Over the last seven years, the original New Beetle has morphed into more powerful and luxurious iterations, including the GLX 1.8T, Turbo S and the race-bred Rsi. Despite what many predicted would be a short shelf life, New Beetles have continued to do well for Volkswagen; it was the only model in VW's current lineup to show positive sales growth for 2003. A large part of its continued success is the New Beetle Convertible, maybe the last chapter in this retro-style saga.

Although it has taken VW a good deal of time to scalp the New Beetle, the wait has been worth it. The crew at Wolfsburg has done it right and retained all the fundamental goodness of the original while adding 20 miles of headroom. It's lost little in the way of torsional rigidity and handling prowess thanks to a super rigid body structure augmented with additional support in stressed areas.

The three-layer cloth soft-top can be opened manually or with an optional electrohydraulic system in 13 sec. There's a glass rear window, and the top folds just behind the rear passenger headrests, which automatically pop up in the event of a rollover.

Like all current Volkswagens, the New Beetle Convertible is content-rich and tips the scales at a hefty 3,159 lb. This means VW's aging 115-bhp 2.0-liter engine is hard pressed to move the convertible with much authority. Available options are numerous, and transmission choices are a manual five-speed or six-speed automatic.

While we'd prefer to wait for more beans underhood from the upcoming 1.8t version, this new drop-top proves a car need not be fast to be a classic.

Eight Great Contenders for Car of the Year
Mercedes-Benz E500
Porsche Boxster S
BMW Z4 Roadster
Saab 9-3
Jaguar XJR
New Beetle Convertible
Volvo S60 R
Audi RS6
2003 european car Grand Prix Winner
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