VW LAUNCHES STREET-READY BEETLE DUNE BUGGY FOR 2016
By Tom Crosby
In the 1960’s and 1970’s modified Volkswagen Beetles banged around Mexico’s Baja in fun-filled races among the sand dunes and rocks. Those cars provided the historical emphasis for the launch this year of a new VW Dune Buggy refined to be on street worthy.
It distinguishes itself from “regular” VW Beetles with a more muscular look that includes nearly half an inch more ground clearance on a wider track, flared wheel arches, 18-inch all season tires on 10-spoke wheels, faux running boards, a distinctive rear spoiler and door-bottom Dune Buggy badging.
Our Sandstorm Yellow-colored prototype still had all the cute cues of the iconic Beetle, which has sold more than 21 million models worldwide since 1949. We test drove the four-passenger coupe – there is also a convertible (cabriolet) – with a skid pad underneath accented by gray cladding front and back, and a black honeycomb grille with fog light surrounds.
Both models use the same automatic transmission and a 1.8-liter turbo-charged engine that has some minor delay when asked for an immediate boost in horsepower but is peppy when engaged. Handling was responsive, although with VW’s front-wheel drive and the engine now mounted in front instead of in back, grip isn’t as firm as in the past.
However, the ride is cushioned like no Baja Bug ever was with a comfortable suspension system although the Dune Buggy is not equipped for off-road adventuring. It’s more about Baja memories than replication. Engine start/stop comes via a push button that requires two taps – somewhat annoying – and is part of a $1,695 technology package add-on.
Inside, the cabin is spacious and styling is eye-catching with yellow colored piping and stitching on the seats and more yellow stitching scattered about the interior like a mad spider marking his territory. With a moonroof and large windows, visibility is excellent. Rear seating is tight for longer trips but comfortable for shorter forays.
Front seats are comfortable with decent leg and headroom – despite the moonroof. The trunk is spacious and fold down rear seats create more cargo space than expected. Gauges are easily read and a 6.3 inch color dashboard screen hosts Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, smartphone linkup and a rear camera with good visual imaging, plus a warning to look around before moving. A Park Distance Control alerts drivers with beeps of potential collisions behind or beside. Over/under glove compartments and side door flexible webbing provide knickknack areas.
LIKES: Looks, ride, cabin style, visibility
DISLIKES: Turbo delay, dual button start/stop
BOTTOM LINE: Evoked Baja victories but safer and more comfortable bug today
- Base price w/destination fee $24,815 w/destination fee ($27,305 as tested)
- Curb weight 3,093 lbs.
- Wheelbase 100 inches
- Length 168.7 inches
- Width 71.7 inches
- Engine specs 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged
- Horsepower 170 hp at 4,800 rpm
- Torque 184 lbs.-ft. at 1,500 rpm
- Transmission 6-speed, automatic w/manual shift
- EPA Rating 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway
- Range 14.5-gallon tank, regular
- Performance 0-60 in 7.3 – 7.5 seconds