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Beetle breaks 205 mph barrier at Bonneville

Specially-tuned Beetle LSR clocked over 330 km/h in the flying mile

Published: September 19, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: September 23, 2016, 2:39 AM

Volkswagen Beetle LSR

Volkswagen Beetle LSR

This is reportedly the world’s fastest Beetle. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct-injected 4-cylinder engine, it has navigated the flying mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats with a speed of over 330 km/h.

Specially tuned by Volkswagen of America, the Beetle LSR clocked a speed of 205.122 mph (330.11 km/h) over a flying mile (so called because the car is already moving as it’s timed between two points a mile apart) at the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA) 2016 World of Speed event in Wendover, Utah. Driven by Automobile magazine contributing Editor Preston Lerner, it is the fasted speed ever recorded for the compact coupe.

“We are completely thrilled with the Beetle LSR’s performance at Bonneville,” said Dr. Hendrik Muth, Senior Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy for Volkswagen of America. “The Beetle is not 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. This feat truly underscores the sporty and pugnacious spirit of the Beetle.”

The powertrain was specially modified by THR Manufacturing of Santa Paula, California, with new turbochargers, pistons and cylinder heads, camshafts and connecting rods to produce 543 hp and 421 lb-ft of torque. The factory Beetle R-Line’s 2.0 Turbo “four” makes 210 and 207, respectively, and has its top speed limited to 210 km/h.

Volkswagen Beetle LSR

Other performance changes included a lowered suspension (for aerodynamics) and the addition of a limited slip differential (to aid traction). Also added were a pair of parachutes (for braking), while the wheels and tires were of a special formulation to handle the salt of the surface. Also on board was a full racing roll cage and the required fire-extinquishing equipment.

“Exceeding 200 miles per hour in the Beetle LSR was a serious thrill,” said driver Lerner. “We had enough power to go even faster if the salt hadn’t been so sketchy. But seeing 208 miles per hour briefly on the digital readout was an experience I’ll never forget.”

And although the 330 km/h speed is impressive, we believe it should be asterisked as the world’s fastest beetle.

Japanese Tiger Beetle

There’s no denying it goes considerably faster than the noted record holder for fast beetles, the Japanese Tiger Beetle can reportedly hit a top speed of just 9 km/h, but the wee bug can cover 125 times its body length (on average, about 20 mm) every second. By comparison, the 4,278 mm Beetle LSR travels only 21.5 times its body length every second … a considerable 83% slower.

To put it another way, if the Japanese Tiger Beetle were the size of a VW Beetle and able to retain its acceleration, it would be capable of achieving a speed of over 1,925 km/h. Yeah, that’s fast. And, of course, scary, considering it would be the size of a compact car.