Curbside Divorce: 2013 Beetle Convertible – Irreconcilable Differences

Long-time CC readers are familiar with my affinity for Volkswagens – I’ve been continually driving VW products for nearly thirty years. When my 2000 New Beetle reached 219,000 miles and nearly 13 years of age (still running strong), I was ready for something new, and after learning the ‘new design’ Beetle would soon be available as a convertible with both a TDi diesel and manual transmission option (the only such combination available in the USA), I put in an order, taking delivery in March 2013.

March was a bit cold to enjoy top-down motoring, but as soon as temps reached 60°F, I started making short runs (heater running full blast), which gradually expanded to leaving the top down all day.

I owned a Suzuki Samurai when I got married, so had somewhat experienced “convertible” motoring before, but driving a Jeep-like vehicle with the top off is different from having a true convertible – I really liked this! Fuel economy was somewhat down from my ALH-engined New Beetle: 42 vs 45 MPG on average, but for that three MPG, I had a much more powerful engine (which was lugging around 500lb more weight, natch).

Well, Summer turned to Autumn, which turned to Winter, which brought ice and snow as usual. This is when the first major inherent design flaw of the car reared its head (so to speak). The door glass on the car is of a frameless design with seals on the A-pillar and along the roof that have a C-channel cross-section. While this does help them seal better in driving rain (I still got a little leakage in the corners), it also means the glass must drop down about 10mm in order to open or close the door. In above-freezing weather, this happens automatically and you don’t think twice about it.

Unfortunately, the lower seal (inside the door, not the one at the sill) started freezing to the glass anytime moisture was present. The window motors are not strong enough to break the ice’s grip, so the window doesn’t drop and you can’t open the door without forcibly yanking it past the upper seals. When you close the door, the glass is now stuck on the *outside* of the upper seals where no sealing happens, making for a cold, drafty ride. Only by cranking the heat all the way up and worrying the window switches several dozen times would it finally break free. The VW dealer confessed they had numerous complaints (the Beetle Coupe suffers the same issue) and could only offer to spray silicone along the seal as a temporary “fix.”

Adding insult to injury, I started having problems starting the car on really cold days after it had sat and cold-soaked in our windy, unprotected parking lot at work (note the temperature on the gauge). After several near no-starts, I took the car back to the selling dealer, where they told me “diesels just run different when it’s cold.” Uh, yeah. At a different dealer, they again confessed to numerous other TDis suffering the same issue. They offered to “look at it” in a few weeks when they could fit my in their schedule, but thankfully right at that moment, one of their Techs happened to walk past, and overhearing our conversation, offered to go look at it in the parking lot on the spot.

Three minutes later, he said I needed the “Cold Weather Intercooler Kit,” which was covered under a TSB. The design of the ex-factory intake air plumbing was such that water, snow or condensation would collect and freeze, gradually blocking off intake air to the point where the engine would not start. Three weeks later, the kit came in and the work was done, which seemed to correct the problem, although I still had a recurring stumble every morning as the engine warmed up during the first couple miles. My “Spidey Sense™” was starting to tingle at this point, because this was starting to remind me of the numerous issues I had with my New Beetle during its first half-dozen years of ownership (“moanership”).

Spring eventually came, followed by a relatively cool Summer, during which I enjoyed the open air every chance I could. As we approached Autumn again, I began to think ahead to the issues I would again face during Winter. I loved the TDi’s torque and the car was comfortable on long trips. However, it was not really an engaging car to drive, being very numb relative to my former New Beetle. Additionally, while I knew I would be giving up a lot of utility with the convertible, it turned out that I frequently found myself having to take the truck or my wife’s Routan to carry items bulkier than a suitcase. There were a half-dozen other annoyances that were starting to get under my skin (including bluetooth audio cutting off the first second of every new song and the dished rear spoiler dumping water all over everything when the trunk lid was opened after a rain).

After taking stock, I decided that I simply wasn’t as happy with the car any more and didn’t want to have to deal with the car’s Winter issues again (and again and again, as I typically aim to keep my cars over ten years). I ran the numbers through various “trade-in value” calculators online and found I could get enough out of it to swap close to even on a replacement. The depreciation hit would of course hurt, but by this point, I was ready to call the game and move on.

Once that decision was made, I had to start thinking about a replacement. Come back tomorrow to see what made the cut!


Related Reading:

COAL Comparison: Three Generations of Beetle

Future CC: What Car Would You Choose To Drive For The Next Decade?