Once upon a time, Volkswagen urged Beetle fans to “think small,” but with the new Volkswagen Beetle Dune concept, which debuts this week at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, VW suggests we should instead think sand, soil, or – since Detroit was just hit by the “Polar Vortex” – snow.
Volkswagen’s press release describes the Beetle Dune as “a Beetle with a cool off-road look.” If it sounds familiar, it’s because Volkswagen played this card before. At the 2000 Los Angeles auto show, VW unveiled a lifted, all-wheel drive, off-road New Beetle concept it called – wait for it – the Beetle Dune.
Macroscopically, the new Beetle Dune ascribes to the same formula used to concoct the first: it’s a taller, bolder Beetle that appears ready to tackle something more strenuous than a washboarded dirt road. Built from a standard Beetle R-Line coupe, the Beetle Dune concept wears matte black fender flares, trimmed with thin gloss black “blades” that appear to float above the wheel arches.
The flared fenders do more than add drama to the Beetle Dune Concept: they also help Volkswagen pack some large 19-inch five-spoke wheels, wrapped in chunky 255/45 tires, underneath the car. That custom wheel/tire package helps alter the Beetle Dune’s dimensions, increasing ground clearance by two inches despite overall height increasing by only eight-tenths of an inch. Front and rear track dimensions are 1.1 inches wider, and the overall width of the Beetle Dune is 2.2 inches wider than a run-of-the-mill Beetle R-Line
The matte black sections of the wheel arches appear to wrap into both the rockers and bumper fascias, both of which are accented with chrome-clad skidplates. The front plate is neatly integrated into the R-Line’s lower grille opening, which is flanked by modified LED fog lamp assemblies. The hood receives two air intakes just below the cowl, while a custom rear spoiler doubles as a ski/snowboard/ surfboard carrier.
As in other production Beetles, the Beetle Dune’s dash and door trim highlights are painted to match the body color, but the concept does receive a number of unique – if not subtle – touches. The seats are devoid of the aluminum trim used on the original Beetle Dune concept, but clad in black leather and taupe sport fabric. The small upper glove box – or “Beetle bin,” as Volkswagen calls it – is replaced by a pocket and an aluminum grab handle. And in a nod to the original Beetle Dune concept, the 7.7-inch touchscreen placed in the middle of the dashboard contains an inclinometer display – a feature incorporated into the gauge cluster of the 2000 Beetle Dune show car.
The biggest departure from the original Beetle Dune isn’t visible without crawling underneath the car. We’re not too surprised to discover the new Dune ditches the five-cylinder engine and complex air suspension used in the first Beetle Dune concept, but we are a little surprised to see it do without any form of VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Instead, the driveline, which includes a 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; and an electronically-locking front differential, is exactly what you’d find in a stock 2014 Beetle R-Line.
That may not be as flashy as the first Beetle Dune, but from an accountant’s perspective, this iteration of the Beetle Dune is far more feasible for production. Volkswagen insists no production decision has been made to date, but representatives and press materials alike suggest this Beetle Dune is strongly being considered as an addition to the Beetle portfolio. Can we count on a Beetle Dune joining the likes of the Volkswagen Beetle GSR or the iBeetle? Time – and public reaction at the Detroit auto show – will tell.