It seems that as Volkswagen moves forward and evolves it’s design language, they have been holding on closely to the past, or at least that is the case with the decidedly-retro Beetle. The GSR Special Edition sinks its teeth even further into the nostalgia market. The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR is a recreation of Volkswagen’s 1973 special edition Beetle bearing the same nomenclature, which translated from the German “Gelb Schwarzer Renner” means “Yellow Black Racer”. When you decide to unleash the GSR’s turbocharged power-plant, it all begins to make sense – I don’t think I need to explain the yellow/black trim bits.
With its thick black racing stripes, GSR decals along the bottom of the doors, and a surprisingly throaty exhaust note, it’s hard to describe the GSR as anything other than a pissed-off bumblebee. The styling is polarizing in the sense that you either love it or hate it – to be honest, a part of me is interested to see what some talented tuners could do to the 100 or so that are coming to Canada. The rear spoiler and diffuser add a more subtle bit of racing flare to this Bug.
The car gets plenty of attention as you would imagine, but I’m not always sure if it’s the good kind – I did get laughed at by a group of girls while parking in front of a Starbucks. On the other side of the spectrum, just about every other Beetle I passed proceeded to speed up to get a closer look; the drivers waving and smiling, they seem to understand what it is that makes the GSR special. There’s a real sense of camaraderie with other Bug drivers, and VW owners in general – it reminded me of riding a motorcycle and always getting “the wave” from other riders – everyone acknowledges you on the road. In this car, they really don’t have a choice.
Once you’ve stepped inside the GSR, I began to see that the interior is significantly more refined – yellow stitching graces the racing seats, an R-Line wheel has a plaque to denote which of the 3,500 GSRs you’re in, and a yellow GSR badge on the glovebox confirms that you did indeed buy that model. There are also some very nice gloss black accents which put some more modern into the retro mix. The seats are comfortable and decently bolstered, but not quite ready to track with, I was sliding around a bit during hard cornering.
The interior of the Beetle is a comfortable place to be if you’re in the front 2 seats, but taller folks in the back seat won’t want to be there for drives much longer than an hour. Actually, while we’re speaking of longer drives, you and your passenger will have to fight for cup-holder superiority on them – one of them is nearly inaccessible without lifting the center armrest or spilling coffee all over the seats. Let’s face it though – if you’re buying this car you’re not buying it as a grand touring vehicle – you’re buying it because you’re nostalgic, love Beetles, and want everyone to know it. Practicality be damned.
When it comes down to business, this Beetle can be more of a hornet than a bumblebee. The turbocharged engine’s power is delivered exceptionally well by VW’s DSG transmission, which sees very little lag between shifts and does a great job at gear selection in and out of Sport mode. When you throw it into Sport mode the car becomes much more aggressive, and I vividly remember seeing the shock on the face of a V6 Mustang driver in my rear-view mirror. Most folks will make the mistake of discounting this car as a “Bug with racing stripes” and make the odd “Those racing stripes add 10 horsepower” joke (they’d be right, sort of – the GSR produces 10 more than the regular Beetle with the turbocharged engine..but that’s not exactly due to the stripes).
What others don’t realize is the fact that when you put a turbocharged 2.0L inline 4-cylinder putting out 210-horsepower into a car that weighs just over 3000 lbs, the resulting car is no slouch. 100 km/h comes in just 6.6 seconds. That burst of acceleration makes this an extremely fun car to drive – it’s really hard to keep a grin off your face when you’re unleashing it. Dynamically, the car could feel a bit more planted under cornering, which is attributable to a relatively high center-of-gravity, but if the roof got any lower (or flatter) this just wouldn’t be a Beetle.
Throughout the test week the GSR was returning a combined average around 9.5L/100km, which includes a few spirited stints. Not too bad until you have to fill the 55-odd liter fuel tank with premium. Highway driving saw around 8L/100km provided I kept a close watch on my driving style. As-tested, the GSR came to just over $35,000. This may force those uninterested in the exclusive model’s rarity, nostalgia, and power bump into a regular Beetle with the 2.0T engine. For me however, the extra 10 horsepower is what makes the difference between a bumblebee and a hornet – and it’s completely worth it.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR Gallery