New Beetle ConvertibleOver 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.
Volvo S60 RThe Volvo S60 R boasts the tenacity of the Audi Sport Quattro, the high-speed stability of a Porsche 911, the grunt of BMW's M3 and the interior elegance of a Range Rover. In a steel-clad nutshell, the Gothenburg-based manufacturer has built a car that can pretty much do anything, go anywhere and do it in a style that is unmistakably Volvo.
In the pursuit of a "driver's car," Volvo engineers pulled out all the stops, beginning with its active performance chassis, a highly advanced system that imbues the suspension with three distinct settings: comfort, sport and advanced sport. Designed in conjunction with hlins, it uses highly evolved electronically controlled dampers to temper body movement in relation to road surfaces. The car's awd system is based on a Haldex driveline and funnels the power to the wheels that can best use the torque. But the real magic behind this hardware is the software that helps control it. Volvo has designed the S60 R with brains that allow an unprecedented amount of control. Want more rear-wheel bias for some tail-out oversteer? Just press the dash control. Or let the Volvo figure things out on its own as DSTC and TRACS will step in and apply brake and power to negotiate the most efficient route through the turns.
Although the R's inline five is getting long in tooth, Volvo engineers have given it new life via revised internals, twin intercoolers and a larger turbo. With 300 bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque (available at 1950 rpm), the S60 R is the most powerful car Volvo has ever released. Gigantic Brembo brakes, 17- or 18-in. wheels with Pirelli P Zero Rossos, and a brilliant six-speed manual (or five-speed automatic with Geartronic) complete the car's athletic frame. And the understated yet elegant body lines penned by Peter Horbury appear designed to withstand the test of time.