2011 Los Angeles Auto Show: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle R Debut

By Blake Z. Rong | November 11, 2011
What's New The Beetle gets some scoot to go with the spherical styling: it receives essentially the GTI’s entire powertrain, including the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower. A six-speed DSG automatic gearbox is standard, and unlike the GTI, a manual transmission will not be available. Larger brakes and wheels are part of the package: the Beetle R rides on 20-inch polished wheels that are pretty bad at hiding the eye-catching, blue-painted brake calipers. And to show that the new Beetle R is serious, it will come in a color VW dubs “Serious Grey.” All these additions serve to transform the Beetle from a cockroach to something more like nevadica lincolniana. Who It's For VW is targeting a small contingent of manly, masculine men with this newer, manlier generation of Beetle—a group of consumers that the Beetle sorely needs. Those who drink whiskey, wear plaid un-ironically and are looking to go fast in a car that looks better than the GTI are exactly who VW hopes to attract. Primary competitors will include the Mini Cooper S, the Hyundai Veloster, and the Fiat 500 Abarth. No word on whether VW will include an Old Spice dispenser and a lumberjack saw in the glovebox. Key Features Less hippie, more hi-po, the Beetle R offers VW enthusiasts the charismatic retro wackiness of the Beetle, but with the speed of the Golf R. With that goal in mind, the Beetle R comes with:
  • A 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder. At 240-hp, it produces 40 more than the regular turbo engine.
  • Aggressive styling. The rotund Beetle shape is complemented by massive front air scoops, vents in the rear bumper, a large fixed spoiler, and four exhaust pipes. Large 20-inch wheels and blue brake calipers round out the styling.
  • Sporty interior. Leather, suede, and aluminum is the theme of the day, and Volkswagen’s well-crafted interiors rarely disappoint. Deep bucket sport seats are upholstered in black Nappa leather with handsome (yet strange) white suede inserts.
  • Exclusivity. Volkswagen fans will look forward to a car that will be guaranteed to be relatively rare.
What We Think Volkswagen did a good job from the start at making the Beetle appeal to a wider swath of the population. With a Turbo variant available from the start, more mature styling, and by chucking the flower vase out the window, the new Beetle isn’t as much of a slave to fashion. The Beetle R will be a formidable choice against the Mini Cooper S, especially with the GTI’s proven engine, and as far as sibling rivalries go, it holds the styling advantage over the Golf-based GTI as well. The only question now is will buyers spring for a faster version of a car whose biggest draw—even with a more masculine and well-rounded Beetle—is still cutesy styling? Well, with the Mini Cooper S and upcoming Fiat 500 Abarth, there’s still room for cute, fast cars. Whether there’s room in Volkswagen’s lineup itself is another question.
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