Volkswagen Beetle Dune Concept Details:

  • Envisioned as Baja Bug for the 21st Century
  • Lifted and widened, w/2 inches of additional ground clearance and 1.1 inches more track
  • Ski rack built into the roof and rear spoilers
  • Based on a Beetle R-Line with 210-horsepower TSI engine

We go from rendering last week to this, the Volkswagen Dune Concept in the flesh, just unveiled in Detroit for the 2014 North American International Auto Show. As is generally the case, the real deal appears a smidge less aggro than the illustrated version, but that said we're feeling reality more than even we expected.

Channeling Baja buggies of a former era, the Dune Concept rocks yellow-orange metallic "Arizona" paint, offset with matte black fender flares. The wide-body makes the body 73.4 inches wide, an increase of 2.2 inches over a stock Beetle. Overall, the Dune has grown compared with the R-Line model on which it's based; length is increased by 0.5 inches to 168.9 inches and the car is both 2.0 inches higher off the ground and 0.8 inches taller. Track is increased, too, by some 1.1 inches.

The Dune flosses a chrome-plated underbody skid plate and a new hood up front, with a raised center section flanked by air vents. A redesigned front apron boasts a large central air intake, a design feature borrowed from the VW Cross models, and to the left and right of the central air intake and aluminum underbody protection are trapezoidal fog light housings for some custom LED illumination.

Designers made the dune for either the skier or snowboarder, it seems, with a rack integrated to the outside of the trunk lid. To do this, the outer parts of the rear spoiler swivel; the skis are then placed in the spoiler, after which it is closed to clamp them in place. At the top, the skis slide into a receptacle in the specially developed roof spoiler, where they are secured by an 0.8-inch-wide belt. Even with skis mounted, the trunk lid can be opened easily at any time.

The special Beetle's cabin has been redone, too, in two ways primarily. First, the dash pad doesn't have the classic Beetle bin on the passenger side, replaced here by a grab handle. Second, the entire infotainment system incorporates a digital interface with a high-resolution 7.7-inch touchscreen. The seats are also revamped with "Titan Black" leather, while the center surfaces are made of "Ceramique" colored "Gobi" breathable sport fabric.

Mechanically, the Dune uses the running gear from the Beetle R-Line. Underhood, there's a 210 horsepower turbocharged and direct-injection TSI 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Combined with a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Beetle Dune has a manufacturer estimated fuel economy rating of 23 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The car retains the Beetle's front-wheel-drive layout and strut-type front suspension and multilink rear arrangement. As with all U.S. Beetle R-Line models, the electronic XDS differential is standard.

Volkswagen says the Dune concept shows the potential for a new production version of the sportiest Beetle ever. While we don't disagree, we're pretty sure an AWD drivetrain would be better suited for the pursuits they're suggesting. Still, kudos to VW for a thinking way outside their comfort zone.

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