Last week I wrote a First 5 Minutes about the Volkswagen Beetle GSR. I wasn’t very complimentary about its appearance.
Having been its custodian for the past seven days, however, it’s only fair to point out that while I still think it looks ridiculous, it’s actually really good fun to drive, with a brilliantly unapologetic old school hot hatch kind of feel that you just don’t get from the cars with active that and variable this these days. Put a paper bag over your head, then, and it’s a joy.
But discussing this in the office today brought up the price. At £25,100 (plus £310 for sat-nav in this instance) for 210hp, it’s basically primed to lock horns with that darling of the motoring press, the Toyota GT86.
Immediately my colleagues all guffawed. But then we thought about it properly for a moment. And in a few key areas, the VW isn’t as much of a laughing matter for the Toyota as you might think.
1) The VW Beetle GSR is faster than the Toyota GT86
If there’s one area the Toyota could really use improvement it’s under the bonnet. That naturally aspirated direct injection 2.0 boxer may produce 200hp, but it’s a wheezy young thing unless you’re gunning it like you’re running for the border. So in spite of a considerable weight advantage (GT86: 1,275kg, GSR: 1,417kg), the Japanese favourite needs 7.6 seconds to go 0-62mph, the torque-rich turbocharged German challenger just 7.3. Oooooh.
2) The VW Beetle GSR sounds better than the Toyota GT86
Another aspect of the same issue for the Toyota – not only is the engine hard work, it doesn’t exactly sound very inspiring, either. This is in massive contrast to the Beetle GSR, where the noise is one of the first things you’re likely to notice. By some kind of artifice or sorcery, VW has contrived to give it a startlingly characterful high performance thrum that pays homage to the air-cooled original. Contrived it may be, but it’s still fabulous.
3) The VW Beetle GSR has a much nicer interior than the Toyota GT86
The GT86 has a fantastic driving position. But that will only distract you from the rest of the cabin design and the quality of the materials for a narrow length of time. The Beetle, meanwhile, glories in its VW Group build superiority, intricately detailed GSR seats, yellow stitched steering wheel, dash-top gauge pod and retro upper glove box lid. Plus the infotainment system is very user friendly.
4) The VW Beetle GSR is more practical than the Toyota GT86
For a low-slung sporting coupe, the GT86 is quite pragmatic, with its hatchback and rear seats. But the Beetle offers a vastly increased amount of passenger room – even if you still need to do some back seat gymnastics to get in there, the extra head space makes travelling four-up much more bearable. The VW’s luggage capacity is 310 litres, the Toyota’s 243.
5) The Volkswagen Beetle GSR is more efficient than the Toyota GT86
Since we’ve wandered into the realm of the sensible, the GSR is also more efficient than the GT86. The Toyota emits 181g/km CO2 with 36.2mpg, while the VW manages 169g/km and an official 38.7mpg. That’s modern turbo tech for you – which also makes it all the more likely you’ll see good returns on the road. Drive the GT86 in the manner it demands to be driven (see point one), and it seriously starts sucking down the go-go juice.
6) The Volkswagen Beetle GSR is easier to find in the car park than the Toyota GT86
Ground hugging but slightly uninterestingly styled sporting machine vs upright bright yellow caricature – go figure.
7) Your other half will like the Volkswagen Beetle GSR more than they like the Toyota GT86
Trust us on this. Assuming you can get them to not worry too much about the graphics, your S.O. – or indeed your recreational intercourse companion – will almost certainly prefer the ‘sensible’ front-wheel drive Volkswagen to the ‘silly’ rear-wheel drive Toyota. There are various methods for verifying this. Use your own imagination.
8) The Volkswagen Beetle GSR is more exclusive than the Toyota GT86
For all that it’s a niche product, the Toyota GT86 is still a full production model. The Volkswagen Beetle GSR is limited to just 100 examples in the UK, so you’ll have to go a long way before you see another one. Not all of them will be yellow. Thank goodness.
9) The Volkswagen Beetle GSR has more grip than the Toyota GT86
One of the outstanding things about the GT86 is that Toyota has fitted it with Prius-spec eco tyres. This makes the beautifully balanced rear-wheel drive chassis all the easier to exploit. Compared to this, the Beetle feels like it’s welded to the road surface – not the most sophisticated experience, by any means, but it goes where you point it with tremendous enthusiasm. Meaning you can really make the most of its firepower, and rely on it to stop. For many this will be a much more comfortable experience, and a highly satisfactory one, to boot.
So there you have it: nine reasons why the Beetle GSR is better than the GT86.
It’s all nonsense of course. The VW may well be a cult star in the making – which we wouldn’t have believed if we hadn’t tried it – but the Toyota’s already a roundabout ruling legend in its own lifetime. If we could just find someone to do an engine swap…