Volkswagen Beetle Dune Concept drive review

19 Jun, 2014 9:00am Jonathan Burn

We get to grips with Volkswagen’s incredible Beetle Dune Concept car, which previews a forthcoming production version

If there’s one thing the Volkswagen Beetle isn’t lacking in, it’s heritage and down the years Volkswagen has shown that it’s always on the lookout for ways to make that heritage pay.

With the Volkswagen Beetle Dune Concept, VW has picked up where it left off with the Beetle Dune Concept from 2000 but this is an all-new modern-day interpretation. What’s more, it’s all set to make the transition from showstar to showroom.

With coupe and convertible production models based on the Beetle Dune Concept scheduled to arrive late next year, Auto Express was invited to get an early taste of what we can expect.

Fresh from its debut at the Detroit Motor Show in January, the Beetle Dune Concept boasts significantly inflated proportions to distance itself from the standard model. The body is 48mm wider, 12mm longer and 50mm taller, while VW has also widened at the front and rear track by 29mm for a more aggressive road stance.

Volkswagen Beetle Dune concept - interior

There was an initial identity crisis when the Beetle Dune Concept was first unveiled. The car was fitted with skis racks but took its design inspiration from dune buggies more at home in a blistering desert setting. VW states this was merely a tongue and cheek gesture and a nod to those dune buggies of the 70’s. Sadly the ski rack is a design feature, which will have to be sacrificed for production models due to strict safety legislation.

Oversized 19-inch alloy wheels fill the flared arches, which are trimmed with matt black cladding as see on other off-road focused VW Cross models. The front end is also completely new, dominated by the chunky bumper design and chiseled bonnet, under which VW has fitted the 207bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a six-speed DSG gearbox. When the Dune production car is launched next year VW is keen to make the entire range of petrol and diesel engines from the standard Beetle available as well as the gearboxes.

So what’s the concept car like to drive? Climb inside and the elevated ride height gives a good commanding view of the road ahead. The added 50mm makes the Beetle Dune Concept feel more like a crossover than a conventional car, while the quirky interior paneling and instrument cluster remain unchanged from the standard model.

Volkswagen Beetle Dune concept - rear

The engine and gearbox combination makes this Dune Concept quicker than any production Beetle you can get your hands on. The sprint from 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds with a top speed of 141mph but despite its rugged and utilitarian image, the Dune will be front-wheel-drive only. The added weight, economy impacts and, most importantly, cost penalty of fitting a four-wheel drive system would alienate VW’s target customers, says the German marque.

The Dune comes fitted with the same electronic differential and sophisticated multi-link rear suspension as the Golf GTI, add to that the wider track and the Dune certainly feels more surefooted on the road.

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Of course, the restrictions of a concept car drive mean we were only able to get a basic idea of what a car is capable of. VW is hopeful that the concept as we saw it will make an almost unaltered switch into a showroom-ready model. If the German manufacturer stays true to its word we could be looking at the best handling Beetle there has ever been. 

Does the forthcoming production version of the Dune concept appeal to you? Let us know what you think in the comments section below...

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Like this, though not at all sure what a 'scarified' vehicle will look like. A shame if it means the ski rack goes, unless VW can sort one out for the roof (and for bikes too, please).

My gf had the earlier New Beetle, which she loved. This new design loses the design purity of that model, but is a touch hunkier, so that's a fair swap I guess.

This is the "Missing Link", Porsche 911 to VW Beetle, morpho-magic. Only styling wise though, having the engine at the front sort of spoils the theory.

Fun machine though.

What a depressing thing this whole retro business is, regardless of manufacturer or the ability of the machine concerned. Producing a pastiche of the originality of a previous era ought to be a matter of shame rather than pride.

This is my girls dream car! I was wondering to buy it fo her but I am not shure about it! Can sb tell me more about it? I am car maniac and I am looking all the time for new ones and just today I found this car in very cheap pice at WheelDeal and dont know what to do! Buy it or not?

Don't mind it all myself, just so long as it's the odd model and not a whole line.

Love that one! I want it, can you recomend me any good sites where I can fins/bu it? I know only gumtree and WheelDeal :)

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