When we first saw the Beetle Dune concept at the Detroit Auto Show early this year, I generally liked the idea, but was lamenting how unlikely it was to be built. Well, as part of VW's multi-year plan to make me look like an ass, the Dune could be edging to actual production, and they even had one driving around.
VW had the Dune concept driving around Sylt, Germany, which I guess is the most deserty-sounding name of a German town they could find. Here's what VW is saying about the Dune now:
It's now made a reappearance on the road in sunny Sylt, Germany, and while it remains a concept car, everything about it is feasible – it is practically a production vehicle.
This Volkswagen was made for fun on any terrain: the body has been raised by 50 mm compared with a standard Beetle, while 19-inch wheels with large tyres lend an all-terrain look. A rear-mounted ski-rack is reminiscent of those fitted to classic Beetles, and makes a perfect accessory for the season. In the summer, it could hold a sandboard – the ideal accessory for surfing the sand dunes from which the Beetle Dune takes its name.
The Beetle Dune concept is based on the current production model, using the same 210 PS turbocharged petrol engine and six-speed DSG gearbox, providing power to the front wheels.
Here's the key part of all this. They actually say "it is practically a production vehicle." Is there any reason to say this if they're not actually going to produce this, at least as an option package for the Beetle? Think what lying sacks of poop and sauerkraut these guys would be if this was all some absurd tease.
The prevailing rumor is that a production-ready version will be shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show this year, as a 2015 model.
I like the idea of the Dune Beetle, as the original Beetle's off-roading/Baja heritage is very significant to the history and character of the car and is worth resurrecting. The FWD-only drivetrain is a bit disappointing, though. The original Beetle was only 2WD, too, but it was light enough and had enough weight over the drive wheels to give it terrific traction regardless. I think for the modern car, some sort of AWD is needed to match, proportionally, what the original could do.
The ruggedized look is great, and I think with some non-show car reality applied to the wheel travel, room inside the fenders, and making sure the underbody and lower valences can really take some abuse, VW could have a fun little car on its hands.
I'd hope the interior would have rubber matting instead of carpets and be designed to actually really be useful, and not just have the look, too. The drivetrain seems to be the same as the one used in, among others, the Beetle GSR, and I found that car to be lots of fun to drive.
So, VW, you better not be teasing us. Build us a new Baja, already. I'm a bit wary of getting my hopes up too much, though, since we've been down this road before: