'What a way to say goodbye' - VW Beetle R-line driven

UPDATE: We’ve added comment from VWSA regarding the Beetle in SA

Customers in SA will still be able to purchase the new Beetle until 2019.

VWSA says: “Customers are still able to place an order with their local dealer who in turn will log this with Volkswagen South Africa and we will then bring in batches as required, the next shipment is due March 2018 and this will continue into 2019." 

Cape Town - I must admit, I had no idea what to expect from the Volkswagen Beetle R-line.

For one, it’s the automaker’s most recent Beetle and two… the only Beetle I had previously experienced was the one hippies used to paint flowers on during the 60s and 70s.

'I've got the bug'

While testing the Beetle for a week, it grew on me and by the end of my experience behind the wheel, I, well, got bitten by the 'Bug'.

Image: Rouel van Nelson

The Beetle is regarded as one of the most important cars in automotive history, despite its controversial 'founder'; In the 1930s it was then German chancellor Adolf Hitler’s idea to produce a cheap, economical family car, eventually being dubbed the Volkswagen or  'Peoples car'. Ferdinand Porsche and his team took until 1938 to finalise the design. 

READ: Ford Mustang, Bugatti Veyron: 5 of the most important cars in auto history

Throughout the 1960s and 70s the Beetle became incredibly popular. People painted their Beetles with flowers, peace signs and a kaleidoscope of colour. It's a Volkswagen with a long, lustrous history.

So has the baton been passed on to a worthy heir in the form of the 2017 Beetle? Despite its hefty price tag (R419 000)… my answer would be a resounding yes and here’s why.

A must have in red

The Beetle R-line is a stunning little car. I feel the colour it's best suited for is VW's Tornado Red paint job and not the pure white or white/silver metallic options available. Along with such a radical colour, the Bug comes with led taillights, Bi-Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.

The Beetle R-line sports distinctive 18" Ravenna adamantium rims, a space and weight-saving spare wheel, gloss black mirror housing, black wheel arch flares and black and chrome side protection panels.

Image: Rouel van Nelson

It turns heads wherever I went, usually followed by a nod or a thumbs up from passerbys. Most of the appreciation came from fellow Beetle owners, whether it be the old or new models. 

If this is the kind of attention the Beetle gets in 2017, I can only imagine how popular it must have been in the 60s and 70s.

Only 50 R-line Models were made for SA and one can come to the conclusion that this was Volkswagen’s attempt at making a ‘badder’ bug.  Has VW succeeded in doing so?  Definitely, It’s a car for a 2017 and beyond, it’s the adult who loves to look at memes while wearing a fresh pair of white sneakers. 

But that’s not where the fun stops… it gets better the more time you spend behind the wheel.

The Beetle R-line is a car you’d want to drive all the time.

It's is powered by a 1.4 TSI engine with 110kW and 250Nm. Volkswagen claims the fuel consumption is 5.7-litres/100km. It's fitted with the firm's dual-clutch gearbox (DSG). 
Before I delve into what it's like to drive, its fuel consumption that gets my stamp of approval as it's achievable despite spirited driving.

In the Beetle, I travelled quite a bit - more than 350km. I was left with exactly a quarter tank, that’s pretty impressive from any turbo-charged engine.

The drive was fun, pleasurable and very inviting. With 110kW, you have just about enough power for easy overtaking and that’s about all you need. Also, 18’’ is a lot of rubber to handle which explains why it may feel slightly heavy at the steering wheel. Nevertheless, its not something to worry about at all.

Just don’t be fooled by the ‘R’ badge. While driving I felt that the Beetle R-line would have been a much, much better car with a power increase but then again…  that was just my inner petrolhead whispering in my ear. Sprucing up the Beetle would come at  the sacrifice of the Beetle’s ‘essence’, which is being a stylish, easy to drive, economic and fun car to own. 

In a nutshell, the driving experience is as refreshing as the Bettle is to gaze at. Sadly though, this is where the road ends for the Beetle, the last one… a swansong of note.

I feel that Volkswagen combined every single ingredient that made the Beetle such an icon and made a vehicle worthy of a send-off. 

One thing was for sure, VW was never going to mess around with its design. Yes it might have gotten slightly bigger but it remained a Beetle forever. The R-line Beetle is economical and practical enough for a family of four. And just for a little x-factor (a characteristic always associated with the Bug), VW decided to give it a slight injection of pace with its 1.4-litre turbo charged TSI engine. 

That’s a lot of pedigree into one Beetle and I have to say VW got it together with this one. If there was ever a way to bow out and drop the mic… what a way to do so!

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