2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Introduction
When you have an eclectic model like the Beetle in your product portfolio, you run the very real risk of running out of buyers for it. Just ask the folks selling Smart cars how that can happen for you. In a number of ways, this is true for the Volkswagen Beetle as well. A polarizing design, people either love it and want one, or they don’t care for it and wouldn’t buy one.
Thing is, once everybody who wants one has one, sales pretty much bottom out. Thus, it behooves product-planning people to do all they can to keep the model fresh; and above all, give consumers new reasons to consider it once again. This is where a limited production model like the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR can come in handily. The bright yellow paint, contrasted with black inserts call attention to the car again and cause people to take a fresh look at the product.
And, even if they don’t get one of the limited production models, the salesperson at the dealership has a shot at putting them into something equipped very similarly. And this is why “halo” models like the Beetle GSR exist; to ramp up showroom traffic, oh, and to give writers like us a reason to review the car again.
So, here goes…
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
For the 2014 model year, the Volkswagen Beetle is offered in four states of trim; Beetle 2.5L, Beetle R-Line, Beetle TDI, and Beetle GSR. There is also a convertible version of the Beetle, but we’ll cover that in a separate review.
Beetle 2.5L starts at $19,995 and its standard features include: 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and height-adjustable front seats with lumbar adjustment, Volkswagen’s leatherette upholstery, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, a trip computer, and an eight-speaker sound system driven by a CD player, an iPod interface, and an auxiliary audio input jack. VW's Car-Net telematics system is also included.
To all of the above, the $22,695 2.5L Sunroof package adds: a panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, satellite radio, and a touchscreen monitor for the audio interface.
The $24,595 Beetle 2.5L Sun, Sound, and Nav package adds 18-inch wheels, a navigation system, a rearview camera, and a subwoofer reinforced Fender audio system.
The $24,795 Beetle R-Line features a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, along with foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport-tuned suspension system, sport seats, R-line specific cloth upholstery, a dash-top performance gauge package, simulated carbon-fiber accents, and alloy pedals. (This trim kit was previously known as the Beetle Turbo.)
The $27,595 R-Line Sun and Sound package mates the 2.5L’s Sunroof package to the Fender audio system.
The $29,995 R-Line Sun, Sound and Nav package adds 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, leather upholstery, a rearview camera, and a navigation system to the R-Line Sun and Sound package.
The $24,195 Beetle TDI includes everything offered on the 2.5L, plus keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio, a touchscreen audio interface, and the performance gauge package.
The Beetle TDI’s $26,995 Sun, Sound and Nav package matches the 2.5L’s Sun, Sound, and Nav package.
The $29,995 Beetle GSR is for all intents and purposes a Beetle R-Line with Sun, Sound, and Nav—teamed with the aforementioned yellow-and-black paint scheme, a more aggressive tail spoiler, a black leather interior with yellow stitching, and GSR-specific floor mats.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Design
The original Volkswagen Beetle GSR debuted back in 1973. Instantly identifiable because of its color scheme, the model was in fact also named for the paint scheme. GSR stands for Gelb Schwarzer Renner, which in German means “Yellow Black Racer.” The 1973 Beetle GSR featured a yellow bodyshell with a black cargo cover, black engine cover, and black bumpers. Black trim strips replaced the chrome underneath the side windows and black rocker panels completed the look.
For the contemporary version of the car, black accents were added to the cargo cover, roof, engine cover, and exterior rear-view mirrors. Poised on 19-inch wheels, “GSR” side lettering and a large rear spoiler complete the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR’s more menacing countenance.
Proportionally, the shape of the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle is, in fact, closer to the lines of the original Volkswagen Type 1 (the first Beetle’s official name) than the 1998 New Beetle was. That model was more like a caricature of the original Beetle. Where three semi-circles characterized that design, this new design relies more upon semi-ovals. The roof is flatter, the nose is longer, the windshield is more upright, and the overall proportions of the car are larger and more muscular than the 1998 New Beetle design it replaced.
About the new design, Volkswagen brand design chief Klaus Bischoff said;
“The Beetle is now characterized by a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness. The car has a lower profile and it is also substantially wider. The engine cover is longer, the front windshield is shifted farther back, and it has a much steeper incline. All of this creates a new dynamism.”
If, by a “new dynamism” he means the car looks more “butch” than “girly” he’s absolutely correct. One more thing about the Beetle, there is no mistaking it for anything else. In a time when more and more cars are starting to all look alike, the Beetle’s unique shape absolutely stands alone.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
As with most German cars, the seating position for the driver and front passenger are outstanding. The seats are exceptionally supportive, though they may feel a bit hard when you first settle into them. Over a long distance though you will appreciate that firmness as it translates into much better support.
Storage abounds throughout the Beetle’s passenger compartment. Cupholders and storage bins are all readily evident and easily accessible. Taller people are cheerfully accommodated with both leg and headroom in the Beetle. Yes, the roof looks a bit chopped compared to the profile of the New Beetle, but headroom is very generous nonetheless.
Two adults can be quite comfortable riding in the Beetle’s back seat as well—as long as the drives are relatively short. It can be a bit difficult to see out of the back seat, and egress and ingress are hampered somewhat by the fact the Beetle is a two-door coupe. The front seats have to be folded to accommodate rear-seat passengers.
Speaking of folding seats, the Beetle’s rear seatbacks also fold to permit the carrying of additional cargo. When they are deployed, cargo space is 15.4 cubic feet. Folding the rear seats nets some 29.9 cubic feet.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
Behind the steering wheel, the Beetle pilot faces three round gauges containing the tachometer, speedometer, and fuel gauge. Housed within the centrally mounted speedometer is a multifunction display offering (depending upon how your Beetle is equipped), trip, entertainment system, and/or navigation system readouts.
If you get a Beetle R-Line w/ Sunroof, Sound & Navigation, or a Beetle GSR, your seats will be upholstered in leather; any other R-Line Beetle leaves you perched on cloth. If you go 2.5L you’ll sit either on cloth, or Volkswagen’s “Leatherette” vinyl—if you get Sunroof & Sound, or Sunroof, Sound & Navigation. A high-grade material, most occupants will assume it is leather, unless they’re told otherwise.
The dash, upper door panels and even the steering wheel bring the exterior color of the Beetle inside the car. The GSR, the TDI, and the R-Line add a pod of three gauges to the top of the dash for monitoring oil, water and the electrical system. Another GSR/R-Line touch is brushed aluminum pedals with rubber inserts.
Regardless of the Beetle model you choose, you’ll get power windows, Bluetooth hands-free calling for your phone and audio streaming, and an iPod interface. As you move up in the trim levels, you’ll add things like a leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel, keyless access with push-button start, and the aforementioned multifunction trip computer.
The “sound” portion of the Sunroof, Sound & Navigation package comes courtesy of Fender audio. While Fender is probably best known for its line of electric guitars and amplifiers, it turns out the company makes a darn good car audio system too.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
Basically, any Beetle dubbed 2.5L houses Volkswagen’s 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine producing 177 ft-lbs of torque. Volkswagen pairs its six-speed automatic transmission with this engine as an extra-cost option. A five-speed manual transmission is the standard offering. For 2014, fuel economy is quoted at 22-city/29-hwy with the automatic and 22/31 with the manual.
The GSR, as well as any R-Line Beetle is rocking a turbocharged 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, generating 207 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission choices here are six-speed manual and six-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG) semi-automatic. With the six-speed manual, VW says you can expect 21-city/30-hwy. Fuel economy figures are 24-city/30-hwy with the DSG.
Yes, you read that correctly, the more powerful turbocharged engine offers better performance AND fuel economy than the normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine.
The TDI uses a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, generating 236 ft-lbs of torque, which makes it the quickest Beetle of all—off the line. Transmission choices are the six-speed manual or the six-speed DSG. Volkswagen is claiming 28-city/41-hwy for the manual transmission and 29/39 with the DSG.
All 2014 Beetles are front-wheel drive.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Over the road, in day-to-day back and forth, the Beetle is remarkably comfortable. Everything is where you expect it to be control-wise and you pretty much feel at home driving it right away. The steering wheel feels good in your hands, the automatic transmissions (both conventional and DSG) shift crisply, are pretty much always in the right gear, and left to their own devices, will satisfy nearly every driver.
When sharp changes of direction are called for, the Beetle responds obediently with just a trace of understeer to assure you it will catch you if things go awry. The way Volkswagen cars steer always pleases us. The accuracy is quite remarkable, and the transitions from to left to right and back again when faced with a brace of repetitive switchbacks are tremendously satisfying.
Engendering this even more is the fact the car is quite agile, particularly when equipped with the GSR’s go faster gear. While that is to be expected, even the standard Beetle provides an entertaining drive on meandering country roads.
The manual transmissions continue Volkswagen’s tradition of feeling as though their components are made of rubber rather than steel. Crispness is not a word we’d use to describe the tactile response these gearboxes return in use. Clutch action is superb though, and even with the 177 ft-lb inline five, setting the car into motion is relatively easy.
Ride quality is good in all city situations, the R-Line and the GSR, of course, ride a bit more firmly—but not so much so as to introduce discomfort or fatigue over long drives. What you pick up in agility makes the additional harshness it introduces (and we mean harshness comparatively, not critically) a justifiable price.
Braking is good, though the pedal could be a bit firmer for our tastes. While we didn’t really stress the braking system, it felt as if it’d be under strain if used vigorously for an extended period. Road noise is pleasantly subdued in the 2.5 models and as you’d expect, a bit more pronounced in the Beetle GSR and R-Line cars with their larger wheels and lower profile tires.
Being human, we’re always looking for a frame of reference within which to compare things. In this case, if you’re familiar with Volkswagen’s GTI, then you pretty much know what to expect dynamically from the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR—more or less.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
Ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steels are employed in the Volkswagen Beetle’s crash-load paths, along with seamless laser welds. To help you keep the shiny side up, anti-lock brakes, Traction Control, and Electronic Stability Control are standard.
Driver and front passenger airbags, along with Side Curtain Protection airbags in the front and rear, defend your face. And, if you hit something really hard, the Beetle’s Intelligent Crash Response System will shut off the fuel pump, unlock the doors, and switch on the hazard lights.
The IIHS rated the Beetle “Good” in frontal offset, rear, and roof strength crash tests. NHTSA gave the Beetle five stars in side impact tests and four stars in rollover tests.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Very few cars command their place in the consciousness of the motoring public the way the Volkswagen Beetle does. With over 21 million copies of the original Beetle built, nearly everyone on earth living in a nation with roads has either seen, ridden in, or driven a Beetle.
When the “New” Beetle came along in 1998, it created an instant sensation. As is often the case with sensations though, people become numb to them after a while. With this replacement for the New Beetle, Volkswagen was trying to get back closer to the root of the original car—in terms of its looks and hopefully reawaken that enthusiasm once again.
The 2014 Beetle GSR is handsome, nicely equipped and drives well.
But wait, there’s more! Volkswagen’s no-charge Carefree Maintenance Program includes all scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
• Spacious interior
• Lots of standard features
• Nicely combines style and functionality
• Free maintenance
• Upper level models a bit pricey
• Base engine’s fuel economy could be better