Quite convincing – more so in its natural environment out on the road than on a clinical motor show stand, for sure.
With 180mm of ground clearance, the Dune sits 50mm higher than the standard Beetle. The addition of cladding within the front and rear wheelhouses has also enabled the fitment of lower offset wheels that effectively widen the tracks by 29mm to a respective 1607mm and 1573mm.
The wheels, styled to resemble the optional 18-inch Twister rims available on other Beetle models, measure 19-inch in diameter and are shod with 235/45 profile Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres – not exactly off-road grade, then.
The big surprise when you see the Volkswagen concept up close alongside other cars is just what that added ground clearance does for its appearance. It might only be 50mm, but the added ride height gives the Dune an instantly more imposing and more purposeful air than the standard Beetle. And these impressions continue as you swing the driver’s door open and step inside.
The added ground clearance sets the driver’s seat at the same height as the Volkswagen Tiguan, giving you a commanding view of the road. There is also sufficient height adjustment within the seat itself to further raise the squab and sit even higher still.
As with the exterior, Volkswagen has reworked various elements of the interior, although the basic design and architecture of the standard Beetle is retained. Among the exceptions is the addition of a grab handle in the facia ahead of the passenger seat, more sporting instrument graphics and lovely cross stitched leather seats.
With 207bhp and a solid slab of torque on tap, the Beetle Dune accelerates with a good deal of vigor. Volkswagen points to a 0-62mph time of 7.3sec, which makes it comfortably quicker than any existing Beetle model off the line and through the gears.
It also quotes a top speed of 141mph. Not that we got anywhere near this on the slip roads leading to our photographic location on the German island of Sylt. However, it is already clear that, with the promise of turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder power, the upcoming production version of the Beetle Dune will not want for performance.
It won’t be the only engine on offer, though. Volkswagen hints the existing turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel units will also be on offer.
Forget any notion the raised ride height might be aligned to four-wheel drive to give the toughened up Beetle proper off-road credentials; the Dune retains the same front-wheel drive set-up as its on-road biased siblings in the interest of weight saving.
Direct and light steering properties combine with the excellent vision afforded by the raised ride height to provide the new Beetle with excellent manoeuvrability and, despite increased lean angles, quite engaging handling.
What does need sorting is the ride. The added ground clearance has robbed the suspension of crucial wheel travel, giving the concept a firm and rather brittle ride. Don’t be surprised to see the ride height dropped slightly in production guise, if only to improve the compression and rebound characteristics. If other crossover models from Volkswagen are any indication, the Beetle Dune will likely end up 30mm higher than its standard sibling.