beetle convertible has a six-speed manual transmission with excellent gearing and sure feel as it snicks from one gear to the next.engine

Build quality on the made-in-Puebla, Mexico 2015 VW Beetle convertible TDI is excellent with top-quality seam-matching and nearly non-existent cowl shake, normally prevalent in drop-tops. The all-independent suspension works delightfully over California’s poorly maintained roads – including Hwy 101, which was the route of preference heading north. The speed-sensitive electro-mechanical steering wasn’t nearly as vague on-center as some I’ve tested; VW got its metrics right. Continental 215/55R 17-inch tires are mounted on twinned five-spoke alloys to dissipate all-wheel-disc brake heat.

This is an easy Beetle to get to know. For starters, there’s a proximity key that allows the driver to keep entry, exit and start/stop functions to a finger or hand maneuver. While the ignition is floor-mounted (like my old, old, old 1964 Mini Cooper), everything else in this car is thoroughly modern and certainly different from the plethora of cookie-cutter vehicles available on the market today. Even with such a playful exterior, though, the interior of the Beetle convertible is all business, with three black-faced gauges taking center stage in front of the driver. Ancillary gauges lie atop the center stack and, if you’re really short like me can be a hindrance to forward visibility.

office

There’s plenty of soft touch plastics in the VW Beetle convertible TDI and matte silver accents throughout. All black leatherette seating adjustments are manual and the driver has lumbar support, nice on long drives. Unlike the balance of 2015 Volkswagen models, this Beetle does not offer auto lights – but does have seat heaters, which came in handy as the weather turned chilly in July as we drove past Santa Barbara.

I like the design simplicity of the navigation system and the right-now ability to pair my phone simply by recognizing “VW phone” as an entry. Done. And with redundant controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel for phone and audio on the left and the excellent trip computer on the right, the only reasons to remove my hands from the grippy steering wheel are to work the cruise control stalk or wipers, the latter unfortunately unnecessary this trip.gauges and steering wheel

If I have any quibble with the 2015 VW Beetle Convertible TDI (with its lovely navigation system and happily upgraded audio system – satellite and HD radio included), it’s in the rear of the car. In the old, old, old days, of course, the trunk was actually where an engine resided and it was okay being small. With trunk space on this front-wheel-drive VW amounting to a shallow 7.1 cubic feet, both the supplied tonneau cover for the convertible top and my regular 22” suitcase had to stay home in order to hide photo equipment. A smaller, overnight bag sufficed for carrying clothing; after all, it was summer and only a sweater is needed for Sonoma’s often-cool evenings. The rear seats can be folded down (50/50) for more space but that allows potential thieves to see what’s under the trunk lid.

front seat

Signals are in the mirrors where blind-spot monitoring blinks but doesn’t beep (thank you VW) and the rearview camera that’s standard with this model is crisp and clear, as is the navigation screen when used for navi applications. Just like pairing the phone, working this navi system is easy peasy. There’s a slim center storage behind the grippy cup holders and parking brake with good, grip-filled floor and there’s open storage beneath the central stack with a 12-volt for phone survival.rear seat

There are two models for the 2015 VW Beetle Convertible TDI; a base and the one driven here, with sound and navigation. There were no options applied to this vehicle, giving it a POE of $31,945 including freight. I don’t think I’d add a thing. And with EPA mileage of 30/40/34 (that’s highly pessimistic, by the way) my total fuel costs, returning the Beetle with right about half a tank after around 1000 miles, were under $50. I didn’t drive like a maniac (well, not all the time) and didn’t try to baby this car either, but it appeared to be giving up in excess of 45mpg over the road and having a wonderful time doing so.

Aside from the wonderful convertible/coupe gas-fueled Eos, the 2015 VW Beetle Convertible TDI is VW’s sole fresh-air entry. And with a 15-second maneuver to open or close the exceptionally well-fitted convertible top, enjoying the California sunshine has never been easier – or more fun than with this clean turbodiesel ride.

Photos and Words By Anne Proffit
(There are no photos of this Beetle with its top up – self-explanatory!)

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