There's a definite dichotomy in the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle's performance character, but it's not drawn on the tradition coupe/convertible lines.
Instead, it's a bright line between the peppy and sharp Beetle Turbo and the rest of the range.
In either convertible or coupe format, the 2013 Beetle Turbo is fairly quick, sprinting to 60 mph from a stop in under eight seconds. At 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn't overpowering, but it does deliver good torque, and hence acceleration, from about 2,500 rpm. A brusque sound and more controlled suspension calibration complement the thrust level with firm-but-compliant handling--as you'd expect from a car that's essentially a coupe version of the GTI. Steering feel is good, but not all that natural, a common fault for electric power steering systems.
A 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower motivates the standard Beetle. While it's noticeably less powerful, a good wringing-out can muster some better-than-average acceleration. In coupe form, the base car can be had with either a manual or automatic transmission; in convertibles, it's automatic only with the five-cylinder engine. Neither combination is particularly inspiring, nor is the suspension tune.
There's also a TDI diesel option, with a 140-horsepower, 236-pound-foot rating and 41 mpg on the highway. Those are solid figures on all but the horsepower account, and the car's performance reflects it. The tall gearbox used to extract the high gas mileage ratings uses up much of the torque, but once the engine is on boost, the Beetle TDI is good fun, with a settled chassis and an almost classic-Beetle burble.
In all models where it's available, the DSG dual-clutch gearbox is a welcome addition, changing gears smoothly for the most part--there is a slight hesitation or bog when rolling away from a stop.
The brakes give a bit too much travel but seemed to bite deeply enough around West Virginia switchbacks to make this Beetle more engaging and more serious than the bubbly old New Beetle ever was, even after you got it to stop giggling.
Interestingly, Beetle Convertible models perform almost exactly the same as their hardtop counterparts, with the stiffened chassis performing admirably, communicating to a reasonable degree from all four corners to the driver's seat.