We have to get something out of the way right in the beginning when talking about the Beetle Dune. This is an appearance package for the 1.8t-powered, front-wheel-drive Beetle. The Dune has as much in common with the Baja Bugs of the past as it does with the Frank Herbert novel of the same name.
So what is different about the Dune? Well to start, everything you can see in the photos. New bumpers, black plastic fender over riders, and model-specific wheels give the car a unique and, I would argue, tougher look. Inside, there are more model-specific features, including seat upholstery with cloth centersections, yellow piping and stitching, along with a flat-bottom steering wheel. Mechanically, the car is nearly identical to any other Beetle, with the exception of being just under a half an inch taller with just over a half-inch wider track width.
The Dune is available in both coupe and convertible, but your choice of transmission is made for you, automatic only. Besides the roof, the only options are a lighting and technology package. The coupe starts at just $24,815, including VW's new MIBII infotainment system with App Connect. Buyers will have a choice of three colors: the yellow you see here, black, and white. The yellow cars will all have the interior seen here, while the black and white cars get black trim instead of yellow.
It's been a little while since I've driven a 1.8t Beetle, but from what I remember, the Dune drives at least as well if not even a little better. There is body roll and brake dive, but it isn't so much that it affects driving fun. The 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque are more than enough motivation to keep things entertaining. The brakes aren't quite as responsive as they could be, but I have a feeling a set of upgraded pads would go along way. The front rotors are 11.3 inches in diameter, so there is plenty of potential without a big brake kit.
Just about everyone reading this is wondering why VW didn't just give everyone what they've always wanted and equip the Dune with the 2.0t, all-wheel drive and suspension more closely related to the Tiguan than a regular Beetle. What the heck, as long as we're doing it, why not add ride-height adjustable air suspension, too? The 2.0t would have added at least a grand and a half, the all-wheel drive would add almost three grand, and I have to think a completely revised suspension system would be at least an additional $1,000 or so—and we haven't even gotten into the federalizations and crash testing. All of this would undoubtedly take the cheap and cheerful Dune into the price range of a Golf R, and that's not the point.
The point of the Dune, like any other Beetle trim package, is to give customers the opportunity to have a more unique version of an already unique car. With that being the goal, VW has hit a home run. I doubt any focus group has ever had a single person who said, "Yes, I would really like to buy a Beetle, but I need it to be off-road capable." We all know that less than 15 percent of customers buying real, actual, capable SUVs go off-road.
The off-road thing has become a fashion statement at best. The Dune delivers on that, without sacrificing on-road dynamics. The ultimate version of this car might be the convertible. I can't imagine a more worthy successor to the MK1 Cabriolet than a white Beetle Dune, top down, radio on, driving to the beach. Bring a good book, maybe something lighter than Herbert.