VW unveils Beetle Dune that could reach showrooms

DETROIT— Grab your snowboard or sandboard and go.

That’s the idea behind a dune buggy concept car version of Volkswagen’s Beetle unveiled Monday at the Detroit auto show.

VW envisions the Beetle Dune appealing to skiers in Aspen, Colo., or sandboarders in Florence, Ore. The company bills it as a 21st century of the Baja Bug, which is a modified Beetle that can handle tough off-road conditions, like the deserts of Baja, Calif.

Officially, VW says no decision has been made on whether to produce the thing. But the appeal of the Beetle brand gives the concept a better chance of appearing in showrooms.

“Dune, for the time being, is a concept,” said Michael Horn, Volkswagen Group of America president and chief executive said after the unveiling. “If people like it, we work on the concept and we create a very specific marketing campaign for it.”

It’s a safe bet that such a promotional plan would aim to reach young, creative types like those who took over the stage, bohemian flash mob style, during its unveiling. A group led by the Canadian band “Walk Off the Earth” serenaded the crowd with a version of their song, “Gang of Rhythm,” the video for which shows them banging— rhythmically— on a VW Beetle. They accompanied themselves with a collection of instruments that included a guitar, ukulele, xylophone and a Middle Eastern drum called a darbuka.

The Dune is based on a high-performance Beetle R-Line, but VW has given it a special look that sets it apart from other versions of the German classic.

The Dune’s the taller stance and black wheel arch extensions that make the car 2.2 inches wider sets it apart from a regular Beetle. The front and rear wheels move outward a little, too, and the Dune is a half-inch longer than the current version.

In front, the Beetle Dune gets a new hood with a raised center section and air vents. It also gets a large central air intake. Outside the trunk lid, drivers can mount skis or snowboards.

Inside, the dashboard is painted the same color as the outside and the seats are stitched with the exterior color.

The Dune gets the same 210-horsepower, 2-Liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the Beetle R-Line, which gets 23 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.

No price or date for production was announced for the Dune. The current R-Line starts at $24,795 excluding shipping.

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