Volkswagen has no plans to replace the current-generation Beetle when it expires in the next couple of years. After three generations, and a re-birth that began in 1998, Volkswagen will be without Beetle. An electric retro-bus will soon appear in VW showrooms, so heritage will be on full display, but the cute little Beetle will exit the stage. So, it’s pretty awesome the Dune will carry it out.
I was at the New Beetle’s world-wide unveiling in Detroit 20 years ago, and later owned a blue 2005 model. My uncle owned an orange first-generation in the 1970s. Beetles definitely have a special place in my heart, and I’ve driven many, but the jacked-up Dune may be my favorite.
If the Sandstorm Yellow Metallic paint doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps the Dune’s exclusive beefy bumpers, redesigned air intakes, whale tail spoiler, and bruise-rebuffing black lower body cladding will. An increased ride height and 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires convey adventure beyond its actual ability. It all looks upscale with LED taillamps and driving lights. All of the hiking gear takes this cutie to the elements and makes it acceptable for active guys and gals.
The interior theme layers gold on top of gray. Leatherette and canvas seats are ravishing in Dune Gray and Black with Yellow piping. Same for the leather-wrapped steering wheel with contrasting yellow stitching. Exterior paint continues to the dash and doors for a classic metal look. Adjust the ambient interior lighting and rock that runway. If feels so much more special that the typical compact coupe.
While it maintains its long-cultivated appeal, the Beetle Dune is loaded with a 6.3-inch touchscreen, CD player, USB connection, and Bluetooth. Automatic climate control and a large sliding glass roof keeps the cabin temperature perfectly temperate. A rearview camera and around-view monitor for front/rear parking assist enhance safety. Crank the crisp Fender audio system, flip the rear seats, toss in your favorite gear, and head for fun. A little Beach Boys would be perfect to get your motor revving.
And, it’s a peppy little puppy too, driven by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 174 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel-drive is not available in the Dune, but the front-driven wheels do a good job of managing the power. And, our car had a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode to move power smoothly and help achieve 26/34-MPG city/hwy.
On-road, the Dune drives like, well, a Volkswagen. It handles lightly on its four-wheel independent suspension and seems fit to hammer left lanes of America’s autobahns. Increased ride height negligibly affects handling, but it’s made up in better rough-pavement behavior. Sitting up in firm bucket seats, gripping the sport steering wheel, and looking at the large speedometer; you feel ready to kick the Dune down the fast lane.
Beetle styling is iconic, but is not everybody’s shot of espresso. Some see Porsche while others see Legally Blonde. And, getting in the back seats will make passengers wish for a stretched four-door version. Taking a cue from Subaru, Volkswagen bet jacking up the Beetle, adding body cladding, and enacting the spirit of American dune buggies would increase sales. It didn’t, making me all the more sad. I like this little car and feel special in it.
I’m going to miss the Beetle very much, but if you always wanted a Beetle, now’s the time and the Dune is the model. Prices for base Beetles starts at $20,220, but came to $27,890 as-tested. That puts the Beetle Dune against stylish and capable compacts like the Subaru Crosstrek, Honda Civic Coupe, Fiat 500 Abarth, and Mini Cooper. None are nearly as cool.
2018 VW Beetle Dune
- Four-passenger, FWD coupe
- Powertrain: 174hp 2.0-liter T4, 6-sped auto
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Performance
- Fuel economy: 26/34 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Puebla, Mexico
- Base/As-tested price: $20,220/$27,890