By Ken Glassman
Five minutes after they dropped off the new Beetle Convertible R-Line in my driveway, I was out cruising down the road. Perfect sunny day, with temps in the mid 70’s, and I’m loving it. I am a big convertible fan, and will take any opportunity to get into one and enjoy the pleasure of top down driving. Unfortunately, there are precious few convertibles on the market – at least within the price range of average folks.
Of course if you want to take out a second mortgage on your house, you can choose from some outstanding cars from Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, Infinity, and other ultra-luxury brands, but I’m talking about drop tops in the $30,000 range. Not too many to choose from.
The problem I have with the Beetle Convertible is that I have this nagging voice in the back of my mind that I can’t shake. It’s like having the Disneyland song “It’s a Small World After All” playing on a continuous loop for months after a visit to that ride, or when anybody even brings up that song title in conversation – like right now as I write this article.
Anyway, as I drove the VW, I couldn’t shake the voice in my head that kept nagging at me, whispering, “But it’s a chick car”. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that I view Beetles as chick cars. No I’m not proud, and I abhor people who make those types of assumptions about cars, or any product for that matter as being gender specific, whether it’s positive or negative. And I find the exterior styling of the Beetle appealing. It is an iconic shape that is unlike any other car on the road. And when I was in college during the original Beetle’s heyday, there was no such gender bias attached to the car. But today, it bothers me a bit.
So I was determined to shake that image out of my head, and evaluate the car as if it was any of the other cars I’ve ever reviewed, whether it was a Hyundai Elantra, or a Corvette Grand Sport, or a Roush Racing Mustang.
Helping matters was the fact that from the driver’s seat of the Beetle R-Line, you can’t see any bodywork in front of your or behind you. No fenders, hood, or trunk.
So I was just sitting in a very nicely appointed roomy cockpit, with excellent leather seats, with a flat-bottom leather covered sport steering wheel, a leather wrapped shift knob for the 6-speed Manual transmission, and brushed aluminum pedals.
Also a trio of gauges for turbo boost, temp and lap timer sits on top of the handsome dash. And the carbon fiber and piano black trim on the dash and doors enhance the stylish look. Definitely NOT a girlie interior.
And having 210hp at your right foot with 207 ft. lbs. of torque from right off idle didn’t feel girlie at all. In fact the little 2.0 liter turbo is free revving and offers plenty of zip to dash off from a stoplight, or to pass on a 2-lane rural road. Also, the 6-speed Manual transmission is as slick shifting as you can ask for.
And when you find some twisting tarmac to assault, the sport tuned suspension, along with the 18” wheels with low profile tires, can put a big smile on your face.
The larger brakes on the R-Line also work well, so you can brake hard into a turn, downshift quickly, crank that variable assist Electromechanical leather steering wheel, and power out of the corner with authority and composure, while squealing the tires just a bit for a little extra flavor.
Road Test Review – 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible
It’s really a fun car to drive. It’s not as taut as a Miata, or Mini, but it’s got more room than the Miata, and it’s five grand less than a similarly powerful Mini Cooper.
The Beetle Convertible is rather quiet, and with the top up or down, the car feels very solid, with very little cowl shake or shudder, even on really bad pavement. There is good room in the back for two adults to enjoy the wind in their hair, and the trunk space is much better than one would think. Also the split folding rear seats adds to the cargo capacity, making the Beetle a more practical ride.
Naturally the car is Bluetooth ready, with auxiliary input and MDI with iPod cable, and two 12-volt outlets. Cruise controls on the steering wheel, and redundant controls for the audio system are standard, as are heated mirrors, heated seats, and a rather nice list of standard features.
The R-line designation also gives several other cosmetic enhancements, like body colored bumpers, a rear diffuser, bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights, and R-Line sill plates.
So after a few hours behind the wheel, I had talked myself into the fact that I’m just being a jerk about my gender bias. The car was totally fun to drive, and easy to enjoy as a boulevard cruiser, or sporty performer. And when finished in Platinum Grey Metallic paint, it added a bit of testosterone to the package.
Then about a mile or two from returning to my house, I noticed another Beetle convertible a few cars up ahead of me in traffic. It took a few blocks for me to get around traffic to catch up to that car, and I pulled up next to it at a stoplight.
And wouldn’t you know, but sitting behind the wheel of an older generation Beetle was a 40-something housewife and she had a plastic daisy sticking out from the dash mounted flower vase, (since discontinued for obvious reasons). I was crushed.
After spending a week with the rag top Beetle R-Line, I can honestly say that it is an excellent car, and an excellent value.
My very nicely appointed test car had no options, and except for a GPS screen, nothing that I missed. With destination charges the sticker came to $30, 215.
Which means it can probably be bought for around $28.000. In today’s drop top motoring landscape, this is a good deal – regardless of what your gender is…!
By Ken Glassman
Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman has been a motor journalist for over 30 years, reviewing automobile, as well as motorcycle ride reviews and accessory reviews.
His car articles have appeared in Robb Report Magazine, Autoguide.com, Car-Revs-Daily.com and other media. His work has also appeared in Road Bike Magazine, Motorcycle Tour and Cruiser, SpeedTV.com, MotorcycleUSA.com and others.
As motorcycle columnist for The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, the paper became the only major circulation newspaper in the country to have a separate weekly section devoted to motorcycles. Later he wrote a weekly column for Cyclefocus Magazine.