Saturday Road Test – VW Beetle R-Line

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2014 VW Beetle R-Line

Good Fun 45 Years Later

By Ron Amadon

On The Road – So I’m tooling along at a legal 65 on I-70 in a new VW Beetle R-Line as the mind flashes back 45 years ago to a run up I-93 in New Hampshire.

I was in a ’69 black Beetle, my first new car with a red interior and skinny whitewall tires – rather sharp looking for its time. Out back trying its best to hold the 60 mph speed limit was a 1.5-liter air cooled four rated at 53 horsepower with a swinging 78 lb-ft of torque, a top speed of 82 miles an hour and a 0-50 time of 13 seconds. It was built like a little tank, was a handful on a windy day, heating and defrosting was weak, yet I knew it would last until the end of time.

The years flew by, and here I am in a much more up to date Beetle with a turbo engine, air conditioning, (gasp), oodles of power, front drive, front engine, with only the VW emblem on the rear hatch carried over from my ’69. Where the engine once resided is a storage space.

My new ride is the Beetle R-line that until 2014 was simply known as the Beetle Turbo.

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Up front is a 2.0 liter turbocharged 16-valve inline 4 good for 210 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm with 270 lb-ft of torque.  In one car – virtually the same horsepower of four older Beetles!

There is a nice 6-speed DSG automatic transmission on the test car, but a six speed manual is available. With the automatic, a 0-60 jaunt comes up in under 7 seconds.

I came away with 27 mpg overall and the EPA rates the bright red Beetle at 24-30 mpg. There is 15.4 cubic feet of storage under the rear lid, opened by lifting the VW symbol and with the rear seats folded that increases to almost 30 cubic feet. Not a whole lot, but who buys a Beetle looking for storage space?

Most of all, the test car was just a lot of fun to drive with good power and a suspension layout that made it rewarding to take out on familiar back roads. Engage the shift it yourself via the console mounted lever, and you can keep the revs where you want them – no small deal since the automatic on its own keeps the engine almost lugging at times in the interest of the fuel economy.

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The R-Line’s up to date, yet still retro exterior design, elicited a lot of smiles from passersby, something I did not expect for a car that has been on the market for a while.

The controls and the entire interior were rather basic, the flat bottom leather wrapped steering wheel was a nice sporty touch, the front seats were comfortable for medium and short trips but with two adults up front rear leg room suffers. The left three quarter view was hampered by large pillars and the center arm rest blocked the cup holders when in the down position.

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Three gauges sprouted from the dash top, one for boost pressure, one for oil temperature, and one for timing your laps around a race course. (In a Beetle???)

The test car was a rather basic R-Line lacking a rear camera, satellite radio, navi, keyless entry, push button start, and so forth. For those, one must move upscale.

The R-Line Sun and Sound package brings a sunroof, Fender premium audio system with 8 speakers and subwoofer, keyless access with push button start, front sport seats and three color ambient lighting. The base price is $27,895.

Move up a notch to the R-Line with Sun, Sound and Navigation and get a touchscreen navi system with 5” color display and memory card reader, with all the stuff from the lower priced package along with bushed aluminum appearance pedal covers and leather seats. By then you are knocking on $30K for equipment that the Beetle’s rivals offer for less dough.

Our base model listed for $26,095 with Bluetooth, heated front seats, fog lights, rear spoiler, heated exterior mirrors, and a sport suspension.

Some VW fans might want to move up to the GTI but then, of course you will lose those curbside smiles.

With the turbo power and better than expected handling, the R-line was one fun ride that brought back lots of happy memories and one not so happy one.

Years after trading my black Beetle, I was rushing back to a radio station to file an urgent news story to the network. The N.H. state trooper who pulled me over laughed when I said it was a hell of a note that my first speeding ticket came in a VW Sun Bug.




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