In late 1972, Volkswagen introduced a ‘performance’ version of the Beetle called the GSR. Unlike the Mitsubishi moniker that you may be more familiar with, GSR here stood for ‘Gelb Schwarzer Renner’ – or ‘yellow-black racer’, which is how they were delivered. Output from the 1.6-liter flat-four was a meager 50 horsepower, but the GSR did get styled steel wheels and sport seats.
Fast forward to 2014, and Volkswagen decided to reintroduce the GSR. The R-Line name meant that it was the turbocharged variant, so performance was quite a bit more impressive than the original. The GSR was equipped with a 210-horsepower FSI motor, sport suspension, 19″ wheels, leather upholstery, special trim, a rear spoiler, xenon headlights, a sunroof, and a few special trim pieces to help you stand out.
Okay, the last converted Pickup was a bit of a letdown in everything but concept:
2002 Volkswagen Jetta Smyth Pickup
Well, as luck would have it, another popped up. This one is based on the much curvier Beetle, and as you’d probably guess (or can see) the results are as retro-inspired as the New Beetle was. So let’s check out the execution of this kit and what it’ll set you back today:
Okay, so although the New Beetle definitely isn’t the most exciting car we’ve written up on these pages, there were some bright points. Since the architecture was essentially just a Golf underneath, you had some pretty fun performance options, like the Turbo S:
2002 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo S
Then, of course, to kick it up a few notches there was the Volkswagen Motorsport Beetle RSi – a 3.2-liter powered, all-wheel drive monster. It was basically an R32, but it was somehow way, way better – but only 250 were made, and we’re unfortunately not here to look at one. There were plenty of other special editions of the New Beetle produced, but this isn’t one of them, either. No, this is a fairly basic 2000 GLS – replete with a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 115 horsepower and a 4-speed auto. So why are we here? Well, it’s 2021, and things are about to get interesting!
Rather unceremoniously, 2020 marks the death of an automotive icon. The very last Volkswagen Beetle rolled from the third generation production line in Puebla, Mexico in July and while you can log in to VW’s website and still see the model listed, existing stock is all that’s left. The two most recent Beetles never really achieved the notoriety of the original, but nonetheless they offered a welcome break from the standard three-box design and were decidedly anti-SUV. You don’t have to like them, but you can respect that they were different.
In the case of the third-generation Beetle, I think they were actually pretty good looking, too. Spacious, economical, and good-to-drive thanks to a shared Golf MQB platform, several special models graced dealerships in an attempt to sway buyers. Here’s one – the ‘Dune’. More a fashion statement than an actual Baja Bug, the Dune added .2″ of ground clearance and a half an inch of plastic moldings all around. Faux skid plates, special decals, a huge spoiler and polished door sills rounded out the exterior trim additions. Power came from the familiar 1.8T shared with the Passat, Golf and Jetta models (among others worldwide), and gave you 170 horsepower channeled only through a 6-speed automatic:
I’ve talked in previous posts about how in the early 1990s, the standard Jetta was pretty hard to get excited about because of the other neat products at your local VW dealership. But the Jetta was done a service by the birth of its new sibling – the New Beetle. Looking a bit like a Golf with mumps, the New Beetle was gimmicky and a clever marketing exercise, but as an enthusiast it was about as far from desirable as you could get. Adding to that was that a majority of early examples were tied to the “2.Slow” and had an automatic transmission – now you were stuck in a slow fish bowl.
To make it more appealing, nearly since its inception VW has had special editions of the Beetle pretty much every year. 2018’s are the ‘Convertible Coast’, which has a “surfboard-look appearance dashboard” and the ‘Dune’, which comes with a free VHS copy of the eponymous movie I think. 2017 included the ‘Classic’ model which had a special interior. But for special interiors, we need to talk about 2016’s ‘Denim’ edition. It was a throwback to the 1970s, when Volkswagen launched multiple ‘Jeans’ editions of the original Beetle, replete with “denim-style” fabric. But these two weren’t the only times that a Volkswagen attempted to capture America’s favorite pantalones:
Where to start….where to start….
So, in the realm of ‘Least Desirable Volkswagen Products’ enthusiasts bemoan, the New Beetle must surely rank very high on the list. But every once in a while one pops up that is worthy of consideration. Maybe they have low mileage or are a neat color. Sometimes they’re turbocharged, making them pretty quick, too – all attributes of this 1999 example. Presented in L9L9 Cyber Green Metallic, it’s traveled only 23,000 miles in its life and its the more macho 1.8T speedbug. Though it’s clearly not stock, we’ve recently looked at a well modified Beetle that pulled off big-dollar mods at a budget price.
Tuner Tuesday GCFSB Alumnus: 2002 Ruf Volkswagen Beetle Turbo S Concept
So when I first caught the gallery shot, it looked as though the owner of this car tried to replicate the super-sweet Beetle RSI – not a bad thing, if it was pulled off correctly.
This one is not pulled off correctly.
However, if you’d like a few chuckles, read on.
Update 2/16/18: After showing as sold in November for $14,900, the mega-cool Ruf Bug is back again for the same $14,900 ask.
This is a car which has haunted these pages since we first began writing up German cars, if you can believe it. Originally, Aaron wrote this car up nearly 6 years ago to the day – November 8, 2011. Back then, the seller was asking an incredibly steep $60,000. Three years later in 2014, Paul spotted it again and revisited the concept. It was then up for sale for a scarcely more reasonable $50,000. In both cases, it was really hard to justify the substantial premium even if it was a neat looking car.
Fast forward to today, and we’re finally getting somewhere. Although the car appears to have changed little since 2014, the asking price is now $14,900. Mileage is far below average at only 51,722 and condition generally looks very good. It has only accrued 10,000 miles in the last three years. Although this car lacks true RUF credentials, the general concept pulls together pretty well and the execution looks nice. Is this the one to have? It’s certainly a lot more compelling than a standard Beetle in many ways and has big dollar mods, but do those mods justify a $11,000 premium over a standard Turbo S?
The below post originally appeared on our site November 9, 2011:
The New Beetle isn’t a car which often featured on these pages. In fact, I can only find three times since we’ve started this site that they’ve come up. Considering that we’ve written up about 1,200 M3s in that same time period, I guess our stance on the Golf-based image car is pretty clear. However, the bones of the New Beetle aren’t really all that bad; based on the Mk.4 chassis, there are plenty of parts available and they’re cheap to buy. They offer a pretty practical hatchback package with some additional style. And, in turbocharged 1.8T form, they even offered a sporty ride.
Introduced in 2002, the Turbo S turned that package up a notch with help from the GTI. Underneath, the AWP-code 1.8T was rated at 180 horsepower at 11.6 lbs of boost, and had matching 173 lb.ft of torque. The transversely-mounted power was channeled through the same 6-speed manual you’d find in VW’s hot hatch and no automatic was available. Volkswagen outfit these cars with standard stability control and loaded them up with Monsoon sound, sunroof, active aerodynamics, leather, aluminum trim, power accessories and keyless entry. They also got special white and black gauges inside and a more pronounced twin-tip exhaust, along with fog lights integrated into new bumper covers. To help manage the speed, Volkswagen’s 1BE lower and stiffer suspension package was fit, along with BBS-made “Delta X” 17″ wheels with 225-45-17 tires. The package was pricey, at nearly $24,000 in 2002 – a not unsubstantial amount, considering that money would get you into the much nicer chassis of the Passat in wagon form at the same time. Unlike the pastel-toned entry colors of the New Beetle, the Turbo S was only available in Black, Silver, Platinum or Red with a total of 5,000 produced. Volkswagen hoped that these sporty changes would re-character the model which had primarily appealed in only one sexual demographic. Did it work?