VW Press Release
It was in 1992 that the Volkswagen
Design Studio in Simi Valley, California, began to draft out the first sketches
in the New Beetle's development history. Now it falls to California again to
take the process a stage further. At this year's Los Angeles Auto Show
Volkswagen is exhibiting a Beetle study that takes the needs of the
sport-oriented driver specifically into account. It's name ñ how could it be
called anything else ñ is "Dune". With a high-torque
V5 engine driving all four wheels, this very special New Beetle can take you beyond where the road comes to an end for the conventional on-road automobile. Let your motto be: ëlive it wild, but stay safe!'
Away from the areas of life symbolized by the business suit and the hardtop road, an automobile has to show what it's made of. Dune has been designed to do just that. Its visual clues and technical features are not just a new interpretation of an old off-road theme. Volkswagen's designers have also given Dune a totally durable but refreshingly styled interior. In this setting it's aluminum, high-quality plastics and tough leather that rule.
The transparent, detachable center section of this off-road Beetle's roof may look more seagoing than cross-country in style, but it certainly sets it well apart from every other vehicle in a segment that lies somewhere between the pure roadgoing vehicle and the off-roader.
The airy, versatile roof is a notable feature of the Dune. The soft top's plastic material allows the light to pass and bathes the interior in a warm yellow glow, giving you a feeling of sailing in the sun when the roof is up. When it is open, the Dune creates a very special kind of open-air feeling, which passengers can enjoy under a blue sky without any drafts of air to disturb them.
The soft top weighs very little and, with its well-designed mechanism, is therefore easy to open and close. Two locking fasteners can be released in a moment; it is then pushed together across the four aluminum struts that can be seen from the outside and placed in the trunk, where it occupies very little space.
The basic shape of the New Beetle, which has received three American design awards, has for evident reasons not been changed. The modifications start where a vehicle that's designed to operate away from the main highways needs to have different functions. At the front, the underride guard combined with the radiator grill is an obvious new feature. Made of aluminum, it acts as a very substantial bumper but none the less remains true to the New Beetle's typical design language. Because of the space it occupies in the front air dam, the flashing turn indicators have had to be repositioned: for the Dune, they are now circular and located next to the headlamps but farther away from the body sides, where they harmonize well with the central Volkswagen badge in the hood.
At the rear the center section of the bumper is also made of aluminum to match the corresponding element at the front. To emphasize the Dune's sporting character the exhaust emission control system has two stainless steel tailpipes, and the rear lamps are of clear-glass design.
Seen from the side, the Dune's six-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels with special 235/60 R 18 tires are a striking feature. By way of comparison: the standard New Beetle is supplied with 205/55 R 16 tires. Body side protection is highly functional: two protective strips in the door area, wheel arch liners that extend round to the outside of the fenders and massive side sills. These are shaped to protect the underside of the outer body edges effectively when driving off-road.
An automobile conceived specifically for the enthusiastic leisure user has to be as practical as possible. Any other concept would be restrictive and defeat the object of unlimited pleasure. A diver, for instance, doesn't want the car's trunk to be lined with fabric. Moisture and dirt would soon spoil its appearance. The Dune leisure concept car is therefore trimmed and finished inside with its challenging areas of operation in mind.
This is why it's logical to start at the back instead of the front when making a closer examination of the Dune. The trunk is a major element in its sheer versatility: strongly built but attractive, the complete load platform is lined with aluminum. This metal was chosen to make the trunk suitable for a wide variety of purposes and keep it resistant to dirt and moisture. Front-to-rear aluminum strips retain such items as air bottles or the diver's Neoprene suit securely. The side panels are trimmed with a black leather chosen for its durability.
The interior designers have also paneled the rear seat backs with aluminum sheet. When the seats are folded, this yields a large, uninterrupted load surface. The Dune's basic concept is that of a 2 + 2-seater, according to the theory that such vehicles are nearly always occupied by two people who need all the space that the variable load area can provide for the equipment they want to carry with them. But if the two back seats are in use, the passengers' comfort and safety are also assured: the integral seat head restraints can be pulled out as far as necessary, and there is even a cold-store box next to the seat.
The complete floor between the rear seats and the front firewall is covered with a high-quality, durable synthetic material in Sunrise Yellow. The same color is used for part of the leather upholstery, the trim and the complete paint finish. For the footwell areas that may have to stand up to rough treatment, Volkswagen has installed aluminum plates. Black rubber studs prevent them from slipping. The contrast between the special Sunrise Yellow and Black elements of the color scheme is continued on the front seats and in the door trims, which have been redesigned starting from the center sections. Both the front and back seats use a non-slip black woven material for their center panels; the outer sections and sides are in Sunrise Yellow, the seat backs in Black. If sand blown by the wind or a particularly big wave should accidentally reach the Dune's interior, it can be easily be cleaned and restored to its original attractive condition.
The Dune concept study differs here too in a number of significant ways from the standard New Beetle. The new central instrument is a striking example of this. Whereas the New Beetle has a single circular dial containing information on all the principal functions, the Dune uses three elements. A new navigation system is prominently placed in the center. It is a compass of above-average intelligence that will lead you reliably back to civilization if you should happen to stray too far off the beaten track. Two additional displays in this instrument indicate the body's roll and tilt angles. The outer dials are a revolution counter at the left and a speedometer at the right. Like the translucent roof, the instruments are framed by a plastic surround that allows the light to pass through. It prevents unwanted reflections but casts a pleasantly soft light on the instruments during the day.
Aluminum is the main material used for the controls and functional design elements. The restyled ventilation outlets are made from this gleaming metal as are the surrounds for the treble and bass radio loudspeakers, the modified door handles and window lift backplates, the gear shift knob and the handbrake lever, to mention only the more important items.
The Technical Features
As mentioned above, the concept car is powered by a 2.3-liter V5 engine; when used in other Volkswagen models this engine has had a quoted power output of 150hp. Power is transmitted through a six-speed manual-shift gearbox to Volkswagen's familiar 4Motion four-wheel drive.
The Dune's driver can vary the ride height of the car's air suspension to suit the terrain. With three programmable stages, the suspension has a total height adjustment range of 120 millimeters (4.72 inches).
In view of the extensive changes made to its running gear and body, the Dune concept car differs from the standard New Beetle in all its overall dimensions. To ensure good off-road properties, the already short front body overhang has been reduced again slightly. This makes the complete car almost four centimeters shorter. The opposite situation applies to the width and height: At the lowest suspension ride height setting, the height goes up by 62 millimeters (2.4 inches). The size 235 tires and the modified fenders which they need have had the effect of increasing the Dune's width by 101 millimeters (4 inches).