The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Cabrio: It’s About Time
Nothing plucks at our heartstrings like a quirky, retro, convertible off-roader.
Down with numbers! Down with evidence! Down with rationality! Sounds like the RNC’s last strategy session, but these are actually the phrases with which I would picket each of the world’s automakers. The cars on sale right now suffer from a surplus of competence. I’d rather be dead in a hydraulically-suspended pile of Citroën than alive in a Camry, you know? It’s the wind-tunnels, the focus groups, that caliper-wielding juggernaut, Consumer Reports. We’re shellacked into an inoffensive, off-silver ball. Wouldn’t you rather play with a gourd? Something weird, yellow, with warts?
I would. So I’m thrilled that Volkswagen will be making the Dune, a mustard-y yellow, retro-style, jacked-up Beetle convertible (or coupe) with body-cladding and a huge spoiler. We saw similar auto show concepts in both 2000 and 2014, though they seemed half-hearted. But now it’s happening. And not since Land Rover’s announcement of the similarly genre-obtuse Evoque Convertible have I been so titillated by the buzz of the bizarre. Were the universe different, and this off-road Beetle ragtop could be optioned with a diesel lump, my hands would seize over the keyboard, frozen in conniption.
The Dune draws style from those classic Baja Bugs of the Sixties, Beetles modified by owners with raised suspensions, fat wheels and tires, chopped fenders and jettisoned front and rear aprons. Most Bajas sported souped-up engines, left exposed to the elements by shorted trunk lids. They look like little monsters.
O.K., so maybe the Dune not ready to run with Ford’s SVT Raptor across the Mojave. But this new Beetle’s ride height is up .4 inches, its track widened .6 inches. Other goodies include tougher bumpers, black plastic mouldings and bigger wheels. Intriguingly, the Dune features a large fixed spoiler for… high speed off-road stability? Maybe our skepticism is misplaced; Volkswagen took time to note that the “rear diffuser also acts as a skid plate.” High-speed aero bits and body cladding: Get it done.
At launch, the Dune gets the standard Beetle’s 1.8-liter gasoline engine and a six-speed automatic. However, rumor has it that once Volkswagen sorts out its diesel fiasco, the 2-liter TDI (and even a manual transmission!) might make their way into this Beetle buggy. Until that unicorn spec—off-road, diesel, manual, convertible—arrives, we’re content with the deep oddity of the standard Dune. It’s weirding the space. Good gourd.