Our Cars: 2016 VW Beetle Convertible

by | Feb 6, 2018

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Regular readers know that Mary’s personal car (her company car is a 2018 Ford Escape) is a Mercedes-Benz 350 SLK. No more. Recently she’s been experiencing engine problems and the cost of repairs was estimated at $3400. (See “Problems” below.) An experienced Mercedes mechanic told her that lurking in the future were other problems that could cost $8000-9000 to repair. This led her estimated repair cost for the not-so-distant future to exceed the car’s value. The mechanic’s advice to her was to trade it, so we did.

Mary’s new ride is a one-owner, low mileage (12,000 miles) VW Beetle Convertible with 20 months left on the original bumper-to-bumper guarantee and a big chuck of the 5 year/60,000 mile power train warranty intact. Gas mileage is expected to be 23-31 MPG from the 170 hp turbocharged four cylinder engine. It’s a bottom-of-the-line S-model with automatic compared to the manual transmission in my original 2001 New Beetle and 2003 GTI. Other than a few scratches on an interior door handle, the car presents as new.

The funny thing is that the fit and finish and basic amenities of the 2016 Beetle was many times nicer and had more standard equipment that her (originally $55,000) 2006 SLK. Go figure. The radio is not very good but that seems to be VW’s thing. Even my past VW’s with “premium” audop systems never sounded all that good, so this one is no surprise.

The car’s original owner was from California and he (and it is a he, named Kevin) purchased a full set of OEM, and I’m sure expensive, all-weather mats that were never removed from their sealed bag. My guess is that he did a little driving in the Colorado snow and opted out of the VW into a Subaru, I was told. Since the VW convertible is front drive, I think it was the car as much as the lightly worn and very noisy OEM 205/55R16 Hankook Optimo H725A tires. I plan on replacing them with either Continental’s ContiProContact or AVID TOURING-S. But Mary says that she isn’t in much of a hurry but my guess is that her first drive in snow will change her mind much as it did Kevin’s. Any tire suggestions? Click the Contact tab and let me know.

In the meantime, the sunny day we bought the car and she drive it with the convertible top down was followed by an intense snowstorm and then she was off to Texas on a business trip. But she loves the car.

PS. After driving the car, I couldn’t agree more, Even with the crappy Hankook tires, the car provides an overall better driving experience than my 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.

Problems: For the V6 engine in her SLK, Mercedes-Benz produced certain models (lucky us) with defective gears in their balance shafts or with defective idle gears. These gears wear out prematurely, excessively, and without warning, causing the vehicle to malfunction, and the vehicle to misfire or stop running. If the timing chain fails, the pistons can hit the valves and cause severe damage to the engine. There was a lawsuit (Majeed Seifi, et al. v. Mercedes-Benz USA LLC) against Mercedes-Benz USA LLC where the plaintiffs allege Mercedes produced certain vehicles with defective gears in their balance shaft and defective idle gears. And Mercedes lost.

If there is a lesson here it is to do more than just check the CarFax (which we did) when considering purchasing a used car but also poke around on the Internet to find if certain models in certain years also have certain problems.