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Beijing show: VW E-Bugster lifts lid on Beetle Convertible

Not so Speedy: It may look fast, but the E-Bugster may not materialise in Australia until 2014.

Low-profile Speedster points the way to forthcoming Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

Volkswagen logo23 Apr 2012

By DAVID HASSALL

VOLKSWAGEN has provided its clearest view to date on how the new-generation Beetle Convertible will look like when it goes on sale overseas in 2013.

The German car-maker unveiled a concept of the Convertible overnight in Beijing at Auto China in the form of a roofless version of the E-Bugster two-seater that was presented at the Detroit auto show in January.

A final production version is expected to be presented at another international motor show later this year, possibly Paris in September or Los Angeles in November.

The second-generation Beetle hardtop has been on sale overseas for six months but will not be launched in Australia until late this year, with the Convertible unlikely to arrive here until the 2014 model year.

Like previous versions of the E-Bugster, the Beijing show car is electric-powered and Volkswagen is determined to offer this zero-emissions drivetrain in future production variants – alongside conventional petrol and diesel combustion engines.

While the production Beetle Convertible will be a four-seater, the E-Bugster has no rear seat because that is where the 28.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack is stored – enough to provide an impressive 180km range around town, according to VW.

The E-Bugster convertible naturally has the same Blue-e-Motion drivetrain – with regenerative braking and an 85kW motor located up front under the bonnet – as the hardtop version shown in Detroit, which in turn is essentially the same production drivetrain that will power the Golf Blue-e-Motion from 2013.

Fast charging is possible at suitable charging stations, dropping the regular single-phase AC current charge time down from 10-12 hours to about 35 minutes for 80 per cent battery capacity.

3 center imageVW employs a new ‘Combined Charging System’ it says is based on a new, uniform industry standard for the connectors of future electric vehicles available to all manufacturers that will be able to handle all charging types, reducing costs and simplifying the widespread global implementation of electric mobility.

Although VW did not release performance figures for the E-Bugster convertible in Beijing, the Detroit version – which would be slightly heavier with its detachable hardtop – could accelerate from 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds.

Described by the company as “the sportiest Beetle ever”, the E-Bugster’s roots can be traced all the way back to the 2005 Detroit motor show “Ragster”, a concept car inspired by the Porsche Speedster of the 1950s but based on the original ‘New Beetle’.

The E-Bugster is named to signify its electric drivetrain, the Beetle’s iconic Bug nickname and the two-seat speedster bodystyle influence.

It sits 90mm lower than the production hardtop Beetle and is 30mm wider – with flared guards covering 20-inch Beetle ‘Twister’ wheels – but is the same length at 4278mm.

According to the company, “the E-Bugster is a Beetle that could hardly be made to look more dynamic” and is really a sportscar.

“The E-Bugster displays unique dynamic styling from every viewing angle,” said the VW press release from Beijing.

“In its stance on the road, the concept car looks as though it were cast as a single piece. There is a very simple reason for this: in developing the production model introduced in October 2011, the Beetle design team had already considered all potential derivatives for future models on its radar screen of possibilities. And that is in part how a speedster with an E-motor evolved.

“In front, it is the swept-back and wide windscreen that catches the eye its glass extends laterally to a point above the A-pillars.

“The E-Bugster, which is equipped with LED headlights, is also distinguished by the highly customised bumpers of the production Beetle: designers integrated the daytime-running lights to the left and right of the central air intake as bands of LED lights in a C-shape.

“These styling elements also appear in modified form as reflectors in the rear bumper, which was also redesigned.”

Inside, the seats and the continuous centre tunnel are finished in the same colour as the body “to underscore the sportiness of the E-Bugster”, as does a steering wheel with a look of lightweight construction.

Pushing the Start button initiates a light show in which the interior is immersed in a white light, then a blue light. It begins as a light pulse in the instrument cluster, then emanates as a thin line of light just 1mm wide, coursing into the door window sills and around the air nozzles – “a kind of visual awakening of the E-Bugster”.

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