2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Denim Review
We live in denim, so we might as well drive Denim too. Volkswagen is known for its special editions, especially when it comes to the iconic Beetle, and this year is no different. Enter the 2016 Beetle Convertible Denim, proof-positive that the designers in Wolfsburg have long forgotten the Levi’s editions of the Chevy Chevette and AMC Gremlin.
Like every Beetle model, the Denim pulls inspiration from yesteryear. Available in only one level of trim, the Denim lists for $25,995 and comes in either Classic White or Stonewashed Blue Metallic paint, both with dark blue denim-style cloth tops. Additional standard features include a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual mode, ambient lighting, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever, a monochromatic multifunction trip computer set within the primary gauges, VW’s class-leading 6.33-inch Composition Media proximity-sensing high-resolution color touchscreen infotainment display with a rearview camera, App-Connect smartphone integration for Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink, Bluetooth with audio streaming, eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with satellite radio, an SD card slot, USB and aux plugs, three-way heated front sport seats, an alarm system, and more.
No matter the exterior color, the Denim’s seemingly wearable interior is described by VW as including “Blue Optic” instrument panel surfacing, which has a nice metallic look, a “two-tone Denim” motif that incorporates dark blue denim cloth door inserts, dark blue leatherette armrests, additional “Dark Blue Graphite” painted accents, plus seat upholstery featuring denim-style light blue cloth inserts, white piping, dark blue leatherette bolsters and surrounds, plus dark blue cloth seatbacks and sides, not to mention contrasting “Ceramique” cream-colored stitching on the seats and sewn throughout the rest of the cabin.
While this initially seems like a decent description it actually misses the many nuances that make this Denim model special, such as the jean style change pockets sewn onto the inner side of each front bucket, plus the massive seatback “jean” pockets with crisscross red stitched detailing (shown below).
Having this much fun with a car might make a person concerned there’s nothing serious about it, but the Beetle Convertible Denim is too good for such sentiment. While I could go on about the quality of interior switchgear, delve into that aforementioned infotainment system (which is truly one of the best in the industry), or rave about the slick powered top that quickly lowers or raises at the touch of a button, what I like best about this most recent A5-based Beetle is how it drives.
The Denim is based on the previous generation Mk6 Golf, which to those in the know should immediately give it street cred. As is the case with all VWs, its suspension is fully independent, the handling superb (albeit a bit biased toward comfort than all out sport), and 170 horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine really moves, aided by a particularly swift-shifting six-speed automatic with manual mode that makes the most of the engine’s considerable 184 lb-ft of torque. It’s truly a fun car through the corners while it’ll cruise down the highway at much higher than posted speeds if you dare, all the while mixing a comfortable ride with rock solid stability. Fuel economy is EPA rated at 25 mpg city, 34 highway and 28 combined—quite good for such a nicely equipped drop top.
As much as I like this blue jean Beetle, a few of its features were a bit faded. While the audio system was quite good with the roof up, it was unpowered when the top was down at highway speeds. The wind deflector might have reduced wind noise to the point the stereo didn’t distort, but it’s a pain to install, takes up the entire rear seating area and therefore remained in the trunk. Ditto for the clumsy tonneau that requires more finesse and/or strength than my upper body was willing to exert in order to click into place. That’s a lot of space in an already-small trunk robbed by paraphernalia that wasn’t used. You can, however, drop the 50/50-split rear seatbacks forward for hauling longer items like skis should you want to take this four-season convertible up to the slopes.
With all the active safety features that come standard, such as ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes, traction and stability control, there’s little the Beetle can’t manage. Volkswagen received a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA for the hardtop version albeit no rating for the soft top as it hasn’t been tested, but standard pop-up roll hoops are included so it should effectively overcome rollovers as well as withstand the same level of frontal and/or side impacts as its hatchback sibling.
As for reliability, J.D. Power gives Volkswagen a just-above-average score in its 2016 Initial Quality Study and below-average marks in its longer term 2016 Vehicle Dependability Study that rates vehicles after three years of ownership. The brand did, however, come out fairly well in the Consumer Reports’ 2016 report card on reliability, placing eighth out of 17 mainstream volume brands.
Something tells me Beetle Convertible Denim buyers won’t be all that concerned about such mundane issues as reliability, and will instead develop more of an emotional bond with the car. I enjoyed every minute in it, so maybe I’ve become too involved to give an unbiased opinion. If that’s actually the case then it’s worth all of its sub-$26k investment and then some.
*Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press *