2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Feb 18, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Doug Stokes
As one of the more senior contributors to LA Car (that’s age, not years of service), my first though upon getting handed the key to the new Beetle GSR went something along the lines of this: “Okay, so who’s the intended buyer here? I love Volkswagens, but I don’t think that I can really wear this car very comfortably for everyday use.”
Limited editions are very cool. In fact, this one is car number 195 of the 3,500 copies that are to be built.* Resplendently loud in its blatant yellow and black (and this is the only color you can get it in, friends), the R Line Beetle is surely the most boy racer-ish of cars that I’ve lately been assigned to drive for a week’s time and then report on. I must report that, during that week, I think that I saw more than a couple pedestrians raise their arms as if to hail a cab as I drew near.
On the other hand, this Beetle (not the “New Beetle” any more) has all sort of fun features that are just that—i.e., fun. I suppose that’s the deal here. Relax. Don’t ask why—and don’t ask who (the other 3,305 people who are expected to buy one of these especially-outfitted machines are). Just go with the flow, Joe.
ALL STOP: With all my above aimless musing about what buyer segment this machine was aimed at, I just decided that I’d ask Darryll Harrison from Volkswagen’s West Coast offices about it. He’s the Brand PR person for VW, so, if anyone, he knows the intent. His explanation was both direct and correct and went like this:
“Doug, as you know, Volkswagen has a rich tuner history in the U.S, especially related to the Beetle. Over the years, we have paid homage to that enthusiast history by partnering with VW enthusiast groups and introducing products that highlight a part of our history. The Beetle GSR is an example of this, providing a modern interpretation of a limited edition “Bug” that was available decades before.
Due to its limited production, we see buyers being those enthusiasts of the brand that are interested in embracing part of our history while enjoying the modern features available today. The vehicle offers most available technology offered for the Beetle such as the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, Fender audio, NAV, etc. so we see the buyer of this product being someone that is looking for comfort and a little bit of VW heritage.
As the original Beetle GSR was introduced in the 60s, I wonder if older buyers are attracted to the new version because of that.”
Okay, now back the all the fun. First of all, there’s one of those great turbocharged Volkswagen engines up front where the trunk should be (I can’t get over my love affair with my first car, a 1,131cc, 1954 VW replete with canvas sunroof and semaphore—flipper—turn signals). It weighs in at two liters, punching out two hundred and ten horsepower and two hundred and seven pounds-feet of torque—a golden blend that produces sensational acceleration on demand.
Volkswagen says the GSR model will turn 0-to-60 times at 6.6 seconds (and even gives you a dash-mounted timing system to check your own runs). What’s more important to the process is that this one moves out and does changes lanes with authority (that all-important min-range response that we all really rely on). And, slowing this one down works just fine and dandy with the ABS (anti-lock) and EBD (brake force distribution systems.
This is an “R Line” (for “Race” … not for “National Talk Like a Pirate Day”) model, so handling expectations are somewhat heightened here. As most of us who regularly drive a number of different new model cars, there are some fairly wide variations on the theme of two three-letter line items that now “help” drivers with car control: ESC and ASR. Each manufacturer’s Electronic Stability Control and Anti-Slip Regulation devices seem to be calibrated a bit differently. The GSR’s handling at first felt a bit soft, but a few minutes behind the wheel proved the initial feeling to be just my inner ear getting connected to this VW’s e-controls. After re-educating our own control system we had plenty of the sort of playful driving fun that this car promises at first look.
If you’ve read ahead to the spec sheet, you will notice that this is a $30-thousand dollar Volkswagen Beetle (slower: 30 … Thousand … Dollar … Volkswagen … Beetle?). But we’re here to testify that the car comes with a list of luxury features that flesh out that number pretty darn well.
Starting with the GSR trim package that includes the special paint job, striking 19-inch alloy wheels, power tilt/slide sunroof, sport suspension, remote/keyless door locks, Fender premium sound system fed by a SiriusXM satellite unit, touch screen navigation system, A/C, cruise control, heated seats (and we used them too!), six-speed gearbox, front seats (with leather seating surfaces), leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear deck spoiler, Bluetooth, and a limited subscription to VW’s Car Net push button emergency services.
This one even has a cool add-on binnacle up on the top of the dash with three official-looking gauges that (left to right): showed oil temperature, acted as a clock and timer/stop watch, and reported on turbo “psi” (for pounds per square inch …air pressure …or as the racers call it: “boost”.) The more of that, the more air and fuel gets stuffed into the engine, the more horsepower the engine makes.
Front seat room here is wonderful. The seats are nicely-shaped and run through a wide range of adjustments. Beetles have always taken very good care of the two peeps up front but there is one little exception here. And what would that be, pray tell? For me (and my passengers) it was the rather athletic “twist and shout” reach-back that it takes to get the upper part of the seat belt and pull it forward and over one’s shoulder. Small point, but everyone who rode noticed it first thing (before all the snazzy interior touches) every time.
The rear seats are serviceable but not all that easy to fold in and out of for out-of-shape adults like yours truly. Of course, the doors of a two-door have to be immense (for people to access the back seat) which does not square well with the “compact” car idea that would presuppose Beetle owners parking in so-marked spaces (which seem to be getting narrower all the time).
As broad as the Beetle’s two doors are, trunk space here might well be annotated as moderate. First of all, there’s no motor in there (see paragraph 8 above). What you will find is a big old Fender base speaker and room for the gear for a light weekend. A full-on Costco run shopping run with a family of four aboard will inevitably have people quip-quoting Amity’s Chief Brody: “… We’re going to need a bigger trunk.”
In the styling department, you’ll already have noticed that this is the NEW (New) Beetle roofline, flattened a bit from the original cute/cuddly rainbow arch design. The overall effect is cool-looking, almost sort of hot-rodded/slammed. And then there’s those hooded eyes, er headlights, up front. If ever a car could use a pair of those giant false eyelashes.
Your uncle in the federal zone back east tells us that you may generally expect 24 miles per gallon (of 91 octane gasoline please note, the turbo likes/needs the high-test stuff) as a overall average; with the old “city/highway” numbers coming in at 21/30 mpg.
The actual price sticker on our tester read out at $29,995 with a destination charge of $820 after those two numbers there was only a single priced-out option, a first aid kit at $35, everything above (and below was included in the twenty-nine, nine, ninety-five above.
All told, we had a fun week driving this one. It went where we pointed it and had everyone (including total strangers) asking how I liked “my” new car.
At one point in time 40 or so years ago, VWs were taken up by people (like Paul Newman for one) who could afford far more costly machines and driven as sort of reverse status symbols. Maybe that’s the deal here: “… I can afford a $90K car, but I’m driving this $30K tuner car because it is just so damn much fun.”
Yeah, now I get it. This is a pair of stone-washed Levis with a tuxedo jacket worn over a JC Penny’s v-neck t-shirt. Perfect! -DS
*Our review machine was inscribed number “0195 of 3,500” in a cool little plate on the lower part of the center spoke of the VW’s flat-bottomed steering wheel.
File under “Oh, now they tell me!”
We were just handed press photos of the two new Andretti Autosport entries in the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross Series.
And what do you know, Tanner Foust and Scott Speed will both be driving (okay, wait for it …) Volkswagen Beetles in the short course half-dirt/half-pavement, and all-excitement 2014 GRC Series.
Here’s the best part: Foust’s Rockstar Energy Drink Beetle will be resplendently swathed in bright yellow and brilliant black! The engines will be just a smidgen stronger than the one we got along so splendidly within the above GSR model (that would be some 360 more horsepower!), and the suspension will be, a tad more firm (all the better to make those nice 4-point landings after 70-foot jumps!).
Foust is the 2011 and 2012 GRC Champ and finished second in the 2013 series. The machines were just unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show . They’re scheduled to debut at the Summer X Games in Austin, Texas. (The team will compete using Euro-sourced, re-purposed VW Polo rally machines until that show.)
Just for good measure Foust’s teammate for 2014 at Andretti is former Formula 1 and NASCAR driver Scott Speed who last year showed how quick he was on the uptake, running very well, and finishing fifth overall in the championship in what must have been a very different racing discipline for him. Speed’s (that’s his real family name) Andretti Beetle will be wrapped in the familiar bottle green of 7Up.
So, yeah. That yellow and black Volkswagen looks a whole lot more racy and a whole lot less silly to me now with that little American flag and the name “FOUST” on the back window.
See ya at the circuit! -DS
For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com
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Name of vehicle:
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR
$29,995, includes power sliding/tilting moonroof, RNS 315 touchscreen navigation system, SiriusXM satellite radio, Fender premium audio, Media Device Interface with iPod cable, Bluetooth mobile telephone connectivity, keyless access with push button start, bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, leather seating surfaces, heatable front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake level, front fog lights, rear spoiler, brushed aluminum appearance pedal covers.
EPA mileage estimates:
21 city/30 highway miles per gallon
EA888 turbocharged and direct-injection 2.0-liter TSI® in-line four
200 @ 2300 rpm
207 pound-feet @ 1700 rpm
Front: Strut type with lower control arms, telescopic dampers and 22 mm diameter anti-roll bar.
Rear: Multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers, 18 mm diameter anti-roll bar
Wheels and tires:
19-inch alloy with all-season tires
Front: 11.3 x 1.0 inch power-assisted vented discs
Rear: 10.7 x 0.4 in. sold rear discs
Length: 168.4 inches
Width: 71.2 inches
Height: 58.5 inches
Curb weight: 2,939 pounds