The Dune is more appealing in its natural environment out on the road than on a clinical auto show stand, for sure.

With 7.1 inches of ground clearance, the Dune sits almost 2 inches higher than the standard Beetle. The addition of cladding within the front and rear wheelhouses has also enabled the addition of lower-offset wheels that effectively widen the track.

The wheels, styled to resemble the optional 18-inch Twister rims available on other Beetle models, measure 19 inches in diameter and are shod with 235/45 profile Dunlop Sport Maxx tires – not exactly off-road grade.

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 2 inches, 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 VolkswagenTiguan, giving you a commanding view of the road. There is also sufficient height adjustment within the seat itself to further raise the seat 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 dash ahead of the passenger seat, more sporting instrument graphics, a high-gloss surround for the touch-screen infotainment monitor, elastic door pocket straps and lovely cross-stitched leather seats.

With 210 hp and a solid chunk of torque on tap, the Beetle Dune accelerates with a good deal of vigor both off the line and through the gears. Volkswagen points to a 0-62 mph time of 7.3 sec, which is 0.2 sec faster than the standard Beetle despite the increased drag brought about by the added ride height. VW also quotes a top speed of 141 mph.

The turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder won't be the only engine offered: Volkswagen hints the existing 170 hp turbocharged 1.8 liter four-cylinder gas and 140 hp turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder diesel units will also be available when sales begin in 2016. 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 will retain 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 maneuverability and 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, 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.

Volkswagen hints that the Dune may come with the option of a diesel variant.PHOTO BY VOLKSWAGEN

Do I want it?

With Volkswagen planning to crank up production of the Beetle Dune following a world debut tentatively scheduled for the 2015 Los Angeles auto show, it should reach North American showrooms in less than two years.

It is not the resurrection of the classic Baja Bug many had yearned for. And without the choice of four-wheel drive it is going to struggle to get real credibility in the burgeoning crossover ranks. But if early impressions are any guide, the high-riding Dune could well turn out to be the pick of the Beetle range.

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