Never quite slow, but not really quick either, even in R-Line trim, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle seeks a performance balance and nearly finds it.
The 2014 model year will be an odd one for Beetle buyers: the first portion of the model year saw the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder as the base engine, only to be replaced by a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, also rated at 170 horsepower, but with 16 percent greater efficiency. Slightly greater torque, available at lower rpm, could improve the driving experience over the somewhat pokey 2.5-liter.
Step up to the Beetle R-Line, which replaces the Beetle Turbo for 2014, and you'll get a 210-horsepower, 207-pound-foot 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
The extra power gives the R-Line noticeable pep and passing ability, but it still isn't quite what you'd call quick, despite the relatively light 3,042-pound curb weight of the manual-equipped car.
In either form, the Beetle is comfortable and soft-seeming under normal conditions, but manages to corner well, with no undue body roll in more spirited outings. None of the controls--steering and brakes especially--offer much in the way of communication with the driver, however.
Convertible models are a bit less rigid and a touch heavier, but the experience isn't significantly changed--unless you put the top down. Then the Beetle's easy-going attitude makes even more sense.
The most Beetle-feeling Beetle might be the TDI Clean Diesel, however. With only 140 horsepower, you might think it's the slowest of the bunch, but its 236 pound-feet of torque boost the fun factor. A shorter rev range and slight lag from the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder are overcome by the torque of the diesel, making third gear a highly tractable back-road companion.
Whichever Beetle you're after, they share a common sense of fun and simplicity behind the wheel that's refreshing--even when packing a turbocharger and a dual-clutch transmission.