2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR First Test
The Volkswagen New Beetle is perhaps the least manly car ever put into production. Proof positive: All the girls in my fifth-grade class just loved it and thought it was "sooo cute." For fifth-grade me, who was deathly afraid of cooties, that was enough to turn me off of the New Beetle -- though my brothers and I did enjoy how easy it was to play "punch buggy" when we started seeing them all over our neighborhood.
A lot has changed since the VW New Beetle came out. I'm older (though no more mature), and I no longer think girls are icky. The Volkswagen Beetle is older and more mature, too. It dropped the "New" from its name, and with the launch of the latest generation, the Beetle should be just as appealing to gents as it is to ladies. Proof: the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR.
In a city like Los Angeles, where Porsche 911s and Bentley Continentals are as common as Ford Crown Vics are in New York, it's pretty rare for a car to catch the eye of a passerby, yet not since I scored a Jaguar F-Type V8 S for a night after Best Driver's Car has a car received as much of a reaction as the 2014 Beetle GSR. The reactions ranged from catcalls from gangsters to a Venice Beach hipster chick asking, "Does GSR stand for hybrid?" No, it doesn't. (It actually stands for Gelb Schwarzer Renner, German for "Yellow Black Racer.")
It's not hard to see why the Beetle GSR generated so much reaction -- I mean, look at it. Looking like it's straight out of "Transformers," the Beetle GSR is Bumblebee-yellow, with a striped hood (done properly under the clear coat), a black roof and hatch, black stripes down the side, and a pretty bitchin' whale tail rear spoiler. The only thing that'd be more attention-grabbing would be if the GSR shot flames, or transformed into a crime-fighting robot. Though many fans of the original "Transformers" will immediately label the Beetle GSR as a Bumblebee tribute, it's actually a tribute to the original 1970 Beetle GSR, a black and yellow Beetle limited to just 3500 units. Like its predecessor, the 2014 Beetle GSR run is also limited to 3500. (Future GSR owners: Ours was No. 195 of 3500.)
A crazy black and yellow paint job isn't the only thing the 2014 VW Beetle GSR brings to the table -- it also marks the launch of both the Beetle R-Line (which replaces the Beetle Turbo in the lineup), and the horsepower bump to the EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. Packing just 200 hp last year, the Beetle GSR's turbo-four has been massaged to make 210 hp, with torque unchanged at 207 lb-ft. Our car was equipped with a six-speed manual, while VW's six-speed dual-clutch DSG is optional on the GSR.
The last Beetle Turbo we tested left us a bit underwhelmed, primarily due to excessive turbo lag caused by its DSG, which was disappointingly tuned more for fuel economy than the performance promised by what's essentially a GTI in Beetle drag. Though you wouldn't be able to tell it from its performance figures, our manual-equipped VW Beetle GSR doesn't suffer from any of those issues. Despite the 10 extra horsepower on tap compared to last year's number, the 2014 VW Beetle GSR's 6.3 second 0-60 mph time matches both the DSG-equipped Beetle Turbo, and (somewhat strangely) the 163-pound-heavier DSG-equipped Beetle Turbo Convertible. Dragstrip performance improved ever so slightly, with the Beetle GSR completing the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds at 94.9 mph – just a second quicker and less than a mile per hour faster than the Turbos. Though the Beetle GSR's 0.87 g average skidpad performance improves on the Beetle Turbos, it didn't show any improvement in the figure eight, where it had a 26.6 second at 0.63 g average performance. The VW completed its best 60-0 mph stop in 123 feet.
At the track, the 2014 Beetle GSR might not live up to the performance promised by its big wing and racing stripes at the track, but it is quite fun to drive in the real world. Our GSR tester's manual transmission absolutely negates the turbo lag issue we had with the DSG-equipped Beetle Turbo. In fact, the Beetle GSR feels much quicker in a straight line than its test numbers would indicate, with it absolutely ripping through first and second gears at wide open throttle. Steering feel is sharp, too, making the Beetle GSR perfectly suited for zipping in and out of L.A. traffic. Though not anywhere near as sharp as a GTI, the Beetle GSR performs well enough in the canyons. That said, the Beetle would be more rewarding with a bit less body roll and more aggressive brakes.
Based on the 2014 Beetle R-Line with Sunroof, Sound, and Navigation packages, the 2014 VW Beetle GSR comes well-equipped and reasonably priced. Though the Beetle GSR is a limited edition with unique interior touches including yellow-stitched leather seats, a yellow-stitched flat-bottom steering wheel, and additional yellow trim throughout the cabin, the Beetle GSR's MSRP is identical to that of the Beetle R-Line with Sunroof, Sound, and Navigation. Already spec'd with navigation and VW's very good Fender audio system, the only option on our GSR tester was a $35 first aid kit, making our as-tested price $30,850 – only slightly less than a comparable GTI.
The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR proved to be a pleasant surprise. The Beetle GSR may be more show than go, but it never failed to get a reaction out of bystanders or put a smile on my face during its time with us. The Beetle GSR not only gives the Beetle a model that appeals to both men and women, but it also injects something largely absent from VW's lineup: a bit of personality – and that, more than any attempt at appealing to the sexes, is what's going to get people into the Beetle GSR.
|2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$30,850|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||front-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||2.0L/210-hp/207-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3137 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||168.4 x 71.2 x 58.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.8 sec @ 94.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.87 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||23/31 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||147/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.75 lb/mile|