June 20, 2013 | by Joe Phillips
Beach-scene cars
VW Beetle convertible, autos, gay news, Washington Blade

VW Beetle convertible

Life’s a beach, especially for Washingtonians eager to escape the summer heat. But finding a car that’s versatile enough for work and play? That often means settling for a bland sedan or boring econobox.

But not with the three rides below. The Kia Soul!, VW Beetle ragtop and Ford Explorer Sport come with iconic styling and plenty of personality.

KIA SOUL !
$20,000
Mpg: 21 city/27 highway
0-to-60 mph: 8.8 seconds
Cargo space: 53 cu. ft.

Kia Soul, gay news, Washington Blade, autos

Kia Soul !

Low price, high quality and hipster hamsters—it’s been a winning strategy for the Kia Soul. Even the three trim levels are funky (base model, Soul + and top-of-the-line Soul !). All boast satellite radio and iPod hookup, along with tasteful two-tone interiors. There’s also “hill-start assist,” which prevents the vehicle from rolling backward when taking your foot off the brakes. An optional Infinity sound system comes with a subwoofer, and the illuminated door speakers flash to the beat of the music. Kia’s renowned 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is a big plus, too. Toss in the Premium package—with keyless ignition/entry, heated leather seats, automatic climate control and touch screen nav system with real-time traffic updates—and the price is still a bargain at less than $24,000. But there is room for improvement: the suspension is too stiff over potholes and cornering is so-so. Perhaps most important: Four years after the shagadelic Soul first rolled into showrooms, the kitschy charm is still there.

VW BEETLE CONVERTIBLE
$25,000
Mpg: 25 city/30 highway
0-to-60 mph: 9 seconds
Cargo space: 7.1 cu. ft.

The VW Beetle ragtop—redesigned this year—is a sun-worshipper’s delight. It’s longer, wider and lower than before, with more masculine styling (though you’d be hard-pressed to call this a macho mobile). Still, many cutesy features—like the dashboard flower vase—are gone, replaced by large gauges, a sexy rear spoiler and lots of front-seat legroom. The seats are more formfitting, and the cabin actually feels spacious (even with the top up). The Beetle’s ride and handling are crisper, too, paired with either a superb six-speed manual or an equally spry and responsive automatic transmission. Another plus: The soft-top folds flatter now, which really improves rear visibility. Numerous models are available, including a diesel and high-test turbo. Just remember to pack light, because there’s only room for an overnight bag or two in the trunk. But then, the beach is all about wearing less, not more.

FORD EXPLORER SPORT
$41,000
Mpg: 16 city/22 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
Cargo space: 80 cu. ft.

Ford Explorer Sport, autos, gay news, Washington Blade

Ford Explorer Sport

For longer trips—or for anyone who can’t travel without at least three suitcases full of aussieBum swimwear—there’s the roomy Ford Explorer. A high-performance Sport model is new this year, with spirited V6 turbo, all-wheel drive and beefy 20-inch wheels. The special exterior trim adds an almost Range Rover aura. Yet the firm suspension, nimble steering and light chassis help this SUV handle like a tuner car. Options include power lift-gate, blind-sport monitoring system and cross-traffic alert. Along with inflatable seatbelt and power-adjustable pedals, there is now a front-passenger knee airbag. Two minor downsides: the confusing voice-activated infotainment interface and the difficulty in parking such a large vehicle (which is why the backup sensors and camera are a must).

1 Comment
  • The one thing I’ve found most irritating about Volkswagens is finding replacement parts, or at least it can be a big pain for the slightly older VWs. I’ve got a Volkswagen Transporter (T4) and it will take many months
    acquiring components for it, dread to think what a T1 owner might need to do.

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