Let it never be said that Volkswagen doesn’t know how to treat its guests. When they invited me over to Germany for the Beetle Sunshine Tour, it was to drive Beetles. And drive I did. From the many Beetles, new and old, that I drove, by far the best was the New Beetle RSi.

For those who don’t remember, the New Beetle RSi was a special edition, only 250 of which were made between 2001 and 2003. The car was widened by three inches, its suspension was tuned, and it sent 225 hp and 234 lb-ft torque from the VR6 stuffed under its hood to all four wheels. Sound familiar?


Yes, the Beetle RSi is basically an R32 before such a thing existed. That said, there are some differences. When the R32 came out it was billed as the pinnacle of VW performance, safety, and luxury and it’s that last item in the list where the RSi differs. The RSi has Recaro bucket sears, hand-crank windows, and carbon fiber sprinkled around the cabin. The seats, after an hour or so become catastrophically uncomfortable. The radio was locked and I never figured out how to turn it on, and the noise in the cabin was deafening, but all of this means nothing when you’re in car that’s so much damn fun to drive.

The throttle, oh God the throttle. It’s so responsive, so blippy, so well connected to that throaty VR6 that it feels prescient. Gears are selected via a tiny, notchy gear lever that’s so much fun to use that you start making up reasons to shift.

The VR6, meanwhile, pulls well when you put your foot down, not that I really taxed it all that much. Getting onto the autobahn, though, is stupid fun. The 4Motion all-wheel drive system gets you plenty of Gs around the on-ramp and the tuned suspension and 18” OZ Racing wheels give you all the confidence you need to drive this one-off car without fear.

I say one-off, because this Beetle RSi, number 002 of 250, is blue, unlike all the other RSis, which are silver. That may seem like a mildly interesting, but ultimately unimportant detail, but it comes as a result of a request from a pretty special person. It was none other than Ferdinand Piech, who led VW to its current global position, for whom the car was built and it was painted blue because, apparently, all of his other cars were too. Now it belongs to Volkswagen Classics, who take care of it as one of their many historically significant VWs.

When it came out, the Beetle RSi cost the equivalent of about $80,000. This blue one isn’t for sale, but if you want a silver one, expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 euros . Although getting it back to America would be a difficulty since they were never sold here. Canadians, though, can now import them and should. It’s a silly, expensive, well built car, that’s a serious amount of fun and the wider world ought to have access to it.

Design Studie New Beetle RSi 2000