2017 Volkswagen Dune Cabriolet First Review

By Tony Swan, Contributing Editor on September 19, 2016 11:00 AM

Against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future of Volkswagen’s latter day Beetle—will it persist beyond the 2017 model year?—VW continues to tinker with the current car, adding two more variants to a growing list of special editions.

Of the two, the #PinkBeetle requires little elaboration, although to be accurate it isn’t exactly pink. Officially, the color is called Fresh Fuscia Metallic. The pinking extends to the interior, even finding its way into the plaid cloth seats. A basic 2017 Beetle coupe is $20,815. Add $1895 for the pink treatment. MSRP for the #Pink convertible is $27,615.

Aside from 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, most of the elements of the #PinkBeetle are cosmetic. The Convertible Dune (officially, the Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune) goes further with actual functional changes.

Modern Dune buggy

The Dune idea—a contemporary interpretation of the Beetle-based Baja buggies created during the heyday of the original Bug—made its debut in 2016 based on the coupe. A little wider bodywork, thanks to fender flares and cladding; a little wider track, thanks to wider wheels (18 x 6 inches) wearing 235/40 all-season tires; and, the biggest distinction, a small increase in static ride height—not quite a half-inch.

Other exterior elements include side graphics that verify the special edition identity, a bigger rear spoiler, and Dune-exclusive front and rear bumpers, although all the Beetles get new bumpers for 2017. What the convertible adds to the Dune trim is the option of fresh air and sunshine. Like all the Beetle cabrios, the Dune’s power soft top goes up or down (no manual latches to manipulate) in a little less than 10 seconds, and can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph.

The interior is distinguished by a painted dash, upholstery color coordinated to the exterior (in two of the three color choices), and a lot of nifty stitchery. Those colors, exclusive to the Dune, are Sandstorm Yellow Metallic, Deep Black Metallic, and Pure White. The painted dash in the black and white Dunes is black, as is the upholstery treatment.

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Subtle Dynamics

Is there a dynamic difference between the standard Beetle droptop and the Dune? Based on a too-brief cruise on some scenic Washington state byways, the answer is maybe. An indefinite maybe.That extra ride height may contribute to a slightly creamier ride—credit the fractional increase in suspension travel—although the regular Beetle cabrio is a long way from bone-jarring. The down side of this, if any, is perhaps a tiny reduction in transient response and an equally tiny increase in body roll during cornering.

However, these dynamic distinctions are essentially academic. Dune or standard, the Beetle cabrio is smooth, competent, quiet with the top up, and relatively free of cockpit turbulence with the top down.

Performance with the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder turbo (170 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque) and 6-speed automatic transmission can’t be called thrilling, but is certainly satisfactory. The 0-to-60 mph sprint consumes about 7.5 seconds, and while the manual function of the automatic transmission isn’t very satisfying, the self-shifter is reasonably smooth and responsive in full auto mode. As a footnote, all 2017 Beetles will be equipped with the 6-speed automatic. The manual option has been dropped.

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Another Dune footnote: the increased width, increased ride height, and increased area of the rear spoiler decreases EPA highway ratings. The standard Beetle convertible is rated 24 mpg city, 33 highway, whereas the Dune loses 2 mpg on the highway at 24/31.

One final observation: the latter day Dune may commemorate the VW buggies of yesteryear, but its modest increase in ride height does not make it sand dune suitable. Challenging the sands of, for example, Pismo Beach with this car is a good way to create bonus work for tow truck drivers.

The new Dune convertible is based on one of three standard Beetle Cabrio trims for 2017: S, from $25,475; SE, from $27,570; and SEL, from $31,095. Based on the SE trim, the Dune convertible MSRP is $31,210. 


 

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