Icon’s latest version a very modern vehicle with refined driving characteristics and useful features.

Volkswagen used the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas as the backdrop to hold the international launch of the Beetle Dune.

The car was sitting on a stand outside the Vdara hotel, gleaming in gold paint and looking tough for a Beetle. At first, the idea of a more rugged Dune version of a Beetle made no sense, why would anyone want a Beetle with a higher ride height, body cladding and flashy exterior details? It was only after a day behind the wheel and finding out the price of the Dune that it started to make sense.

2016 VW Beetle Dune
2016 VW Beetle Dune
2016 VW Beetle Dune
2016 VW Beetle Dune
2016 VW Beetle Dune
2016 VW Beetle Dune
2016 VW Beetle Dune

Looks
The Beetle was the car that started it all for VW, over six decades ago. The latest version of this icon is a thoroughly modern vehicle with refined driving characteristics and useful features. What hasn’t changed is the sense of whimsy that the shape of the car brings. To try to capture the dune-bug area of the 60 and 70s, VW has introduced this slightly more rugged looking version called Dune. The suspension sits 10mm higher than the regular car and the track of the wheels, side-to-side has been widened by 14mm. The wheels are 18-inches and framed by black cladding around the wheel arches and the bottom of the car. In addition, the side mirrors are painted silver, there is a black Dune logo on the side and the front and rear lower sections have a silver skid plate inspired fascia.

Inside
The Dune is available in black, white or the vibrant Sandstorm Yellow seen here. The colour of the exterior is carried inside the car across the doors and dash, even the instrument cluster is colour matched.

The Dune comes standard with two-tone seats made of leatherette and cloth, plus colour-matching stitching. There is a surprising amount of room inside the cabin, it feels open and airy, plus the back cargo is very useful, thanks to an enormous hatch and folding back seats.

The original Beetles were fun and functional and this latest version has both in spades, or hearts, since we were in Vegas! There is only one option package for the Dune; it is a tech package, which includes a 16-centimetre screen with navigation, a wonderful Fender sound system and blind spot detection system. The Dune starts at $26,990 and the tech package is an additional $1570.

Drive
Our drive left the noisy city of Las Vegas behind and within a half an hour, the Dune was carving through the Red Rock Canyon and the mountains just outside the city. With unseasonably clear and cool weather, the snowcapped mountains were the perfect backdrops for this latest VeeDub. Even though VW has equipped the Dune with what it calls a “rough road” suspension, this isn’t an off-road vehicle in any way, the added ride height really only showcases the exterior style. The on-road manners of this car are first rate, thanks to an independent suspension and upgraded front sway bar. The handling is refined and the ride is sophisticated. The star of the show is the 1.8L turbocharged engine that pumps out 170hp on regular gasoline and the only transmission in VW’s slick 6-speed automatic.

Verdict
At first glance, the Dune might seem merely a silly styling exercise but on further inspection, it is an alternative to a regular Beetle and at no extra cost.

The Dune is based on the Comfortline Beetle, yet it comes equipped with many additional features for $27,000.

The Comfortline would need to be equipped with two additional packages and that would actually bring the price higher than the Dune. So, the Dune doesn’t cost more than a nicely equipped Beetle.

After a while the idea sank in. The Beetle is for someone that wants to drive something different and the Dune takes that idea as step forward. The only complaints that I have is the fact that VW Canada, unlike the US division, will not offer a convertible version of the Dune and there is no manual transmission available.

The Dune is fun and practical, so if you like the Beetle, why not gamble on something different?
zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown
Power: 170hp 1.8L Turbo
Fill-up: N/A
Sticker price: $26,990

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