Volkswagen Beetle Dune plenty of fun

BY Clayton Seams. Aug 05 03:00 am

When was the last time Volkswagen did something bold?

Sure, Volkswagen AG contains Porsche, Bugatti and Lamborghini, who all produce nutty cars on occasion, but when was the last time VW made a car that made people step back and say, “Wow, that’s gutsy”?

While the emissions-dodging was brazen, we might have to look back all the way to the Corrado VR6 or Vanagon Synchros.

Sure, the Beetle Dune garners plenty of attention with its ’70s gold paint, black tape stripes and retro silhouette. But you can’t help thinking it could have been something more.

The Dune is an option package on the slow-selling Beetle. It’s meant to hearken back to the decidedly not official Beetle-based Baja Bugs of the 1970s. Those were air-cooled bugs people lifted, fitted with knobby tires and added cut-down fenders for more tire clearance. They were loud, crude and absolutely crazy amounts of fun.

This new 2016 Beetle Dune is also lifted — but only by one wimpy centimetre. As you might imagine, that extra one cm doesn’t transform the Dune into a car that can jump the dunes at Pismo Beach. Other exterior features of the Beetle Dune include aluminum accents front and rear that mimic skid plates (but aren’t actually skid plates) and an equally apologetic 1.5-cm increase in track width.

It’s clear VW wasn’t trying to build an off-roader. It was trying to add a bit of excitement to the Beetle, just like Fiat did with the 1957 Edition 500. And judged solely on appearance, the package is a success. The gold paint is a great hue, the whale-tail spoiler evokes the turbocharged six-cylinder Beetles of the ’80s and the Dune tester managed to draw a crowd at a few gas stations — quite an accomplishment for a $28,000 car.

The Dune’s strongest feature is the spot-on detail work that pervades the car, and nowhere is it done better than the interior. The large, arching gauge cluster is somewhat reminiscent of the steel dashboards of old. There are Curry Yellow accents everywhere inside the car, including the gauge cluster, seat stitching, dashboard and door panels. It makes the Dune feel special. And while Fiat’s 1957 Edition 500 has a silly-high price tag, the Beetle costs a completely rational $28,000 and change. It’s like a Golf, but enjoyable.

While the sloping roofline of the Beetle does somewhat diminish cargo space and rear-seat room, it’s still quite comfy for adults, and the folding rear seats mean you can get a lot of cargo in the happy little Beetle. There are very few ways in which a Beetle is less practical than a Golf, but so many ways in which the Dune is more interesting than a Golf. It’s cute — so drivers with egos should shop elsewhere — and if all you want is some lighthearted fun and an occasional day at the beach, the Dune could be your ideal ride.

— Postmedia Network Inc. 2016

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