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Specially Tuned VW Beetle Hits 205 MPH In Record Land Speed Run

You'd never know it to look at a the VW Beetle, but, believe it or not, when tuned correctly it can compete with the hypercars of the world, easily hitting 205 mph, which it did recently on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Posted: September 20, 2016 - 9:04AM
Author: Marc Stern

When you look at a Beetle, what do you make of it? Honestly, how do you feel about the gently rounded lines that look something like a motorized baseball cap (think about it)? You wouldn’t believe that a Beetle could be a performance machine, would you?

Let’s face it; a Beetle is a Beetle is a Beetle. It’s an excellent vehicle with nice, but somewhat dated styling that draws more on the 1950s and 60s than 2016. So how is it possible, you might wonder, for a Beetle to set a new land speed record of 205.122 mph over a flying mile (the VW passes one point, and the timing starts and ends when the vehicle passes the finish)?

Improbably But Very True

It’s not all that hard to believe that it might be a runner, though it does seem highly improbable when you consider it over your morning – or afternoon – coffee. Still, VW announced on Monday that a specially tuned Beetle LSR, powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder TSI gasoline engine did set a new record, with a contributing editor to Automobile magazine at the wheel.

Preston Lerner pushed the VW to its new record on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah at the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA) 2016 World of Speed event.

To handle the heavy-lifting needed to make the 200-plus mph run happen, while keeping within the rules, THR Manufacturing, based in Santa Paula, Calif., specially modified the powertrain. They installed new turbochargers, pistons, camshafts, connecting rods and head modifications to handle the massive load that produced 543 horsepower and 421 pounds-feet of torque. If that figure isn’t amazing enough, look at the stress the flywheel had to handle, more than 600 horsepower and 500 pounds-feet.

Dr. Hendrik Muth, senior vice president of product marketing and strategy for Volkswagen of America, said that the automaker was “completely thrilled with the Beetle LSR’s performance at Bonneville.” Muth admitted that the Beetle isn’t the “most aerodynamic car in our portfolio, so running 205 mph is a testament to the power that can be made from the EA888 TSI four-cylinder engine.” The feat “underscores the sporty and pugnacious spirit of the Beetle.”

Special Wheels, Tires

Of course, the Beetle had more than a few other changes to make the achievement occur. For example, the suspension was lowered, and special Salt Flat wheels and tires were installed. Also, a limited-slip differential assisted with traction and full safety equipment was installed that featured a rollcage, racing seat and harness and fire-suppression system. To make way for the added equipment, the interior was stripped and reoutfitted.

And, a pair of parachutes was installed just to help the screaming Beetle slow down.

Lerner, the driver, called “exceeding 200 miles per hour … a serious thrill.” Alluding to the surface conditions, he said the VW had more than enough power in reserve to “go even faster.” And, they did hit 208 briefly, the writer noted, calling it “an experience I’ll never forget.”

In stock form, the Beetle R-Line coupe features a turbocharged EA888 powerplant, direct-injection 2.0-liter TSI gasoline engine that cranks out 210 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque. This combination gives the Beetle a 0 to 60 time of 6.6 seconds. The top end is electronically governed at 130 mph.

Strong, Flexible Engine

The EA888 powerplant is a flexible engine that can be lugged down to as low as 1,700 rpm and yet it can quickly deliver peak torque, giving the Beetle smooth, effortless acceleration in all gears. The R-Line comes with a standard six-speed manual. A dual-clutch DSG six-speed automatic is also available.

The record-setting Beetle adhered to Southern California Timing Association G/BGC rules.