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Review: 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

Tuesday May 27th, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

By David Colman

Hypes: Stealth Bomber, Practical Yet Engaging
Gripes: Hood Stalk Can Cut You

Let’s say you love the endearing looks of the reincarnated Beetle, but you yearn for the performance of the Golf GTI. For 2014, VW has slipped the drive train and chassis of the outgoing GTI underneath the architecture of the Beetle, so you can look cute but go like a stink bug. The new code name for this potent combo is “R-Line,” a term formerly used to designate racing derived upgrades like flat bottom steering wheels and ribbed aluminum pedals. Now, VW has eliminated the “Turbo Beetle” name from its model range, in favor of the designation “Beetle R-Line.” When you lay down $32,030 for one of these, you get a 200hp GTI dressed in Bug clothing. The combination is a delight to drive.

VW stylists have revised the front and aft appearance of the Beetle R-Line by substituting stealthy looking new fascia and tail panels. The front splitter is now more angular, and the rear under tray features new diffusers. There’s also a massive back wing lurking just below the rear window, plus a bevy of R-Line identifiers on each side of the nose, at the base of the racy flat bottom steering wheel, and on both threshold kick plates. Visually engaging 10-spoke alloy rims hide cheeky red disc brake calipers. Gaping flared fender wells barely contain beefy 235/40R19 Continental ContiProContact tires at each corner. One look at the svelte Beetle R-Line is enough to remind you that VW runs a very competitive year long race series for these cars in Germany.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

Yet once you’re seated inside the tidy cabin, it’s easy to slip into calm and casual motoring thanks to the DSG transmission’s fully automated assistance. Left to its own devices, the DSG 6-speed will seek out the highest possible gear and thus help you attain 24MPG in town driving and 26MPG overall fuel economy. Of course, you can always slot the DSG stick into its manual gate and make your own decisions about gear choice. Shifts in both directions are quick and crisp. VW provides a pair of tiny flippers behind the steering wheel to aid your gear changing, but I found it much more rewarding to knock the floor stick forward for down changes and back toward me for up shifts.

The turbo motor is so eager to spool up its 207 lb.-ft. of torque that it’s really easy to leave rubber when mashing the gas in the lower gears. When you do so, the front end of this Beetle lifts like a motor boat, steering response diminishes as the front tires lose adhesion, and the R-Line torque steers slightly as you struggle with the sudden surge of power. Although this VW may share looks with lesser Beetles, it’s really an adrenalin-inducing hot rod that’s an absolute blast to drive. The “Sport Suspension,” which is standard issue on R-Line Beetles, controls body lean in cornering, while still maintaining enough bump compliance to keep you comfortable. Such a compromise is a black art, and VW is well versed in the intricacies of the equation.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

Given its low roofline and substantial tail spoiler, you might expect vision from the driver’s seat to be problematic. Such is not the case, since the wings lies flat enough to be invisible, and the view through the rear windows and excellent mirrors is good enough to allow freeway lane changes without hesitation. You could improve the direct rear sightline by removing the headrests from the rear seats, or folding them down until needed. While adequate for kids, the rear seats present painful entry, egress and seating prospects for adults. When you do fold the rear seats, the Beetle affords a surprising amount of storage space. In fact, a trip to Home Depot revealed that the interior dimension between the rear fender wells allows a 32 inch wide sheet of 48 inch long material to be comfortably accommodated. If not for the 3 inch intrusion of the Fender sub woofer in the trunk, you could slip a 3 foot wide sheet into the trunk flat.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

The R-Line Beetle is very much the stealth bomber of VW’s flight group. It’s quietly handsome without being ostentatious. To looks at it, you’d never anticipate the level of performance it’s capable of doling out. Yet it’s one of the fastest cars on the open road, with enough performance reserve to make you smile broadly at the prospect of an early Sunday morning jaunt on an empty, twisty back road.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line

  • Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged inline 4
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 207 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,030
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo

Saturday October 12th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Kal Kustom Leather, Turbo Scoot
Gripes: Annoying Trunk Release, Poor Top-Up Vision

The latest Beetle may look like the familiar face you’ve known forever, but don’t be fooled by appearances. First of all, this Beetle is built in Puebla, Mexico rather than Wolfsburg, Germany. Although clothed in sheet metal designed to deceive you into thinking this is a rear-engine, rear–wheel-drive derivative of Dr. Porsche’s original 1930s design, the second generation New Beetle (Newer Beetle?) is in actuality a front-engine, front-wheel-drive Golf GTI successfully masquerading as a very Old Beetle. Thus, you can validate your nostalgia quotient for traditional VW values without sacrificing comfort or performance to outdated (rear-engine, air-colled) engineering principles.

Under the front hood of this diminutive convertible lies the same turbocharged 4 cylinder engine you find in so many VW and Audi family products today. When VW stopped producing their jewel-like V-6 motor several years back, the 2 liter turbo became the default GTI engine. Now, with direct injection, it’s found its way into the turbo Convertible, where it produces 210hp, 207 lb.-ft. of torque, and returns overall fuel consumption of 24 MPG. Coupled to a delightfully responsive set of 6 closely spaced ratios in the manual transmission, the Beetle Convertible will scald back road apexes with nearly the same aplomb as a GTI. Although the Convertible gives up some structural rigidity to the hardtop GTI, the loss is hardly discernible when you’re close to the limit of adhesion. The fat contact patches of standard 235/45R18 Hankook Optimo H426 tires help this drop-top stay planted through the twisties.

VW has done a commendable job of fettling the convertible with appropriate go-fast hardware. Five spoke alloy rims, which look like updated versions of the classic Porsche Fuchs wheel, decorously display the low profile Hankook tires. Inside the cabin, the aluminum brake, clutch and throttle pedals provide rubber strips for better adhesion. The matte aluminum of the pedal faces match the same trim used on the instrument cluster face, the door grab handles and latches, and the trim ring surrounding the shift mechanism. A carbon fiber emulation faces the dash front, while matte pebbled vinyl surfaces the dash top and door panels. Piano black plastic door panel tops add some 40s era pizzazz to the interior, but the real star is the stunning, bi-color seating. The front buckets feature wide whale ribbed red leather seating surfaces set off by black leather bolsters on all sides. As a finishing touch, VW trims the black bolsters with double stitched red thread. The rear buckets match the fronts. The net effect is jaw dropping, especially considering that all this custom tailoring is part of the base package.

You can tuck a couple of adults into those rear buckets, and they won’t mind the crowded leg room so much if the top is down. But the rear seats produce claustrophobia when the heavily padded top is up. The small back side windows and rear glass panel also inhibit vision and make parking a chore with top up. Those of you who recall the days when English roadsters like the MG and Triumph came fitted with tonneau covers will get a kick out of discovering the same archaic piece in the Convertible’s trunk. It’s designed to hide the roof apparatus when the top is down. It takes a good 5 minutes to install, and will bring back fond memories of an earlier era of motoring.

At $32,665 delivered, the Beetle Convertible represents solid value, GTI-level driving fun. It also admits you to an enthusiastic ownership group that sets VW apart from any other car company. This Beetle is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. How many cars can do that?

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 210hp
  • Torque: 207 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,665
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Saturday July 20th, 2013 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Cruise Range Exceptional, Kal Kustom Look
Gripes: Needs Rear Window Wiper and Stiffer Shocks

To give you an idea of just how efficient the new Diesel Beetle is, we round-tripped from Stinson Beach to Soquel (over 200 miles) in a single day, and when we returned home the trip computer indicated that 250 miles of range still remained. Now that’s a prodigious achievement for a small (2,939 lb.) coupe with a modest-sized fuel tank of just 14.5 gallons. Lately, Diesel fuel has dropped in price locally to a point where it’s less expensive than even the cheapest grade of regular gas, so there’s a double incentive to give this new addition to the Beetle line a good hard look. The other reason is that it’s even more fun to drive than the 200hp turbo version of the same car.

The reason is torque. VW offers 3 engines in the Beetle range. The base motor is a decent 5 cylinder unit displacing 2.5 liters and making 170hp. The 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder, 200hp turbo is a somewhat peaky, finicky engine which requires deft shifting to keep in its powerband. But the key to driving enjoyment is torque rather than horsepower, and here, the new 140hp Diesel outdoes its brethren thanks to the wallop of instant scoot it provides the moment you toe the throttle. Compared to the 170 lb.-ft. of the base 5, and the 207 lb.-ft. of the turbo 4, the Diesel makes 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Couple that to the sweetest shifting 6-speed manual you’ve ever operated and you’ve got a combination sure to please. If you’re not into shifting your own gears, the TDI can be ordered with a dual clutch automatic for an additional $1,100.

Aside from this Beetle’s spunky drivetrain, what else recommends the car to you? Thoughtful design and low price. For example, nice touches abound inside the cabin, even in the trunk. In a nifty replication of ‘50s Beetle design, VW cues painted sections of the dashboard, door panels and steering wheel to the car’s exterior color. In the case of our test car, the overflow of the striking Yellow Rush exterior color to interior surfaces turned the TDI into a genuine Kal Kustom show car. On the floor of the spacious trunk, you’ll find an extremely useful series of space dividers called CarGo Blocks. These modular plastic extrusions adhere to a special Heavy Duty Trunk Liner via Velcro connections. When arranged in the shape of a square, these 6 inch high dividers allow you to stabilize cargo in the trunk. It’s such a brilliant idea that it makes you wonder why no one has offered this before. The CarGo Blocks are part of an optional $235 set of 4 “Monster Mats” that also protect the interior floors.

The Beetle is no sports car. It’s so softly sprung that it heels over rather noticeably in corners. But you could easily rectify this problem by swapping out the standard mushy shock absorbers for aftermarket Bilstein or Koni units. Likewise, the adhesion of the standard Hankook Optimo tires (215/55R17) could stand the improvement that a set of stickier Michelins or Pirellis would provide. But even as it sits, straight from the VW factory in Puebla, Mexico, the TDI Beetle is plenty of fun to drive. The steering is amazingly responsive and accurate, and in our two runs over twisty Highway 17 from San Jose to Santa Cruz, the Beetle never drifted wide of an apex or ran out of grunt before cresting the summit. The manually adjustable front seats lent themselves perfectly to day-long stints in the saddle. Visibility is so good in all quarters that freeway lane changes are never problematic. The Beetle has no need of lane change warning devices.

The Beetle TDI is the perfect conveyance for the long haul. You will arrive refreshed and enthusiastic at your destination, and you won’t need to search for a gas station because this Beetle is good for an overall rating of 32 MPG. At a base price of just $23,295, the TDI Beetle is a top entrant in the new crop of elite and affordable rides for 2013.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

  • Engine: 2.0 liter, inline 4 Diesel
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 236 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/41 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $24,360
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible ‘70s Review

Thursday February 7th, 2013 at 8:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: ‘70s Package Handsome and Brilliantly Conceived
Against: For More Grunt Go TDI or Turbo

Leave it to those kooky imagineers at VW to come up with yet another celebratory sales concept no one’s thought of before. This latest brainstorm marks the reintroduction of the Convertible to the redone Beetle model line that debuted last year. Of course, VW product planners weren’t content to offer just any old drop top when they could instead trot out 3 specific models that celebrate the long and storied history of this topless small wonder. The tasty trio pays homage to 3 decades in which VW produced Convertible Beetles. The ‘50s edition is black with a tan interior, while the ‘60s version is Denim Blue with groovy two-tone seats. The ‘70s Beetle, subject of this test, is Toffee Brown, with tan interior and perfectly vintage looking chrome disc alloys measuring 8” x 18” mounting Hankook Optimo 235/45R18 rubber. The exterior color – let’s call it BeeGees Brown – also covers interior dashboard panels. With its matching brown fabric roof, the ‘70s Convertible is understated but stunning.

You can order your VW Convertible with either the 2.5 liter inline 5, the TDI diesel, or the turbo 2.0 liter inline 4. VW equipped our test car with the 2.5 liter engine, which is available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Due to the very high rpm required by the 5 to achieve peak power (170hp at 5,700rpm) , this engine does not produce scintillating zip. The straight 5 is, however, perfect if you’re looking to reproduce the acceleration nostalgia of a vintage VW Convertible. Personally I would opt for either the diesel, which makes 140hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, or the turbo, which posts 200hp and 207 lb,-ft. of torque.

The Convertible’s top is so soundly constructed that there’s no wind noise whatsoever when it’s raised. Attribute the quiet to the fact that the top’s exterior fabric shell consists of 3 different layers covering 3 more layers of insulation plus a molded foam laminated fabric headliner. The only drawback to the raised top is the lack of rear vision it causes. You need to be very careful when backing a Convertible Beetle out of a parking slot. Of course, you could always drop the top for a better look back, as it takes only 9.5 seconds to stow it and 11 more seconds to erect it.

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Review

Wednesday May 2nd, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

YouTube Preview Image

By David Colman

For: Blatantly idiosyncratic appearance, Porsche 911-look alloys
Against: Jerky DSG gearbox, Limited use rear seat

VW has gone to great lengths to distinguish this 21st Century Beetle from its immediate predecessor, the 20th Century New Beetle. The New Beetle hit the market in 1998, and has had a very successful sales run for the past 13 years. Now, the Newest Beetle debuts as a 2012 model available in 2 versions, base (with 2.5 liter, 5 cylinder engine) and Turbo (with 2.0 liter inline turbo 4). Although eventually, 5 and 6 speed manual transmissions will be offered, first deliveries of both models will include the extra cost DSG automatic gearbox. The base model so equipped retails for $24,495, while the Turbo lists for $27,495.

Our test Turbo Beetle also included leather seat coverings, navigation and sunroof, options which boosted delivery price to $29,865. While the loaded, DSG-equipped Beetle is not limited to the one per center crowd, it’s hardly the People’s Car it once was touted to be. Is a $30,000 Beetle worth the money? On looks alone, it definitely is. This one, especially when finished in red, is an eyeball magnet in a sea of Jelly Bellies. If you don’t want attention, do not buy a Turbo Beetle. The latest version looks like a New Beetle that’s been flattened by a brick. A couple of years ago, a line of diminutive toy cars called Fat Boyz was popular with the Hot Wheels crowd, and this Turbo looks just like one of those intriguing caricatures. It’s been significantly recontoured to the tune of 3.3 inches of extra width, 6 inches of extra length and half an inch less height. Instead of the New Beetle’s tiresomely cute 3 arch design, the new Turbo’s flapjack proportions look more menacing than cute. The substantial rear wing, flattened roofline, laid back windshield angle, and porky 18 inch alloys make the new Turbo look like something George Barris would have done to the old one.

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Volkswagen is Proud to Present the Sportiest, Most Fuel-Efficient Beetle Ever

Monday April 18th, 2011 at 7:44 AM
Posted by: ponycargirl

2012 VW Beetle ©Megan Green

Automotive Icon Gets a Major 21st Century Update

Volkswagen had the glow of a proud papa announcing the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle at the New York International Auto Show today. Looking to shed its feminine demeanor, VW redesigned the Beetle with the aim at attracting a more masculine audience. Gone is the flower vase that used to occupy the center dashboard area and the cavernous roof area. The revamped version gets some exterior tweaks that lend it a more sporty and dynamic look.

Volkswagen was quoted saying that the new Beetle is “longer, wider and lower, giving a more masculine and dynamic appearance.”

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