By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Frank Herbert wrote a series of six science fiction books in a series called Dune, and they became some of the best-selling science fiction books of all time. The books were later made into a three-part miniseries in the early 2000s, and they became some of the highest rated programs ever broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel.
We think Volkswagen is hoping their version of Dune will have a similar success with shoppers as they roll out the 2016 Dune Coupe and Convertible models. The Dune was actually inspired by the classic Baja dune buggies which are highly modified versions of the original Volkswagen Beetles.
Volkswagen has often offered Special Editions of existing products, and for 2016 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Dune model joins the Denim to make up the latest special editions.
Taking a bold look from the dune buggies, the Beetle Dune ride height is raised 0.4 inches, the body is 0.6-inches wider and the track is wider. The changes might be small, but the impression is big and the Dune feels even taller and larger overall. The front and rear fascias flow into black wheel arch extensions which add to the masculine look while adding protection from rocks and sand. The front bumper has a large lower air intake grill bookended by black honeycomb vents which contain foglights. An available lighting package adds Bi-Xenon headlight with LED daytime running lights. The rear has a large spoiler and LED taillights. The Dune is shod with wide 18-inch tires on distinctive alloy wheels and it gets ?Dune? graphics on both doors.
?The new Dune successfully captures the iconic spirit of Baja Beetles, with a more rugged feel and amenities never before offered on the third-generation Beetle,? said Joerg Sommer, Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, Volkswagen of America, Inc. ?With its sporty and aggressive design and a number of the new technology features, we are confident that the Dune will appeal to both new and returning Beetle customers.?
Inside, the dash and upper door trim on our Sandstorm Yellow test vehicle were painted the same color as the exterior and the sport seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel both are trimmed in a contrasting orange stitching. The interiors of the other two available Dune colors, Deep Black Pearl and Pure White, both have black interior trim.
The Sandstorm Yellow color was a bit much for our conservative color appetite, but it made the Dune a head-turner on the road and in parking lots.
As an upscale Volkswagen Beetle model, the Dune is well-equipped with features like the new MIB infotainment system and Volkswagen?s available Car-Net? which includes App-Connect technology that links to Apple CarPlay?, Android Auto? and MirrorLink?. When connected, the system apps provide a seamless integration with the compatible smartphones and access to a multitude driver aids and entertainment.
The Dune Volkswagen uses a 6.3-inch touch screen with a capacitive sensor that enables gesture controls like swiping and pinch-zooming. It also detects when a hand is nearby and automatically switches the display to allow easier feature selection, plus the system has USB and Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera with the Park Distance Control parking aid. Other available features include a Climatronic? dual zone climate control system, Fender? Premium Audio, Kessy?keyless access plus start and a tilt-and-slide sunroof.
Dune has the same safety features as the Beetle including the Automatic Post-Collison Braking System, Electronic Stability Control, front and rear head-thorax side airbags and all the other normal safety features.
Like the regular Beetle, the front-wheel-drive Dune is fun to drive, especially with the award-winning 1.8-liter direct-injection and turbocharged TSI? four-cylinder engine under the hood. The engine is rated at 170-hp and 184-lb.ft. of torque driving through a six-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 60 mph acceleration takes 7.4 seconds according to buff magazine reports. The EPA fuel economy rating is 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We averaged 27.9 mpg during a week of mixed highway and city driving.
The 2016 Volkswagen Dune has a base price of $24,815 including the destination charge. Our test vehicle included the optional Sandstorm Yellow Metallic paint ($250) and the Dune Technology Package (Power Sunroof, Climatronic? Automatic Climate Control, Keyless Access with push-button start, Fender Premium Audio with subwoofer) for $1,695 more. The price of the convertible Dune has yet to be announced. The Dune Coupe is at VW dealers now, and the convertible arrives later in the summer.
While it can?t offer the height of an SUV, the Volkswagen Dune is enough higher to give the driver a more commanding view of the road, and should someone venture off-paved roads it should do well on dirt and gravel roads. It?s great fun to drive and it?s the kind of car that makes you smile.