Comeback time for the VW Baja Bug

  • 110kW – imagine that in the original buggy!
  • Four seats only – and marginal ride-height increase
  • Play-play Porsche aerofoil – but it’s said to work.
2016 VW Baja Bug
2016 VW Baja Bug Image: VW

Volkswagen has revived the style (sort of!) of the Beetle Baja Bug of the 1960’s with a modern version called the Beetle Dune complete with a Porsche-style wing over what used to be the engine compartment.

The Beetle Dune was premiered at the 2015 Los Angeles auto show with 18″ alloy wheels rims and a wider and lifted body – more reminiscences of the hippymobiles and surfboards of the now legendary dune buggies – essentially, back then, de-roofed VW Beetles.

The Dune for South Africa will be available with only a 1.4 TSI engine with power that, back in hippytime, might only have been matched by a V8 sports car – 110kW – and driving a then in-your-dreams seven-speed direct-shift transmission. A convertible version is available in some countries.

2016 VW Baja Bug
2016 VW Baja Bug  Image: VW

Note: it legally seats only four.

The year 2000 marked the beginning of a vision of a Beetle Dune. A concept car based on the New Beetle was designed for that year’s Los Angeles auto show. It had a brightt-yellow lifted body and a transparent and removable roof section.

Back then, 16 years ago, VW said this about the concept: “That this off-road Beetle with its transparent and removable roof section has more of a nautical than rustic look sets it clearly apart from other products of this segment in that it is positioned between cars for normal roads and off-road vehicles.”

Though a concept att that time there were no plans for a production car. It stuck, however, in the corporate psyche and has now come to life and, VW says: “Its charisma – like that of the original Beetle – still impresses. It was pure passion that drove our designers to continue to develop such icons – and this one made it to the line.”

WATCH  video of the Dune Buggy convertible in the US

VW’s head of design, Klaus Bischoff, set a team to work at the end of 2013 to transfer the New Beetle Dune concept onto the 21st century Beetle. The result was another concept car shown at the January 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

This time the concept car went to production.

2016 VW Baja Bug
2016 VW Baja Bug Image: VW

VW describes thee Dune as having a unique and powerful character with off-road looks, new bumper designs, front and rear diffusers, lifted body and – new for the model range – the Canyon 18″ rims and an extensively redesigned nose.

Unchanged are the car’s basic style and round headlights; entirely new is a front apron design with “an extremely dynamic appearance” defined by a large central grille with a black honeycomb screen “which accentuates the sporty look of front”.

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The grille has been set into a silver frame and bracketed by black-framed trapezoidal inserts containing fog lights and turn indicators. There’s another air-intake beneath the bonnet.

“Adding charisma,” VW says, “are black side trim panels (stylised “Beetle” running boards) and silver sills. Above the panels on each side is a double black stripe that extends to the “DUNE” signature at the front.

“An elegant feature is the anodised aluminium side window trim.”

2016 VW Baja Bug
2016 VW Baja Bug Image: VW

Three new elements define the car’s tail: a working large spoiler, new diode-lit tail lights and redesigned bumper. The spoiler, gloss black on top and body-colour underneath. The tail lights, VW says, “generate an entirely new night design”.

Three body colours are available for the Beetle Dune: white, silver and the classic original yellow. A black roof is an option but all units have a wider track than other Beetles derivatives – 7mm front and 6mm rear – and ride 14mm further from the tar.

The windscreen, like the original, is steep but the instrument panel combines innovative technology and user controls with painted surfaces and a glove compartment – again, like the original air-cooled car.

The Dune’s cabin can be further customised with colour: first is the dashboard in the standard Sandstorm Yellow Metallic colour with door shoulders. This can also be ordered in black.

2016 VW Baja Bug
2016 VW Baja Bug Image: VW

Then the instrument dials’ surrounds are also Sandstorm colour, the leather-clad steering-wheel is contrast-stitched, as are the front sport seats (which also carry a Dune logo), the handbrake grip and the gear-shift knob..

Other extended interior/functional features of the Dune include auto headlights, seat lumbar support, illuminated make-up mirrors, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and windshield wipers, parking radar and, for those who shouldn’t have passed their driving test, “hill-hold assist”.

Options include sport seats with Vienna leather, xenon headlights and diode daytime running lights.

HOW ABOUT A FENDER SOUND SYSTEM?

The Beetle Dune also has the latest VW infotainment systems with a 13cm touchscreen for the radio/CD or an optional 16.5cm screen which includes satnav. Eight speakers are included, along with MP3, card slot, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary ports.

A Fender sound system is offered with adjustable ambient cabin lighting (white, red, blue), light rings around the speakers. The Fender gear includes four tweeters, woofers in the front doors and the rear side trim. Yes, and a boxed bsub-woofer in the boot.

The heart of the sound system is a 10-channel amplifier with output amplifiers and 400W watts of output power.

PRICES (VAT and emissions tax included)

1.2 TSI 77kW Design – R312 400
1.4 TSI 110kW Sport – R383 600
1.4 TSI 110kW Sport DSG a/t – R399 600
1.4 TST 110kW Dune DSG a/t – R416 700

The new Beetle comes standard with a five-year or 60 000km maintenance plan, three-year or 120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals 15 000km.

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