The VW Beetle Dune Concept caught the eye of VW enthusiasts back at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show and the German company turned that attention into something very interesting. Amid all the diesel scandals and emission concerns, the folks at VW are offering another trim level for the Beetle, and this takes the Bug in a whole new direction.
Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged engine making 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 25 MPG City, 34 MPG highway, 28 MPG Combined
Pricing: Starts at $24,815
While the Volkswagen Beetle is already a completely competent coupe, there’s a distinctly ‘cute’ aspect to it. The R-Line helps a bit, with its bigger engine and sportier look. But now, as the Dune demonstrates, the Beetle doesn’t have to look cute or sporty; it can look tough.
A blacked out honeycomb grille, thick spoiler, black accented wheel arches and unique 18-inch wheels help make this car look a bit more rugged, but it’s the new front and rear fascias and bumpers that really make the Dune stand out. Up front the lower grill design gives the beetle a frown-like scowl, and the rear of the vehicle features a unique diffuser that doubles as a skid plate.
The aggressive stance is also achieved by the cars extra ride height. While the concept we saw nearly two years ago featured two-inches of extra ground clearance, the production version of the Beetle Dune rides 0.4 inches taller, though overall width has increased by 0.6 inches. While this means the Beetle Dune isn’t the Baja Bug successor we were hoping it would be, the additional ride height helps the coupe handle bumps and rougher terrain like gravel.
The drive through northern Nevada was littered with different road conditions, and it helped prove how the Dune is capable of handling the rigours of commuting all year long in just about any climate. Only offered with front wheel drive, its hard to imagine that the Dune will be going anywhere that its namesake would hint at, even if that yellow paint finish, called Sandstorm, is inspired by the desert.
Under the Hood
Under the hood is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This is another departure from the original concept, which originally suggested the awesome 2.0-liter engine as the Dune’s power plant. This would be a bigger concern if the 1.8T was a dud, but as we’ve seen in many other VWs on sale today, the new engine is responsive and fuel efficient, earning 25 MPG in the city, 34 MPG on the highway, and 28 MPG combined. Sure it isn’t a rocket, but if you want the sportiest Beetle, go for the R-Line. Instead the Dune is a rough and tumble coupe with everyday liveability.
That’s most noticeable with the steering and suspension. While the R-Line Beetles are known to be a bit stiff, the Dune is softer, and while the steering isn’t overly communicative, it’s tight enough to be enjoyable. Unlike those old Baja Bugs, the Beetle Dune won’t beat you up, or give you headaches in terms of noisiness. In comparison, the Beetle Dune downright coddles you.
Interior and Features
The exterior finish extends to the interior of the car, with yellow-orange stitching and trim. Unlike other VWs the Beetle Dune doesn’t have a conservative looking interior, although it is very practical. The steering wheel of the Dune is especially nice, with an emblem exclusive to the trim level attached to it.
The Dune comes with the new MIB II infotainment system, which includes support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. This trim also comes with a rear-view camera and parking sensors. There’s a $1,695 technology package offered that includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a Fender branded audio system, push-button start and a sunroof. There’s also a lighting package, that includes Bi-Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights is also offered for $795.
The Verdict: 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Review
Starting at $24,815 after delivery, the Beetle Dune represents excellent value. It stands out, drives well, and has a ton of features. A convertible version of the car is also going to be offered, sporting the same enhancements, but without a roof. While its not the Baja Bug we hoped for, or the awesome concept we saw a few years ago, the Dune is just what the Beetle needed, a tough looking trim package that’s loaded with value.
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