Few of the Volkswagen Beetle Dune will traverse its sandy namesakes—and for the most part we’d advise against it—but the VW Beetle Dune, introduced as a coupe for the 2016 model year and joined by a convertible for 2017, is Fun to Drive and attracts attention like the extras of the movie Beach Party. At least the cast as they were in 1962, and if they were all in the back seat like it was 1962. Along with a couple of surfboards.
The Beetle-stuffing fad of the early Sixties notwithstanding, Frankie and Dee Dee—as Annette Funicello was known in the movie—wouldn’t have had that much room in a vintage Beetle for more than a half-dozen bikini-clad extras. The current Beetle wouldn’t be much different. But back then, with Volkswagen fixated on economy and Thinking Small, nothing as cool as the Volkswagen Beetle Dune ever came out of Wolfsburg.
It’s a different world today, with VW bringing us/having brought us the bridge-too-far VW Phaeton luxury sedan, the Golf R high-performance compact and many stops in between. However, not counting the kubelwagen-like VW Thing of the late Sixties and Seventies, the VW Beetle Dune is the first time Volkswagen has created an off road-flavored Beetle. The VW Dune coupe and convertible are both inspired by sand-capable Baja Bugs that appeared in the Sixties, cut down and jacked up for off-road duty.
Inspired by, however, and not duplicated. The Beetle Dune coupe and convertible retain the full fenders of the standard Beetle, but the Dune has been given a wider track—the width of the between the wheels—plus fender extenders to cover the tires. The Dune is 0.6 inch wider than the standard Beetle, accompanied by the suspension raised by 0.4 inch for a beachin’ look.
The front and rear fascias have been changed for the Dune. Instead of the standard Beetle’s grille that horizontally bisects the front bumper from side to side, the Beetle Dune has a large opening surrounded by matte silver trim with a “skid plate” at the bottom. We put skid plate in quotes because really, it shouldn’t skid on anything.
Another tweaking of the standard Beetle is a slot that cuts across below the front edge of the hood, and VW designers placed matte black trim pieces low on the corners of the Dune’s front bumper and put fog lights in them. If it were us, we’d have extended the black trim to meet up with the black trim around the wheel well openings and down to the bottom of the front. It would give the Dune more of Baja Bug look. It wouldn’t have the cutaway fenders of the Baja Bug, but it would look more like it, at least sorta.
The rear of the Volkswagen Beetle Dune does more of what we’re talking about. The matte black trim stretches from the rear of the rear wheel openings and up and over the rear license plate, sorta looking like the rear of an original VW Beetle with the rear fenders and lower body cut away Baja Bug-style. A matte silver bar across the bottom of the body negates the effect somewhat, but we’ll pretend it’s a rear bar-type bumper.
Dual outlet exhaust pokes out from the left side matte black trim. Alas, a “stinger” exhaust would probably be too much.
A large rear spoiler with matte trim around its edge is there because, well, it’s there. But VW designers accentuated the vintage look of the Beetle Dune with extra black trim along the rocker panels, meant to look more like the running boards of the original Beetle. But, ah, those were frequently cut off on vintage (or modern vintage-based) Baja Bug. But not always. So who are we to complain?
The Volkswagen Dune for 2016 and 2017 is available in three colors only, Sandstorm Yellow, Pure White, or Deep Black Pearl. Sandstorm Yellow cars have an interior that features body-color upper door trim and dashpads. The Pure White and Deep Black Pearl vehicles have black door and dashpad trim. The rest of the interior is accented in Sandstorm Yellow, with the two-tone grey seats accented with piping in Sandstorm Yellow. The instrument panel is also has the Sandstorm Yellow accents around the dials. That’s a lot of sand.
According to Volkswagen’s original announcement, the coupe version of the Volkswagen Beetle Dune, introduced last spring as a 2016 model, would be powered by VW’s 1.8-liter four “at launch.” If that means something else is coming later, we don’t know yet.