It's hard to find anything on the road that looks quite as charming!

2016 Beetle Dune Coupe Review

The modern beach car with an attitude

By: Lindsay Prossnitz

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: April 14th, 2016

The VW Beetle is one of the oldest nameplates in automotive history still in use today. It's also one of the most easily recognizable silhouettes - and probably one of the few that can put a smile on just about everyone's face, with its cute, squished retro look. As a kid, I remember riding along dirt roads in a old 1970s Beetle convertible around the campgrounds at the annual EAA Airventure Oshkosh airplane show. Though I've ridden as a passenger in dozens of vehicles when I was younger, I've always remembered this one fondly, and that's the magic of the Beetle - longevity.

From one redesign to the next, and several special editions, the Beetle continues winning over new fan bases. The latest edition to the lineup is the Beetle Dune Coupe, drawing inspiration from the Baja Bugs that swarmed California deserts in the late 60s. While unmistakably a Beetle, a different stance and design features are meant to make the Dune look more rugged. Though it has dune in its name, I wouldn't take it anywhere near one as I highly doubt it's in its wheelhouse. But, once you can move past the fact that it's not an actual dune buggy, you'll find a sporty-esque, zippy little compact that's as fun to drive around as it is to look at.

  • Driving Impressions

    Based on Volkswagen's current front-engine Beetle, the new Dune has an agile, turbocharged four-cylinder at its heart that's ready to hit the road. The engine springs to life quickly, whisking you away with a breeze. While it doesn't offer a competitive 0-60 mph time, it's vivacious and full of energy on the road. It's the kind of car you can have fun with zigzagging through traffic.

    • Ride Quality: The 1.8-liter four-cylinder puts out 170 hp, which is an ample amount of power for a vehicle of this size. The engine is smooth and quiet, and the overall ride feels comfortable and at ease. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission offering (sadly no manuals here), with shiftable sport mode, though paddle shifters are also absent. While you can manually shift the gears, the vehicle is all too happy to shift them for you.
    • Steering: Nicely tuned steering feels responsive, with a nice touch of firmness in sport mode.
    • Acceleration: The engine is peppy, and springs you forward relatively quickly, though traction control can't be disabled on the Dune, so no real shenanigans will ensue.
    • Braking: Brakes have good pedal feel, progressively slowing down the vehicle when you apply pressure.
    • Handling: A well-damped suspension and all-season tires provide solid traction on the road, even during April snow showers. Its lowered and widened stance gives it a sporty feel for confident maneuvering around twists and turns.

  • Technology and Safety

    The Dune comes equipped with a decent amount of standard technology for its low price. A rearview camera makes backing up easier, aided by the help of Park Distance Control which has sensors in the front and rear bumpers that alert drivers of their proximity to other objects. Other built-in features include cruise control and auto-dimming interior rearview mirror. Buyers have the option of a $1,695 Technology package, which adds dual-zone automatic climate control, a Fender premium audio system, push-button ignition, keyless entry, and a sunroof.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: A 6.3-inch touchscreen comes standard. The screen is crisp and easy to read and responds well to gestures.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Bluetooth pairing was quick and seamless, with no issues making or receiving calls, or streaming music via Bluetooth.
    • Voice/Sound Quality: While we didn't have the upgraded audio system that's in the tech package, the audio system quality was good. Regarding voice quality, I never encountered an issue with being able to hear and communicate during voice calls.
    • Controls: A multi-function display with trip computer provides range and trip information, as well as temperature and speed warnings. The gauges are all highlighted in a vibrant orange color.
    • Safety: Worthy of mention is the Dune's standard Intelligent Crash Response System. It's an automatic post-collision braking system built on the idea that an accident is not a single, isolated impact, but actually a series of impacts. For this reason, the system automatically engages the brakes when airbag sensors are triggered to help prevent a second impact from happening after the first.

  • Exterior Design and Styling

    When it comes to exterior looks, the Beetle has a unique, charming, retro style, matched only by perhaps a MINI Cooper. The Dune sports a wider track and raised suspension, but these adjustments are ever so slight - 0.6- and 0.4-inches to be exact, respectively. While it doesn't translate to Mojave desert-tackling capabilities, it does make for a sportier look.

    The Dune sits on 18-inch aluminum wheels and is available in three colors: Sandstorm Yellow, pure whiter or deep black pearl. A second optional Lighting package will add Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear license plate lighting if you really want to milk the dune buggy theme.

    • Front: A new front fascia features pronounced black wheel arch extensions that flow into the bumpers. A large black honeycomb central air intake widens towards its bottom edge, and is surrounded by an aluminum look that morphs into the front skid plate. On either side of the intake, two black honeycomb vents house the foglights.
    • Rear: At the back end rests a large rear spoiler, along with standard LED taillights and a new bumper design that integrates the black and aluminum combo seen at the front. The rear diffuser also acts a faux skid plate, and "Turbo" is stamped in aluminum letters just below the VW logo.
    • Profile: The side of the vehicle is accented with polished aluminum sills and black trim strips - a nod to the original Beetle running boards. The side mirrors are two-toned, with silver up top and black below. "Dune" graphics are also displayed on both doors. The Ragster Concept silhouette is far better than the New Beetle's from the previous generation.

  • Driver and Passenger Comfort

    Dune-exclusive cloth and leatherette seating surfaces features bright yellow piping and stitching. These accents match the Sandstorm Yellow body color that also coats the door trims and dashpads. While some might find this too matchy-matchy for their taste, The color looks even better inside the cabin. Another sporty element is the flat-bottomed steering with the Dune badge on it.

    • Front Seats: The sport bucket seats in front are nice and supportive, with an adjustable lumbar for the driver. They also have the bonus of being heated.
    • Rear Seats: Back seats get the same sport bucket-style seating that's in front. While it's a bit cramped in the back, the legroom isn't bad for the compact segment.
    • Visibility: Outward visibility for the compact coupe is surprisingly good, thanks to expansive windows everywhere.

  • Storage and Cargo Room

    Cargo space is always going to be limited in a compact coupe, but the Dune works well with what it has. The backseats split 50/50 to transform the seating into more cargo space. Ingress and egress into the backseat is also smooth, aided by front seats that automatically move forward when prompted. Head and leg room is generous, too, but the more comfortable the front passengers get, the less the rear ones will be.

    • Storage: There are two gloveboxes, one of normal size, and a second sitting a little bit above that acts as another handy compartment to stash items. There's a tiny well inside the armrest that can't hold much besides a phone. But, there are plenty of cupholders, and a small dash shelf. The side doors have shallow pockets with a thick elastic band to keep things from sliding out, which was a bit strange, but again, the Dune is working with what is has.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: Cargo space is limited but not terrible, and with the adjustable seats you can pack in even more gear as long as you don't have extra passengers. I will say it was a bit tricky to find the latch at first, but I soon realized the VW emblem flips forward to function as one.

  • Final Impressions: Cute as a bug

    The Beetle Dune Coupe is a fun, one-off compact that spices things up visually and occupies a unique niche in the automotive industry, in that its function (front-wheel drive) actually belie its rugged and outdoorsy aesethetic. It's affordable fashion for the budget-conscious shopper, while also offering a host of standard tech and safety features that make it more than just a fun, weekend getaway car. Drivers can feel confident behind the wheel with its turbocharged inline four and sportier stance. If ever there was a modern car cut out for the beach, this is it.

  • Specifications and Price

    Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 170 horsepower / 184 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 25 city / 34 highway

    Base Price: $23,995

    As Tested: $25,065

    Standard Features: Intelligent Crash Response, electronic stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, heated front seats, ambient interior lighting, LED taillights, contrast stitching on steering wheel, shift boot, and seating surfaces, rearview camera, Park Distance Control, 6.3-inch touchscreen, 8-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, cruise control.

    Options on our test vehicle: Sandstorm Yellow metallic paint

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