This is the limited edition Volkswagen Beetle GSR. Just 100 examples are coming to the UK. I booked the thing in for review and it still took me by surprise when I saw it in the car park.
No amount of over-photoshopped press imagery – VW’s German press office being particularly prone to that kind of nonsense – can possibly prepare you for the impact of this car in the actual metal. It screams ATTENTION SEEKER like almost nothing else I’ve ever seen. Even the bright orange 911 I drove to the Frankfurt Motor Show last year at least had performance as an excuse.
To be fair, so does the Beetle GSR to a certain extent. It’s a modern re-imagining of a 1970s model based on the 1303 S, with GSR standing for Gelb-Schawrze Renner back in the day – Gold-Black Racer in German. In 2014 you’ll get various alternative suggestions, including Gun Shot Residue from those who’ve been watching too much CSI (hello @Tristan_Young…) and some vague notion about Kawasaki motorbikes. But I digress.
The point is, as well as being YELLow with an excessive amount of black graphics, as well as having bigger R Line bumpers, 19-inch alloy wheels and a significantly engorged boot spoiler, the modern Beetle GSR has a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 210hp. It achieves this with a turbocharger, naturally. You probably noticed the Turbo badge on the boot lid. Possibly the nastiest detail of the lot.
Anyway. By the time I left the office tonight it was dark, which had the advantage of toning down the asbo-magnet exterior, but meant I also couldn’t see the yellow and black detailing of the interior (combined with the optional black exterior paint, this would almost be at risk of being tasteful). Even without daylight there’s no missing the auxiliary gauge pods on the dash top, however; you can make up your own mind about that.
Inserting the key and firing up the Beetle (not quite got the same ring to it, has it…), two things strike me immediately. First there’s the pleasingly thrummy engine note – very promising – and then there’s the brakes, which are unexpectedly low speed snatchy. Or least, unexpected for me, given I’ve spent the last few weeks driving another performance Volkswagen, the Golf GTD.
A bit of faffing about in the car park reveals a nicely snicky manual gearchange and underlines the delight that is a firm, thin-rimmed steering wheel. The GSR feels taught, and precise, and we’re off out into the night.
Since this is only the first five minutes, I won’t dwell on the driving experience thus far. Suffice to say it has plenty of poke, but if my eight-mile journey home is anything to go by you’re going to want to be wary of unexpected bumps… the suspension is on the brittle side of solid. Look out for the full review.