I’m the only motherfucker dumb enough to drive an old VW Baja Bug in the middle of New York City. Volkswagen hauled their modern Baja, called the Dune Concept, to the potholed streets of Manhattan for a press drive. In spite of my previous assertions, they let me drive their hideously expensive one-of-one prepro car, and here’s what it’s like.
The current new new Beetle is a fine and competent car, but it’s not exactly filled with whimsy. That would be fine in a normal Golf, but it’s a let down for a Bug. But this thing, this concept car, is genuinely kind of fun. Turns out all they had to do was lift it.
The Beetle Dune is pretty much a concept car in name only. Other than the hybrid system that’s already in production in the Jetta Hybrid, it’s basically the car that VW is actually going to put in showrooms at the start of 2016.
The looks, the fake skidplates, the willful whimsy — that’s all going into production.
Just don’t expect the version you’ll be able to buy to have this big emergency shut off button that I really, really wanted to press on the highway.
The difference between the Dune and a normal Beetle is a new set of shocks, wheels, and tires. They’re enough to give the car an extra 20mm of right height. Here’s what that looks like.
Some new plastic cladding and some fake skidplates from and back round out what is largely an appearance package.
If you’re curious about this particular hybrid concept car, it has a 150hp gas engine and a 27hp electric motor, providing so-so acceleration and economy around 30 mpg at the hand of a bunch of journalists around Manhattan traffic.
The production model, however, drops the hybrid drive but sticks with front-wheel drive. That sounds like a missed opportunity leaving AWD off, but you don’t really need AWD to have fun in the dirt. I’ve seen New Beetles absolutely rail through rallycross with nothing more than some cut fenders, new tires, and skidplates, all easily done by an owner.
Normally, I would view that with extreme skepticism, particularly since I drive a real lifted Bug, a ‘73 Baja in extremely ratty shape.
But you can’t be cynical in a lifted Bug. It’s just not possible.
There’s no real reason for anyone to buy a slightly lifted VW Beetle. It (much to my dismay) doesn’t give you a significantly softer ride. It doesn’t give you an especially better view of the road. It doesn’t really do anything practical for the owner.
And that’s exactly what makes it so great.
It’s pointless. Specifically, it’s pointless with the aim of being enjoyable and good looking and silly.
Does this middle vent at the front go anywhere? No! Does it look cool? Sure!
Technically, this Dune drives just like any other Beetle, meaning it drives just like any other Golf. But there’s some kind of feeling that this car implants into your brain while you’re driving. That the world reflects a bit brighter in the glowing orange paint inside and out. That every other car on the road carries a sterner demeanor.
VW will even offer a diesel version when it comes time to sell production units. That will mean they’ll be selling a lifted, diesel, coupe! Not an SUV, not a crossover, a stupid retro smiley face two-door.
It’s practicality, with added silliness.
If you’re going to get a new Beetle, think about getting the lifted one. Even though it doesn’t make sense. That’s what getting a Bug is about.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove
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