ODE TO THE DUNE BUGGY
Volkswagen is tapping into the nostalgia for Beetles of yesteryear with their hip-looking Dune model. That’s Dune, as in dune buggy. It captures the “iconic spirit of Baja Beetles” according to Joerg Somer, Volkswagen’s VP of Marketing. However, don’t expect to be climbing over mountains of sand in the Dune, it’s designed for street duty.
If you don’t mind staying on the pavement, there is a lot to like about the new Dune. For one thing, it’s a head-turner. This car got more looks while I had it than sports cars of twice the price. Volkswagen tricked out this Beetle with a lot of eye candy.
The designers started with the nose, and gave it a rugged look with a wide. silver trimmed air intake. Next to it are serious-looking fog lights in black housings. Moving to the flanks, black wheelwell extenders highlight distinctive 18-inch alloy wheels, and black trim strips on the lower part of the doors simulate the original Beetle running boards. A “Dune” graphic, above the trim, tells others what you’re driving. The rear of this Beetle gets styling upgrades too, with a large spoiler and LED taillights.
The interior carries over the nostalgia theme with a body-colored dash and windowsills. Eye-catching sport seats, with cloth mesh inserts and contrasting stitching add to the charm of this car. The stitching on my test car was yellow, and complemented the deep yellow paint on the bodywork.
Gauges and controls on the Dune are straightforward. A small 6.3-inch, touchscreen in the center dash works like a smartphone, although the graphics wash out in the sun. A rearview camera, Bluetooth and park-distance assist are standard. So is VW’s automatic post-collision braking system that minimizes damage after impact. An optional Technology package adds keyless entry/start, automatic AC and a Fender sound system.
Room up front will please most passengers, but in the back, it’s very tight, as you might expect, and the seatbacks are bolt upright. Trunk space is limited as well, at just seven cu-ft.
Volkswagen offers the Dune in both coupe and convertible versions. The soft top on my test car retracted in just 10 seconds. This top can be raised or lowered on the fly, as long as you’re going 30 mph or less. The standard vinyl boot cover, while a little bulky, is not hard to install. An available windscreen over the backseat adds to top-down comfort by minimizing wind buffeting in the cabin.
VW offers two engines in its Beetle lineup, a 1.8-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder with 170 horsepower, and a larger two-liter turbo that pumps out 240. The Dune comes only with the smaller motor. It’s hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels. I found the engine to be peppy, and the gearbox to be quite responsive.
The Dune is a fun car to drive, especially on back roads with the top down. It’s not a sports car, but it’s not just a boulevard cruiser either. The suspension is nicely buttoned- down, and the quick steering enables the car to turn on a dime. The ride is comfortable too, not to soft and not too firm. Top-down driving on the freeway can be noisy, but with the top up, it’s quite manageable.
Dune prices start at $24,815 for the coupe, and bump up to $30, 215 for the convertible. My convertible test car, with the optional Technology package, had a bottom line of $31,210.
Fun To Drive