Does motoring get any better than throwing a new cabriolet around twisting country lanes with Buddy Holly blaring from the speakers? asks Standard motoring correspondent NIGEL WIGMORE.
TIME, I thought, for a little organic air conditioning — or open-top motoring — before the inevitable end of our glorious summer and the onset of autumn proper.So what better way to enjoy the remaining warm sunshine of 2013 than in a car I was really taken with during a first drive back in the spring?
Of course not everyone enjoys the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as Keats so eloquently put it, but for me convertible driving in autumn can be as much fun as with a boiling sun overhead. Autumn — and even deep winter — with the top down is as good a time as any other. The key to enjoying the experience is that you have the right car.
This week’s drive, the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet Sport 2.0-litre, was just the ticket. It is a good-looking car with clear, refined design lines that do not compromise classic Beetle specifications. It has a 2.0-litre engine, a versatile turbo-petrol that gives you power and performance when you want it. And — most important this for the 21st century convertible driver — the hood can be raised or lowered in a matter of seconds.
Oh, and it helped with keeping at bay those nasty little draughts that nip at the back of your neck that this Beetle Cabriolet had what Volkswagen calls a “retailer-fit windbreak”. This will cost you an extra £275, including fitting (it is stowed in the boot), but is worth the expense if you are serious about owning a convertible.
Personally, I would not leave home without the windbreak. Above all, it is so important to be comfortable in a convertible otherwise at the slightest excuse you will leave the hood up even in good weather.
A good hat is another must. This is not only handy if the weather is cool or to ward off light rain but in hot sunshine it can deflect the sun’s rays beating down on your head. Nothing can be more uncomfortable, and probably not too good for your health, than sitting in a traffic queue in hot sunshine without head protection.
But once kitted out for the road, nothing beats driving with the top down. The new Beetle Convertible was a joy to experience on drives through the countryside. The DSG gearbox helped. This is a 200 PS six-speed automatic box where the DSG construction translates into smoother driving by eliminating those jerky and unpredictable changes you get from some automatics.
Even on the motorway, where you could be tempted to put up the hood, driving was a pleasure. It can be noisy and a bit smelly and some drivers would not tolerate the constant buffeting from the wind yet in this new Beetle Convertible it is possible to drive on motorways almost as easily as on other roads.
But the real joy of a convertible is a good, black-top A-road or twisty B-road across country on a summer’s day with stops for coffee or lunch. That really brings back an attraction to everyday motoring that can be sorely missed in the daily commute.And while you wend your way along those roads, the Beetle has an excellent sound system — a Fender premium sound pack — described here as giving you a 400-watt output from eight speakers plus subwoofer with “ambient illumination around the speakers and door panels”.
Buddy Holly sounds great through this sound system and Buddy actually played one of the famous Fender Stratocaster guitars, from which this very up-to-date sound system on the Beetle takes its name.
Again this is an optional extra and will cost you £525. But it gives driving this particular convertible an edge.
Actually, looking out of my study window as I write, with a good dose of autumnal rain tumbling down across Gloucestershire fields, I realise that I managed to squeeze my last great taste of summer driving just in time.
Yet a convertible does not just have to be just for summer motoring.
With the quality and appeal of the new Beetle Convertible it could be for life.
Beetle Cabriolet Sport 2.0-litre 200 PS six-speed DSG
lBasic “on the road” recommended retail price: £26,485
lEngine capacity 2.0 litres (four cylinders, 16 valves)
lPower output (PS @ rpm): 200 @ 5100-6200
lTop speed: 139 mph
l0 to 62 mph: 7.6 seconds
lFuel economy (mpg): Combined 37.7
lCO2 emissions: 174 g/km
lInsurance group (1-50): 27
lWarranty: three years or 60,000 miles; three years paint; 12 years body protection
1 year Volkswagen Assistance (UK & Europe)