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Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Deserves At Least a Little Respect: First Drive


Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.

Having an iconic car in your lineup is no easy task. And if you don’t think the Volkswagen Beetle is an automotive icon, think again. It’s been around since 1934, and though it may have a—ehem—questionable history, there’s no denying that enthusiasts love the bug probably more than some family members.
But the idea of an iconic car, and keeping up with the enthusiast demand, is something that Volkswgen doesn’t take lightly. Even with that serious attitude, though, the Beetle seems to be something of a dying breed. So when Volkswagen announced the Beetle Dune, enthusiasts perked up their ears and were curious as to what Volkswagen had to show.


Baja’s Back, Baby!
From a design perspective, it’s very likable. Admittedly much hasn’t changed from the standard formula. Some key distinguishers include graphics, edgier wheels, a revised fascia, and an even more quirky interior. The style, while not as extreme, heralds back to the iconic baja bugs that enthusiasts still drool over to this day.

For baja bug owners, it may seem like a bit of a stretch to give this beetle a similar name, and similar style, but going too extreme may have ostracized the buyers looking for the history, but not so much the extreme personality. The interior gets a shouty yellow trim, with black and grey cloth seats. It’s a cool place to be, and matches the exterior well with a few fun accents and unique trimming.


Straightforward and Simple

We won’t be shouting on the hilltops singing praise of Volkswagen’s electronics. The updated 6.3-inch touchscreen system works well enough when you figure everything out. It’s clean, has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and puts to use a number of easy-to-find features on the home screen.


True To Its Roots?

Driving the Beetle Dune feels like, well, just driving an ordinary Beetle. The ancient 1.8-liter turbocharged engine is peppy enough with 170 horsepower on tap, but doesn’t hold speed very well. At 65 mph, you still have to keep your foot pressed heartily into the gas pedal, otherwise it feels like it wants to just give up.

Steering is tight, and even in some tough mountainous stuff it refuses to show everyone that it’s actually a front-wheel-drive car. Which brings us to our next point…


Yes, the Beetle Dune is still front-wheel-drive. Before we get a hoard of angry emails: we fully understand that not even most classic Baja Bugs were converted to all-wheel-drive. Even then, it seems like something buyers really would have enjoyed, given the naming and all. Even more disparaging, it doesn’t come with a manual gearbox. Nonetheless, it’s a Beetle, and it drives like a Beetle. That’s not a bad thing.


The Verdict

It’s not the most exciting car on the planet, nor the best driving. But there’s something to like about the Beetle Dune. Aside from its thrifty, middle-of-the-range pricing ($23,995), it’s a sign that Volkswagen still actually cares about the enthusiast.

With the rest of the VW range leaning more towards vanilla, the Beetle Dune adds a swirl of fun that not even the most hardcore gearhead can resist. It’s quirky, it looks cool, and it’s a pretty good deal. We wouldn’t turn it away if it had nowhere to go.


Engine: 1.8-liter Turbo
Horsepower: 170
Torque: 184 lb-ft
Price: $23,995


Fun styling
Comfortable on long trips


Lack of all-wheel-drive
Plain driving dynamics

Photo Credit: Jeff Perez for BoldRide