Forty years ago, the sportiest version of the classic Volkswagen Beetle made its debut. Called the GSR (Gelb Schwarzer Renner or “Yellow Black Racer”), the vehicle was based on a 1303S and was instantly recognizable by its color scheme. Just 3500 units were built and they are now collectors’ items.
Today, at the Chicago Auto Show, Volkswagen of America, Inc. pays homage to that 1970s’ model with the world unveiling of the 2014 Beetle GSR. Striking in yellow and black, just like its predecessor, the GSR also debuts an uprated version of the award-winning EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder TSI® engine that generates 210 horsepower. This engine will be fitted to the Jetta GLI and Beetle Turbo during the 2013 model year, boosting their power by 10 hp.
With this new car, Volkswagen has re-interpreted the 1970s GSR for the modern era. The bodyshell of the 1973 Beetle was painted yellow, while the hood, trunklid, and bumpers were finished in matte black. The look was rounded out by black trim strips underneath the side windows and black rocker panels. Yellow and black link old and new: the body and the R-Line® bumpers on the new GSR are predominantly yellow, the hood is mainly black, and the trunklid, roof, and the exterior mirror caps are all black. The new car has yellow/black stripes with “GSR” lettering above the side skirts and a large rear spoiler to complete the look. The stance of the new car is very different, as it rides on 19-inch “Tornado” aluminum-alloy wheels shod with 235/40 tires, compared with the original GSR’s 15-inch steel wheels and 175-section tires, which were quite common even on sporty cars back then. The new GSR also features black-painted brake calipers.
Then as now, the GSR features a unique interior with a yellow/black theme, sport seats, and a leather sport steering wheel. The new GSR is a lot more sophisticated, however. The black-trimmed leather sport seats and high-grip leather steering wheel both have contrasting yellow stitching, for example. Other interior changes include an R-Line dash pad, a GSR shift lever, a leather handbrake lever, and black floormats with contrasting yellow embroidery. A badge on the steering wheel is marked with the special-edition number (1 through 3500) to emphasize the uniqueness of the car.
Forty years ago, the Beetle GSR had all of 50 horsepower, enough to give it the requisite performance for a sporty compact of the time. But the modern world demands much more under the hood. The new GSR’s 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque enable the car to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds and to reach an electronically governed top track speed of 130 mph. Most impressively, the engine delivers peak torque from as low as 1700 rpm, giving smooth, effortless acceleration in all the gears. The GSR is standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but a dual-clutch DSG® six-speed automatic transmission will be an option.
Just like its predecessor, only 3500 GSR models will be made—and more than half of those will be sold in the U.S. Since the GSR is based on the Beetle Turbo with Sunroof and Sound model, it comes comprehensively equipped with the Fender® Premium Audio System; a panoramic sunroof; Keyless access with push-button start; Bi-Xenon headlights with LED DRLs; LED license-plate lighting; heatable front seats; Bluetooth® connectivity; a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod® cable; three-color ambient lighting; aluminum-alloy pedals; and three auxiliary instruments that include a clock with a stopwatch function and a boost gauge. The Volkswagen Beetle GSR will go on sale in the fall as a 2014 model; pricing will be announced closer to launch.