When I was kid I used to daydream about buying a VW Beetle and then fixing it up to make the bug cooler looking and faster.
Fast forward 40 years and Volkswagen has an answer for my childhood dreams. It’s the 2014 VW Beetle R Line.
To be honest, I don’t know what the R stands for. Racer? Rapid? Rocket? Whatever it means, the result is a quicker and better looking beetle.
To start with you get the 2.0 liter turbo engine that is good for 210 hp. That’s about 40 hp more than the non-turbo 2.5 liter motor (incidentally, the base normally aspirated engine will soon be replaced with a 1.8 liter turbo). 210 hp doesn’t turn the beetle into a rocket (we can cross that word off the list), but it does give respectable power. During my week with the car I liked the way it came off the line and the early acceleration, although it seemed to run out of steam at the top end. According to VW the R Line will do 0-60 in 6.6 seconds. That’s a long way from serious sports car acceleration, but good enough for casual fun. Mileage is very good with 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
My test car had the 6-speed manual transmission. That’s two gears better than the four speed I wanted as a kid, and overall a much nicer transmission than I would have gotten back then. It’s a great way to get the most out of the horsepower. Driving the R Line is a nice experience with the suspension being a good compromise between soft and stiff.
Instead of buying bits and pieces from the JC Whitney catalog, VW has already tricked out the body. You get body colored bumpers (minus the chrome strip on the other beetles), a spoiler, bigger wheels, a diffuser panel at the back and bi-xenon lights. When you get right down to it, the R Line Beetle is more “performance inspired” than “performance”, but that’s OK. It’s still a very likeable car.
I should mention that this is the second generation of the “new” beetle. The big change on the outside is that the car is less rounded. It’s almost like some giant pushed down on the body to flatten it out just a bit. The result is very nice. Something about the shape looks less cute and more aggressive (is that possible with a Beetle?).
My test car had the Sunroof and Sound package. It gives you goodies like a leather interior, rearview camera and a navigation system. Oh, and you also get a sunroof. This sunroof had one thing I’m not sure I liked. Instead of something solid that slides into place under the glass to stop the sun from shining through, the Beetle had a cloth that was a little too sheer for my taste. I live in Phoenix and there are times of the year I want to block the sun completely. This semiopaque shield didn’t protect me. Interestingly, it’s not the first car I’ve driven that used this approach to block the sunroof. They obviously need to spend more time driving in the desert sun.
I really like the dashboard in the latest Beetle over the previous generation. It’s flatter and styled after the original Beetle’s look. It even has a small glove box in the same place it was 50 years ago. Overall, the dash is less intrusive and more pleasing to look at. My test car had a carbon fiber accents that added a bit more style. There are three gauges that sit on the top of the dash. They were great for looks, but not much more. One showed turbo boost. I just can’t imagine that when I’m in the middle racing up to freeway speed that I’ll have a big desire to take my eyes off the road and look to the right for the latest boost reading. There is also a stop watch. Again, not a logical place. You have to lean over to reset and then punch the gas. Once again, let’s use the term “performance inspired”.
Base price for the regular Beetle is $20,295. The R Line Beetle starts at $24,995 while my test car with the Sunroof and Sound package came in at $28,650. Overall it’s a fun car that does a great job of fulfilling my childhood dreams for a souped-up bug.