What can anyone at this point say about the VW Beetle that hasn’t been said before or that we don’t know about? The remarkable thing about the Beetle is not just the sheer number of sales, but the fact that a car developed from an idea of Adolf Hitler’s was to become as loved by Californian surf dudes, college kids and free lovin’ hippies as it was desired by fervent Nazis. Herbie – the anthropomorphic star of six Hollywood movies beginning with The Love Bug in 1968 – was the same car German families had saved up for before Hitler’s invasion of Poland dashed their hopes.
The Käfer, as it is called in Germany, or Escarabajo as refer to in most of South and Central America, is a car that really needs no introduction. On the February 17th, 1972 the 15,007,034th Beetle left the assembly line at Wolfsburg beating the record held by the Model T Ford as the most popular car in the world. It’s been the most recognized car on the road for the past seventy-five years, and the 2014 model, as far as I can tell, is the best ever. Wanting to lure in more male buyers, the latest Beetle’s look has grown more masculine, and for sure, it doesn’t have that “curvy bug” look and feel… the updated version has a flatter roof where the a-pillar halts and cuts back more drastically than previous versions. It’s a minor adjustment that makes the car look faster while still adhering to the Beetle character and vision of the German auto maker. The other elements that are very welcome are the minimal overhang in front and back, the prominent wheel wells, and a wide yet compact stance.
The new Beetle or Maggiolino, name they use in Italy, has modern and premium amenities, like standard Bluetooth® with streaming audio for compatible devices and voice control, Volkswagen Car-Net®3 and available Bi-Xenon headlights, panoramic sunroof, Fender® Premium Audio System, Käferfach glovebox, and the VW Car-Net® connected car features. And speaking of audio, as with all Volkswagen models, we highly recommend the Fender Audio upgrade for one of the best audio offerings in the industry. Cargo space is far larger than the size of the Beetle would indicate. The 2014 Beetle’s hatch opens to reveal an open space that holds much more than anticipated.
Sold as both a coupe and a convertible, the Beetle started the 2014 model year with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder in the base model, but Volkswagen has replaced this engine with a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. For those who like a little more punch, the 2014 Beetle R-Line offers 210 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The R-Line replaces the Beetle Turbo for the 2014 model year. Most Beetles are available with a choice of five- or six-speed manual or six-speed automatic or dual-clutch automatic transmissions.
As we test drove this new R-Line all throughout South Florida, the feel of those 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque were quite impressive. From a stop, the R-Line’s flat-out acceleration feels simultaneously crazed and rather fun, thanks to a not excessively overzealous Anti-Slip Regulation system that allows the front wheels to grate a bit of rubber along the roadway. Cruising around town, the suspension felt smooth and rich, but when we decided to step on it and put it through the test along some curvy roads, the results were well-founded and the dynamics and handling of the new bug felt firm and tight.
Sixty-five years after the first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the United States as a distinctively shaped, little car, the Beetle keeps attracting buyers with its more-spacious-than-ever, flexible interior, turbo engine power and modernized iconic look.
The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line is a well-done sports coupe whose main appeal, beyond its retro look and nostalgic feel, is in its close attention to performance handling. The 2014 Beetle R-Line is manlier than its outer appearance might indicate and is a true joy to drive.