First Drives

26 November 2013

First drive: 500bhp VW ‘Superbeetle’

We get behind the wheel of the world’s maddest Beetle. Lots of lag. Lots of fun

Vijay Pattni
Car image

What on earth is that?

It’s called the VWVortex ‘Superbeetle’. It’s got 500bhp. 500bhp from a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder TSI engine. It has four-wheel-drive, and a bodykit to make people of a certain persuasion weak at the knees.

Why do that to a Beetle?

The Beetle celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2013. VW sounded the tuner klaxon, and VWVortex responded with something a little bolder than average: 500 horses under one bonnet.

It’s a conversation that Volkswagen of America initially laughed off, but once the Vortex team got over VW’s initial reticence – and laughter – they had already sourced a Beetle for the project, and indeed a written-off Golf R donor car. They just needed the blessing from the mothership to butcher a Beetle and create a monster.

And then?

Many phonecalls happened to various suppliers, a lot of tea was consumed, and a lot of engineering was done.

What sort of engineering?

Well, the Superbeetle’s rear multilink suspension and Haldex AWD coupling comes from the donor Golf R (complete with the Golf R rear crossmember and tyre well welded into place), though the front subframe comes from an Audi TTRS (the Golf R’s one was millimetres too short to fit underneath the Beetle). There are H&R springs, shocks and sway bars, Volkswagen Racing six piston brakes up front, and Golf R32 brake calipers on the rear.

And then there’s the engine.

What about it?

It’s the EA888 2-litre taken from the new Beetle, here stripped down to its barest essence and entirely rebuilt by the chaps at APR. This involves: new rods, ceramic bearings, high-strength pistons, a Garrett GTX2867R turbo, new manifolds (made from Iconel that withstands very high temps), a huge intercooler, and a road racing clutch with a Kevlar disc and steel flywheel.

Then there’s a limited slip diff and a VW Racing short shift kit to work with the six-speed manual and of course, that Haldex four-wheel-drive system from the Golf R donor car.

Woah. And the looks?

It comes with replacement bumpers from Japanese tuner Newing – the front reminiscent of the Porsche 911, no less – 19in wheels, a matt blue wrap (it’s a vinyl film), and a pair of Recaro sports seats.

And what’s the result?

It’s a ruddy loon, is what it is. There’s a tremendous amount of turbo lag, that big Garrett taking its sweet time to spool up. When it does, you’d better be ready, because the ‘Superbeetle’ is really, really fast. No quoted 0-100kph times, but considering a regular Golf R does it in 4.9, we’d suggest something in the region of low 4s.

It feels decidedly old-school, and we rather admire it for that. You plant your foot, wait for a bit, then suddenly everything just detonates in a ball of grip and noise and go. The steering isn’t the last word in feel, the six-speeder could use a little more fluidity, but the brakes are stonking, and the suspension copes admirably. Not twitchy, not rock hard, just firm, stable and quick. Plus, because it’s four-wheel-drive, you can literally throw it wherever you want. We did, and it was bloody good fun.

Can I buy one?

It’s a one-off, but we’re sure if your chequebook – and VWVortex’s patience – is big enough, they’ll build you one just like this.

Tags: volkswagen, beetle, superbeetle

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