Today we got our first stint behind the wheel in Volkswagen's 2014 Beetle Turbo, now named R-Line. This trim guise brings a more aggressive front fascia with chrome accents, a new rear bumper that better highlights the dual exhaust tips, and unique R-Ling badges on the front fenders.
Our six-speed manual Beetle R-Line with Sunroof and Sound had 18” wheels with 235/45 tires. Standard halogen headlamps are found up front. If you choose the top grade Beetle R-Line Sunroof, Sound and Navigation you will get Xenon headlights, LED driving lights and larger 19” wheels.
The overall look of the R-Line styling is more sporting and masculine than the 2013 Beetle Turbo. The chrome accents dress the car up a bit, and we liked the cornering lights at night which light up your path when you turn.
The interior as expected offers up excellent fit and finish, attention to detail, and lots of high quality materials. Our tester had tightly bolstered manually adjustable sport seats with a comfortable cloth that we liked quite well. Even with the cloth seats you get heaters
The leather wrapped steering wheel had a sporty squared off bottom and had easy to use controls for audio and the instrument cluster. The six-speed manual shifter is the best feeling of any Volkswagen I've driven yet, but remains long in throw.
The Fender audio system is well worth the step up in price, offering 400 watts that blasts through 8 speakers and a sub-woofer. The sound quality is phenomenal giving you a boom you can feel from the sub-woofer, even though it does take up a bit of space in the trunk.
Of note, we wished the sunroof shade had an opaque material. The open weave mesh of the R-Line's shade allows about 30% light through when closed which makes it feel like a heat lamp over your head even with the air-conditioning on.
Out on the road, handling is as tight and precise as the Golf GTI, only the tuning is a but softer in spring rate. A multi-link rear suspension is now standard across the Beetle line and struts up front give a well connected feel that rarely disappoints.
The R-Line has larger 12.3” front disc brakes which are noticeably stronger than the base 11.3” binders. The electronic power steering is still a bit vague, though weighted well for aggressive driving.
There is a bit of torque steer under full power, and on the windy rough roads the suspension gets a little unsettled. Under power on rough curves the steering gets a little light and unsettled at times, offering a bit of unwanted kickback.
The 2.0 liter direct-injected turbocharged engine performs well, offering up a healthy 210 horsepower for 2014. In the hills here it gives a nice push in the back that was a good friend with the six-speed manual transmission. Traction control is ever present, and cannot be turned off.
The drive-by-wire throttle's tuning is wanting for more driver control. The computer clearly has a strong influence here, only allowing full throttle immediacy when it feels it appropriate. If you arent in the right gear or other factors come into play, your order aren't always followed on deck.
The drive-by-wire throttle is all about fuel economy though, and the Beetle R-Line doesn't disappoint. It's rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. In our time with the Beetle we saw as high as 38 mpg on the freeway, with an average combined observed 28 mpg.
Our 2014 Beetle R-Line Turbo came in at a total price of $28,650 including destination. That puts it in the middle between the entry level R-Line and the most expensively outfitted.
In the end, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle is still a nostalgic car which by its nature is meant to appeal to a wider band of customers than say a Golf GTI. Therefore it's a little softer around the edges and doesn't offer highly focused performance features you might expect in one. The Beetle is a more well rounded package.