Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 7, 2016
The Baja Bugs of the 60s and 70s were air cooled Beetles that were heavily modified to operate on off-road terrain such as beaches, deserts, and sand dunes. These were iconic rear-engined buggys that went on to conquer world races and won the hearts of enthusiasts in doing so. Now, Volkswagen is trying to get customers to walk down memory lane and have conjured up yet another special edition, this one aptly named the Beetle Dune.
Paying homage to those Baja Bugs, you’ll notice that they’ve played around with the original sheetmetal, and by playing around I mean shooting up with testosterone injections. For some “off-roading” presence, they’ve beefed up the wheel arches with protective side mouldings, attached a rear spoiler that looks ripped straight off a 911 Turbo, sport seats, Bi-Xenon headlights that make it look even more Porsche-like, a new honeycomb front grill and 18-inch all-season tires.
The suspension has also been reworked for more “rough-road” control, the front and rear bumpers have been redesigned, skid plates are found on the front and side, the track is longer by 14 mm and the whole suspension has been jacked up by 10 mm for a taller ride and for better ground clearance. While this all sounds nice and dandy, that about sums up all the mechanical changes with the Dune. If you were hoping for more (as I was), you would be disappointed.
There’s no all-wheel drive, the engine is in the wrong place, only the front wheels get the power, and there is no manual transmission. What kind of Baja Bug is this? They’ve got the right colour, the right styling, the right name, but I can’t help but feel this is more of a costume than a true off-roading machine. In essence, Volkswagen is just putting on its best cosplay outfit of this signature icon.
But this is one outfit that would win some awards. The Dune is probably the best looking special-edition Beetle that has come out of their cartoonish skunkworks for quite some time. There’s so much extra character juiced out just from adding body cladding and running boards with Dune graphics all over it. There’s a great sense of retro feel too, almost worthy of giving it a special cameo in the next Mad Max movie.
The exclusive Sandstorm yellow is the highlight of the show, one that is striking enough that even Darude would approve of. It has a nice sparkle and tint, and would feel just at home on the Beetle as it would a six-figure supercar. If you’re not feeling as adventurous though, VW will sell you one in black or white as well.
Inside is all familiar territory with not much retro or off-roady themes going on here. You’ve got contrasting yellow stitching and yellow piping to complement the yellow dashboard, which is further flanked by yellow gauges. The flower vase of yore is noticeably absent – would have been cool if they brought one back filled with desert sand, or maybe a camel bobblehead, who knows.
And without stripping the cabin bare for weight savings or extra bracing for off-road trekking, this Beetle comes with everyday practicality. It’s got a sizable trunk for groceries and rear seats to fit a few suitcases and handbags. Don’t expect to fit any of your adult friends back there comfortably though.
Heated seats and a rear view camera come standard here, and the only option available is the Technology Package ($1,570) that adds blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, Discover Media radio, a premium Fender audio system, and satellite navigation. Everything else is standard Beetle, which is a good thing.
Expansive glass fills the cabin allowing for unobstructed views all around, the flat bottomed steering wheel is skinny but leathery and expensive feeling, and the highly praised infotainment has been ripped straight out of the Golf – it’s intuitive and now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
While the Dune’s driving experience won’t make you feel like a chained Tom Hardy storming down Fury Road, it is quite enjoyable. Up front is the ubiquitous TSI inline-four motor from the Golf that delivers 170-hp and 184 lb-ft through a standard torque converter six-speed transmission. It’s not VW’s lightning-quick dual-clutch gearbox, so don’t expect fast Beetlejuice shifts – this one will row at a leisurely pace.
The Dune is classic Golf driving theatre, just with a raised up chassis. There’s great power from down under, just as long as you keep the turbo spooled up above 2,000 rpm. The boosted kick is nice, and the power delivery is smooth and doesn’t get in the way of a laid-back stroll around town. When more power is demanded, it is easy to go fast and pass traffic with a prod of the throttle, and you’ll look pretty cool doing so. Besides, how could anyone get mad at a car that looks this cute?
The steering doesn’t take much effort, contributing to its beginner-friendly drive, and combined with its incredibly tight turning radius, you’ve got yourself a nimble little bug that is adept at three-point turns and navigating through small parking lots. The ride is very pleasant too – the springs are soft and aren’t tuned to be harsh like the name implies it to be.
Some may view the Beetle Dune as all style and no substance, but there’s enough charm and character that warrants a closer look, especially if you’re the type of buyer that never plans on truly hitting up the mountain roads anytime soon. It may cost $7,000 more than the base Beetle model, but the Dune offers a trek down memory lane, one that hits home on the nostalgia front. We love the new Dune, and while we know it could be so much more, we learned not to take the car too seriously, because it sure ain’t – such is a bug’s life.
型号 Model: 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune
顏色 Paint Type: Sandstorm Yellow Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $26,990
試車售價 Price as Tested: $28,560
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,537
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,278 / 1,808 / 1,486
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,366
引擎 Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged inline-four
最大馬力 Horsepower: 170 hp @ 6,200 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 1,500 - 4,750 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.6