2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Edition Convertible


By Dan Scanlan –

So here’s this golden VW Beetle Dune Edition Convertible, and my state trooper buddy walks up from his HEMI Dodge Charger cruiser and nods at my ride. “So Dan, when are you getting a man’s car?” he said, eliciting snickers from fellow journalists.

OK, some might see the Beetle ragtop as a slightly less macho beast on the road. But in the tradition of Beetles since the 1970s, and revived in 1997 when it was reborn, there have been some special editions. Like the Denim Edition we had recently, most times its paint and some decals made the only difference.

But like the sands of time through an hourglass, the Dune is different.

• Dune design — Our Sandstorm Yellow fifth-generation Beetle differs from all its siblings by having a redesigned nose and tail, resulting in a bigger Bug — .4-inches higher and .6 inches wider. Some called it cute, while others praised its redesign as the best looking Beetle in a while. But some lamented that the hint of classic Baja Bug was just skin deep, and didn’t continue to a beefed-up all-wheel-drive system so it could go off road.
The more aggressive front bumper is evident under the familiar chrome-rimmed oval headlights with LED daytime running lights on rounded fenders. There’s a center honeycomb air slit over a wide-mouthed center intake framed in SUV-like silver, complete with a fake lower brush guard. Side intakes are fake, but each pack a fog light and turn signal. Below them, the start of ubiquitous crossover-style black trim that becomes the wheel arch extensions on fenders.

The black frames brushed alloy and gloss black 10-spoke “Canyon” wheels wearing 18-inch Continental rubber. Look carefully and you can see the Dune’s .4-inch raised ride height, the width increase due to the black wheel arches.

The Dune’s flanks get a retro-look sill decal with the name in question, paralleling a black trim strip and polished aluminum sill meant to echo classic Beetle running boards of old. The side mirrors are done in silver over black with turn signal repeaters. The curved windshield pillars neatly join a black cloth top that replicates the coupe’s shape, but looks a bit lower and slammed like a hot rod.

A chrome strip circles the beltline, and the black-over-gold spoiler is attached to a trunk lid with a big chrome VW emblem that doubles as release handle, then reveals a tiny camera when you back up. Head aft, and rounded rear fenders get U-shaped LED taillights over a reshaped bumper with matte black and SUV-like aluminum designs. Twin exhaust pipes peek out of one bumper corner.

Of all the special versions of the current Beetle, the Dune has the most distinctive look, from edgier nose design to tail accents. But it is still a basic Beetle.

• Dune digs — The interior featured something the other (white or black) color variations don’t get – a body-colored dash and door tops. And that, with the two-tone gray seats’ contrasting “Curry” yellow stitching and piping, certainly went a long way toward individualizing this Beetle.

That said, the rest is basic — decently equipped and open to the sky when you want. The two-tone seats were comfortable, with basic support and manually adjustable and manual lumbar support. There’s a gold-rimmed 160-mph speedometer big and center, smaller 8,000-rpm tach and gas gauge on the sides. A simple trip computer in the speedometer also offers audio information, engine temperature and digital speedometer. There’s gold stitching on the flat-bottom steering wheel, its thin rim done in leather with a “DUNE” plaque at its bottom spoke. It manually tilts and telescopes, equipped with buttons for stereo, Bluetooth, very functional voice command, and gauge display.

Framed by air vents golden dash center is the infotainment touchscreen with the powerful and clean Fender AM-FM-SiriusXM audio system, plus classic CD and SD card slots. Its USB port and MP3 input are in a rubberized smartphone nook at the base of the center stack. The touchscreen gets VW Car-Net App-Connect, USB and Bluetooth connectivity for compatible devices, along with rear camera and parking sensor displays. But top down, you can’t see the screen due to sun glare.

Under the stereo, a dual-zone climate control panel with seat heaters. The silver start/stop button lives next to the gearshift, with twin cup holders and a height adjustable armrest with a bit of storage inside.

There’s a bit more whimsy in the cabin — a thumbwheel control left of the steering wheel selects colors for accent lighting on the doors’ speaker rims and door trim, visible only at night. What was very visible and well done was a fully-finished black cloth interior on the top. Meanwhile, the passenger gets two gloves boxes; one a retro top-hinged “Beetle bin” in the golden upper dash. No door map pockets, just twin elastic bands.

Back seat room is narrowed by power top and pop-up roll bar system behind them, with very upright seatbacks and minimal leg room unless folks in front give in. That power top can drop in under 10 seconds up to 31 mph, while shading your head takes about 11 seconds to come up. Holding its button on the windshield header also handles all four power windows. The top takes up some trunk space, the remaining 7.1-cu.ft. usable, with a small opening. A semi-rigid tonneau cover folds and almost fills the trunk. It’s not the easiest thing to clip and slot around the folded top, which accordions into a neat stack. I’d leave it home and gain trunk space, which can be expanded via split-and-fold rear seatbacks.

Top up, the smallish rear window leaves rear-side vision framed by wide B-pillars, so add the side mirrors to the drill when changing lanes. When the top is down, the stack is low enough to see what’s behind bar back seat head restraints that divide the view. That backup camera with a split screen showing the surround-view parking sensors helped.

• Dune driving — Back in the days of the original Beetle, owners cut back the fenders, removed engine cover and bumpers, hopped up the little air-cooled motor and birthed the Baja Bug. Fat tires, lighter weight and more power over rear wheels made these buggies fly over sand. So it’s no surprise that VW would bring back some Baja Bug mojo with the 2017 Dune. But there’s no hopped-up motor under its hood, just a Bug-standard turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder TSI engine made in Mexico. It has a decent 170-hp, its 6-speed automatic shifting faster when it’s set in “Sport” mode.

Punch the buggy and the turbocharger kicks in at about 3,000 rpm, then the 15,000-mile-old Baja squeaks its front tires as it gets traction and hits 60-mph in 7.3 seconds. That’s compared to 7.9 seconds for a slightly younger mileage Denim model we tested last year, or just under 9 from the 170-hp 2.5-liter five cylinder seen in the first version of this generation Beetle. Indicated fuel mileage varied on the trip computer – 30 mpg on regular after highway driving, then 20 mpg after a day of urban cruising.

Like we said, the Dune has just under a half-inch higher ride height dialed into its strut-type front suspension with lower control arms and an anti-roll bar, and multi-link independent rear suspension with coil springs, telescopic dampers, and an 18-mm-diameter anti-roll bar. The ride was very comfortable and controlled, but you could feel the added height with some bounce over bumps and a bit of body roll in turns.

It tracked well in highway exit ramps, a hiss of understeer from the front tires as we pushed, but very controllable. Try to play GTI and its front end slides controllably, stability control kicking in noticeably. The 11.3-inch- front/10.7-inch rear disc brakes offered a decent pedal feel and good stopping power, with no fade after three hard hits from 60 mph. The power steering was a bit over-boosted but accurate, that wheel rim just too skinny for a sporty feel.

And as far as driving topless, breeze management is OK, with sun visors that actually pivot and work, unlike some other drop-tops. The chopped top earns the car added chassis reinforcement, a thicker A-pillar interior bar and steel tubing between B-pillars, and an extra rear panel between the rear rollover bars that pop up aft of rear head restraints if sensors detect a roll-over. The result was a pretty shake-free ride over bumps with the top down, with no cowl shake visible over cobblestones.

What about living up to its name? With front wheel drive and regular rubber, while you see it parked near sand dunes, we didn’t venture there.

• Dune dollars — A base 2017 Beetle hatchback starts at $19,995, while a basic convertible is $24,725 and our Dune’s base was $29,395. Its only option was the $995 technology package with Fender audio system with trunk-mounted sub-woofer, dual-zone climate control and push-button start. Final price – a golden $31,210.

That’s a gold standard price for a basic Beetle convertible with some sunny stuff. As for competition, it’s the same ones we had when we compared the Denim Edition late last year — the MINI Cooper Convertible and the Fiat 500C Lounge. A 101-hp 500C starts at $24,000, while the 134-hp MINI Cooper starts at $26,000.

The Fiat’s cloth top slides aft along the steel roof rail, while the MINI is a true convertible, its center section sliding back like a sunroof as well. Both are shorter, the Fiat almost 30 inches less than the Beetle. Both take 10 seconds or so to get to 60-mph. The Fiat is a bit underpowered but agile, fun to take through turns with decent basic grip and controllable understeer. The MINI Cooper Convertible was much more fun in the curves with some agile handling. Both are also tiny in terms of people and package room.

• Bottom line — This may be the coolest-looking modern Beetle. But it is just a Beetle, albeit gold-plated – sort of.

2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Edition Convertible
Vehicle type – 4-passenger compact convertible
Base price – $29,395 (As tested – $31,210)
Engine type – DOHC, 16-valve turbocharged/intercooled in-line four
Displacement – 1.8 liter
Horsepower (net) – 170 @ 4,800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) – 184 @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission – 6-speed automatic w/manual shift mode
Wheelbase – 100 inches
Overall length – 168.7 inches
Overall width – 71.7 inches
Height – 58.7 inches
Front headroom – 39.3 inches
Front legroom – 41.3 inches
Rear headroom – 29.5 inches
Rear legroom – 31.4 inches
Cargo capacity – 7.1 cu. ft.
Curb weight – 3,280 lbs.
Fuel capacity – 14.5 gallons
Mileage rating – 25-mpg city/31-mpg highway



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