2016 Volkswagen Beetle Coupe
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Review of: 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Coupe 2dr Cpe Auto Dune
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune: Eye-catching, but not a Baja Bug
By G. R. Whale
Jun. 24, 2016
Just as I once thought VW would never stop making Beetles, now I wonder if they’ll ever stop making special edition Beetles. This Dune name immediately sends my mind back to Baja Bugs and paddle tires, but it’s really better as a safe, distinctive car you can’t lose unless you stuff it into some fall foliage.
Pros & Cons
- + Well-matched engine/transmission
- + Attention-getting styling
- + surprisingly spacious interior
- - Touchy safety systems
- - No all-wheel drive option
- - Upright rear seats
Dune tries to mimic a two-door crossover with all its black plastic cladding and “skid plates” not likely to fend off more than a dinner plate, and perhaps the best indicator of success is no one notices it sits 10 mm higher than a regular Beetle. That and the front “skid plate” should allow snowstorm progress half an hour longer than plain Beetles.
Yellow sandstorm metallic and black works as well here as on bumble bees and Pittsburgh sports teams and I swear the wallpaper stripes merely substitute “DUNE” for “GSR” on the sides. Combine the rare color scheme with Beetle’s shape and you will get noticed virtually everywhere; you’ll also get comments such as the observation a centimetre of gaffer’s tape on the decal turns it into a Dung Beetle—the anticipated antennae addendum never appeared.
Only after you’ve driven it will you appreciate the spoiler above that eliminates any center brake light in the rear window or mirror, and the backup camera hidden and kept clean inside the VW badge.
Given VW hometown Wolfburg’s fondness for currywurst, it’s no surprise the stitching racing around cabin parts is labelled “curry” despite appearing the same hue as the exterior color gracing the dash expanse, instruments and upper interior panels.
Comfort comes from bolstered seats with nice cushion length and “dark ceramique” cloth that’s not too slippery, and the open cabin a result of plenty of glass and rounded roofline. There is surprising rear-seat head room but the backrests are fairly upright so best for short trips. I’m not fond of flat-bottom steering wheels with more than one rotation to hard-over, but it adds further to the generous driver room all the way to your feet.
Trunk space is listed at 440 litres, or 850 seats folded—that seems optimistic, though I never filled it. Cabin stowage options vary, with a small armrest and dual gloveboxes for concealed stuff. All controls are easy to find and work, the RBW wheel next to lights for the ambient lighting around speakers…why no Y to color-match?
Unless you count the crystal ball in the gearbox the standard Dune comes with App Connect, CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and an easy-to-follow touchscreen. What’s here works fine and is arguably all you’d need, but you can get blind-spot warning (skip it, the side window’s huge), navigation and Fender audio.
The Beetle Dune drives like every other Beetle 1.8T automatic: just fine. The minor mechanical changes of wheels pushed slightly farther outward and a 10-mm lift will go unnoticed by any pilot not wearing a helmet.
Is-it-running-? quiet at idle, the turbo 1.8 is smooth and punchy, with a whoosh of torque on tap anytime, neither fast nor thirsty. A six-speed twin-clutch automatic has the usual predilection to upshift ASAP but always has the right gear ready. A sensitive gas pedal gives enthusiastic response from rest and tilts the nose upwards, resulting in 10.2 l/100km in town, 6.2 open highway and averaging 8.5.
On the road Dune motors along in compliant and stable fashion, dutifully going where you point it, much like any other VW. The brake pedal requires a firmer shove than most VW and other cars, and it feels like the lawyers were all over this since there is no traction/stability control dial-back or defeat and it buzzed me often (the owners manual mentions rocking so controls allow more wheelspin insticky snow), no fog lights until headlights are on, and even in “park” the automatic requires a foot on the brake before the car starts.
Dune delivers the distinctiveness many buyers want and for this $27,000 an orange Mini Cooper or Fiat 500 Turbo make plausible, if smaller, contenders. However, it would also buy a Golf 5-door with the same powertrain, dual-zone climate control, nav, and moonroof for logical types, or a more genuine off-main-road all-wheel drive Subaru Crosstrek.
Dune garnered more comments and questions than any Beetle I’ve driven since the “new” Beetle arrived last century. If you like to be the center of attention you’re covered, but you can get convertible and milder colors if 170 horses and a good drive bring all the attention you need.