Beaucoup Bucks Beetle: The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line.
Behold the most expensive Volkswagen Beetle Convertible one has ever been able to purchase new from one's local VW dealer.  The modern-day descendant of what was the ultimate "cheap car" of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s is not cheap in any of its guises...the base Beetle's $19,795 starting price works out to nearly $2,700 in 1966 money, adjusted for inflation.  That year, the base price was $1,585.

Even so, the price tag of the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL is a bit of a shocker.  It is $36,050.  That's almost $5,000 in 1966 money, adjusted for inflation.  Which would have bought you a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible or two 1966 VW Beetle convertibles, the latter from which you would have had hundreds of dollars left over.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL.
Of course, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible has nothing in common with the one from 50 years ago apart from manufacturer, name and a shape that roughly suggests the original.  And what you get for your money today is an infinitely more sophisticated vehicle than the '66 Beetle Convertible, or the '66 Thunderbird convertible, for that matter.

The R-Line is VW's performance imprint.  The R-Line convertible trades the 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine of the standard Beetle for a 2.0-liter, 210-horsepower turbo four.  The 40 horsepower difference is felt as soon as your foot touches the gas pedal. And there is not much of a fuel economy penalty, with EPA estimates dropping from 25 city/34 highway to 23 city/31 highway.  And the Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL qualifies as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV).

A full complement of airbags, antilock brakes, automatic rollover protection, electronic stability control, an intelligent crash response system, tire pressure monitoring, 19-inch alloy wheels, a power convertible roof with insulated glass rear window, automatic bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, front fog lamps with cornering lights, heated and foldable power side mirrors and a rear spoiler, R-Line bumpers and exterior trim are all standard,

Interior view of 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL interior.
Inside, the standard amenities include manual climate control, a tilting and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles, leather-wrapped brake lever and shift knob, heated front seats with leather seating surfaces, alloy pedals with R-Line interior trim and door sills, a rear-view camera, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, keyless entry, a 6.3-inch color touchscreen navigation system, a Fender premium audio system with HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and CD player (increasingly a rarity), Bluetooth phone connectivity and an auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror.

Again, that is all standard equipment, so the as-tested price with $820 destination charge comes to $36,870.  With tax, what we have here is a $40,000 VW Beetle.

Will anyone buy?  There are rumors that the Beetle is on its way out, unlikely to be replaced---that its 15 minutes of fame started ticking with the introduction of the 1998 New Beetle  and have improbably lasted almost 19 years.  Prices of the final old Beetle convertible in 1979-80 skyrocketed and demand was quite high.  We'll see if history repeats.