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1998 Volkswagen Cabrio REVIEW logo 4/6/2017

Con: Engine taxed by 2,771-lb. curb weight. Styling is more chunky than sporty. High price.

Pro: German ride and handling. Optional side impact airbags. Glass rear window with defogger. Amazing powertrain warranty. Free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 24,000 miles.

What’s New: The Highline trim designation is replaced by more sensible GLS nomenclature. New GLS model gets a power top, making the Cabrio easier to live with. Optional are side-impact airbags mounted inside the seats. Standard on both base and GLS are door pocket liners, a trunk cargo net and sport seats with height adjustment.

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. 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 1998, Cabrio GLS has a power top that makes life in sunny climes so much easier.

Volkswagen is making a few changes for 1998. Two trim levels are available: Base and new GLS. Both come with newly standard door pocket liners, a trunk cargo net and sport seats that feature height adjustment for both the driver and front passenger (driver only on Base model). Base models are decontented versions, eschewing air conditioning, power windows, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control and antilock brakes to attain a price thousands of dollars lower than the loaded Cabrio GLS. GLS models add fog lights, alloy wheels and leather interior trim (among other items) to the standard equipment roster. Buyers who must have ABS are forced into buying the pricey GLS 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 and free scheduled maintenance during the first two years or 24,000 miles of ownership) we think this Volkswagen should appeal to those more interested in style than speed.


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