Despite all of the positive reviews it has garnered since its introduction in 2011, the Volkswagen Beetle still hasn't hooked me. It's nice to drive, and with a variety of engine choices (including diesel) and two different bodystyles, it's an incredibly versatile little car, ready to meet the needs of a whole host of customers. But personally, I just don't think I could wake up to that happy-friendly (yet sort of drowsy?) face every morning.

For 2014, Volkswagen is offering this limited edition GSR model – only 3,500 examples will be made – based on the sportier R-Line trim, and painted in a unique yellow/black scheme that pays homage to the "Yellow Black Racer" of the 1970s. It's a fun, flashy little thing, and I recently spent a week with GSR No. 216 to see if it would change my mind about the Beetle formula as a whole.

Driving Notes
  • As I said, the GSR – or more specifically, the Beetle Turbo – is pretty great to drive. It uses VW's lovely 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, rated at 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with the six-speed manual transmission of my test car, the Beetle GSR will hit 60 miles per hour in a very respectable 6.6 seconds.
  • Not surprisingly, considering its dimensions, powertrain and weight, the Beetle GSR drives a lot like Volkswagen's own GTI – one of my favorite hot hatches. The Bug's wheelbase is an inch and a half shorter, and though it sits 0.7 inches higher off the ground, the Beetle is actually shorter in overall height by 0.2 inches. A bit of weight is saved here, too, with the GSR weighing in at 3,056 pounds compared to the GTI's 3,113. The 2.0T engine in the GSR is actually good for an additional 10 hp over the GTI, as well.
  • Unique to the GSR are 19-inch Tornado alloy wheels, wrapped in P235/40R19 Continental ContiProContact tires. But even with the ever-so-slightly sportier R-Line setup and this relatively large set of rolling stock, the car never felt crashy or too stiff on the road, even when traversing the rough surfaces in and around Detroit. Instead, the Beetle offers a comfortable, solid ride feel, great for highway cruising and pretty nicely set up for moments of aggression on twisty backroads. It's no track attacker, to be sure, but it's a really solid balance that's great for an everyday driver – something I've said before about the GTI.
  • The standard Beetle models already stand out in a crowd, thanks to its distinctive shape and too-cute looks (though the new-generation car uses a decidedly more masculine design approach). But man, this GSR sure does garner a whole mess of attention. A girl in a Mini nearly rear-ended someone on a side street while sticking her neck out the window to check out the GSR, and the guys at the car wash laughed at me. Literally every day, I was pointed at, smiled at, and, of course, honked at by other Beetle owners. Of course, the unique, limited-edition black-and-yellow color scheme is to blame for a lot of this attention, but even so, it doesn't strike me as an unusual color combo for the Beetle.
  • Inside, the GSR was loaded to the gills with every amenity offered on the Beetle models – sunroof, navigation, Bluetooth audio, heated seats, and so on. The black leather seats have yellow contrast stitching with special GSR logos, and that same color treatment is carried over to the flat-bottomed steering wheel (that could stand to be a bit thicker-rimmed, methinks), with a serialized number plate below the R-Line logo, specifically for the GSR.
  • Outside, in addition to the 19-inch wheels, GSR models come standard with bi-xenon headlamps with LED running lights, foglamps, and the rear spoiler of the Turbo model (which, for the record, I hate).
  • But that's all for a price: just over $30,000, including $820 for destination. And while folks who like the unique Beetle package might not be put off by this number (a loaded Turbo starts at the same $29,995), to me, it seems like a far worse bargain than the already-sort-of-pricey, more functional, less-flashy, just-as-good-to-drive four-door GTI with the same options.
  • So no, I'm not sold on the Beetle package, only because I love the GTI so much. But for those who like the added style of the iconic VW design, those GTI bones make for a really rewarding driving experience that'd be easy to live with day in and day out.


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