By Frank S. Washington
NNPA Columnist

DETROIT – In a way, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Although VW says the car is not a copy of the original Beetle, the silhouette was an unmistakable repeat of the iconic German roustabout.

But this Beetle was bigger and more muscular. It was wider, lower, had a longer hood and a more upright windshield that was set farther back. Folks in the auto world like to say it was more athletic. And it had a fairly large rear spoiler that indicated some oomph under the hood. The car had substance.

Because it was a convertible, the normal body shell was less rigid because of the open top. Thus, the body was reinforced. And like most convertibles, that meant an overall body stiffness that was increased 20 percent. Most convertibles have a much more solid feel than their hard top counterparts and that was the case with 2014 VW convertible.

With the top up, the roofline of the VW convertible was lower than the coupe’s. The cloth top was fully automatic, it latched and unlatched itself. When lowered, it was unobtrusive and there was a leatherette boot to clean up the look but it never got used. The top could open in a fairly swift 9.5 seconds and it could operate at speeds up to 31 mph. But why would you want to do that unless you really got caught in unexpected rain. The rear window on the top was also heatable and made of glass.

The top was made from three layers: an outer layer of polyacrylic fabric that had a very nice feel to it, the middle layers of synthetic rubber and the outer shell inner lining of polyester. Underneath was another three layers: polyester nonwoven fabric, polyethylene terephthalate and polyesters spunboard. The headliner was made from foam laminated fabric.

The top looked good and the construction resulted in a low level of wind noise and from the inside you really didn’t get the feel that this Beetle was a convertible, until you let the top down.

Inside it was a clean layout, featuring a triad theme. Three round gauges were in front of the driver: the tachometer, the speedometer and the fuel gauge. Integrated into the speedometer was an information display.

Below the central display screen was a three-dial climate control setup and atop the dash board sat a performance gauge cluster that included gauges for oil pressure, a track timer and a pressure per square inch readout for the turbocharger.

Other than the sheet metal, the other wolf in this Beetle was under the hood. There was a 2.0-liter clean diesel engine that made 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque at 1,750 rpms. Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, this VW Beetle convertible wasn’t all that quick from a standstill but build the torque and the car accelerated with authority from just about any speed.

It had a 14.5-gallon fuel tank and it got 28 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. In a way, the car was a throwback. Average driving meant that you’d have to stop at a gas station once a week. And on the highway, some quick math said the car had a range of almost 600 miles.

About the only complaint we had was that the car didn’t have a navigation system. But it could be equipped with one. Still, the test vehicle featured a smart key, a leatherette interior, satellite radio, an auxiliary jack, a connection for a iPhone, iPad or iPod. It had an SD slot, heated front seats and ambient interior lighting.

And surprisingly, it was less than $30K. Barely. As tested, our 2014 Volkswagen Beetle convertible TDI was $29,715.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com

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