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2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune: Keeping it Fresh

Every year in Montreal there is a large European car show called Eurokracy. The event attracts Euro enthusiasts from all over Eastern Canada and Northeastern USA in what has become a must-attend—not just for Euro owners, but for any car enthusiast. That being said, it helps to be able to showcase something with a European flavour if you go.

Since I don’t own a cool euro car, what I usually do for the MontrealRacing.com booth is put a feeler out and more often than not, a member with something nice will be all too happy to represent the site. This year, I decided to book a European press vehicle the week of the show and use that instead. No Golf Rs or Alfa Romeo 4Cs were available, but the Volkswagen Beetle Dune was sitting there all shiny and ready to go, so I said what the heck.

It might not have been my first choice because I wasn’t sure how much attention a jacked-up Beetle would generate for the booth. Add to it the fact that people usually don’t soup them up very often, but it was new and Euro so it would have to do.

Any concerns that I might have had regarding the attention-grabbing ability of the Beetle Dune were put to rest when a group of VWs with New York plates passed me on the highway and then slowed down to film the car for several kilometres before leaving with a thumbs up. It wasn’t an isolated incident either, as people were checking out the Dune all day and asking a million questions about it. For this to happen at a show where hundreds of the most beautiful Volkswagens in the country were parked just metres away speaks to the ingenuity of Volkswagen’s designers.

The Beetle has been around since WWII and the New Beetle since 1997. In 2011, Volkswagen redesigned it to what it looks like today. Needless to say, people are familiar with the design. It’s instantly recognizable all over the world.

The Dune edition is new for 2016 and brings with it a variety of unique. but mostly visual modifications compared to the standard Beetle, not the least of which is the 0.4-inch bump in ride height. Volkswagen says the inspiration comes from the classic Baja Bugs of the sixties and seventies. Highlighting the front end’s new look is a bumper featuring a large central air intake and black honeycomb screen which morphs into the front skid plate. On either side of the intake, two black honeycomb vents contain the fog lights. Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear lighting are also part of the package.

Distinctive 18-inch “Canyon” alloy wheels, black and silver coloured side mirrors, and “Dune” graphics on both doors are included. A large rear spoiler, a rear bumper design that integrates matte black and aluminum elements, and a rear diffuser that also acts as a skid plate finish off the look. Dunes come in yellow, black or white.

The interior of the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune is very similar to the race-inspired interior found in the Golf R. The sport seats have yellow stitching and are nice and firm. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is also taken right from the R and is flat-out amazing. Everything is tight and has a superb feel to it. The 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system also comes with “App-Connect” technology, allowing integration with the three major smartphone platforms—Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. This was my first interaction with Apple CarPlay and I have to say I was less than impressed, but that should be saved for a separate review of the system.

Under the hood is a 1.8-litre, direct-injected and turbocharged TSI four-cylinder engine, offering 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Power is adequate, but not jaw-dropping. It’s plenty to get around town, but performance enthusiasts should look elsewhere. Handling is another story, however. The Beetle Dune took corners like it was on rails thanks in part to a widened rear track (about a half-inch) though the standard Beetle already handles very well.

The Dune is a mostly visual upgrade to spice up the Beetle and it accomplishes this feat very nicely. I wouldn’t characterize it as a bold move (car companies usually offer special editions of vehicle getting on in years) but it’s a welcome addition to the Volkswagen lineup.

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