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1997 Volkswagen Cabrio REVIEW logo 4/6/2017

Con: No ABS on base car, underpowered engine

Pro: Affordable top down fun

What’s New: Cabrio comes in two trim levels for 1997: Base and Highline. Base models are decontented versions of last year's car, priced a couple thousand dollars lower to entice young drivers. Highline models have standard alloy wheels, foglights and leather seats. Engines have a redesigned cylinder head resulting in quieter operation.

Review: Volkswagen replaced the venerable Cabriolet with this Golf-based convertible in 1995. The difference between the Cabriolet and the Cabrio was enormous and welcome. The old Rabbit-based car hasn't been missed.

The Cabrio is good fun. For $18,500 you get a four-seat convertible with simple good looks, reasonably spry performance, and premium sound. Road feel is superb, and the thick four-spoke steering wheel falls readily to hand.

While the 2.0-liter motor is no barnstormer, it moves the Cabrio quick enough to squirt through traffic. A redesigned cylinder head means the Cabrio runs more quietly for 1997. At speed, the VW feels solid and sure; this is a car that will get you speeding tickets if you're not careful.

Handling is excellent, in the Volkswagen tradition. The chassis and suspension communicate clearly with the driver, and the Cabrio's seats are comfortable and multi-adjustable.

The basket handle rollbar remains intact on the Cabrio, but the top stows much more neatly than it ever did on the Cabriolet. And a stout top it is, sporting six layers and latching tightly to the windshield header. The glass rear window is thoughtfully equipped with a defroster, making the Cabrio a true four seasons car.

For 1997, Volkswagen is making a few changes. Two trim levels are available; Base and Highline. Base models are decontented versions of last year's car, eschewing air conditioning, power windows, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control, and antilock brakes to attain a price thousands of dollars lower than the 1996 Cabrio. Highline is a carbon copy of the 1996 model, adding fog lights, alloy wheels, and leather interior trim to the standard equipment roster. Buyers who must have ABS are forced into buying the pricey Highline model, since the system is not available on Base models.

Yes, the Miata is more fun to drive, and Mustangs are more stylish, but the Cabrio is no longer the Barbie car it once was. It imparts a sense of class and sophistication, and at a starting price of $18,500, which includes a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, we think this Volkswagen should appeal to those more interested in style than speed.


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