When a manufacturer offers the use of a vehicle that isn’t yet available on the open market, it’s often the invitation to conversation, admiration, other cars pacing yours and, if the vehicle is a truly interesting one, stares and finger-points.
Such is the case with Volkswagen’s 2017 Beetle Dune convertible turbo, in particular when dressed in Sandstorm yellow, a luscious sunburst of golden hue. Heads turn, with both men and women obsessed by this Beetle. “This is one Beetle I’d consider driving,” said an admiring Millennial man. Can’t say we blame him.
What makes the new Beetle Dune convertible so attractive is how different it is from a standard Beetle, with its large trapezoidal central air intake with black, honeycomb screen. This is coupled with an aluminum look surround that accents the front skid plate and fog lights. There are Dune graphics on both doors and polished aluminum sills with black trim strips that intend to remind us of original Beetle running boards.
The rear of the Beetle Dune – whether this new convertible or the coupe that’s been available since springtime – has a large rear spoiler, standard LED tail lamps and a new, integrated bumper design with matte black and aluminum accents, making the rear complement the front of the car for a more cohesive look. The rear diffuser also serves as a skid plate – it’s plastic so don’t expect it to hold up to copious off-road activities.
The 2017 VW Beetle Dune convertible turbo won’t be offered for sale until either late September or early October, which made the trip to Sonoma in this car the equivalent of being a video star. Gawkers did their thing as it rushed by them, the driver intent on getting from one point to another. And doing it quickly.
The Beetle Dune convertible is powered by VW’s venerable 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine. It emits a robust and usable 170 horsepower at 4800 rpm with a massive 184 lb-ft of torque at a traffic-light derby 1500rpm; redline comes in at 6,000rpm. This front-wheel-drive open- top car has a six-speed automatic transmission that’s shiftable on the floor. With the inherent torque that should not be a necessity, as the Beetle has excellent throttle response. It’s still a heck of a lot of fun to shift this car.
All-independent strut-type and multilink sport suspensions give the Beetle good handling and excellent ride quality, rack and pinion electric-assisted power steering feels firm to the hand that grips the leather-wrapped, color-coordinated steering wheel (love the gold stitching and plastic accents throughout this cabin) and excellent all-wheel disc braking on the Beetle Dune convertible help make this car an extremely stable, composed ride on both highways and country roads. Continental 235/45R tires are mounted on 18-inch, articulated-spoke polished and bright black alloy rims that definitely make the VW Beetle Dune convertible pop visually.
The top is operated by a single switch mounted at the top of the header. Opening and closing the convertible top, including lowering/raising of windows occurs in about 11-13 seconds and can be accomplished when the car is moving at less than 31 mph. No “raindrops keep falling on my head” difficulties here; by the time you finish humming that tune’s signature phrase the top will be closed.
Because this model is not completely readied for market, VW hasn’t released some specs for it, including weight and pricing. It does have another, somewhat similar special edition called “Denim” and that convertible weighs 3225 pounds; expect this to be about the same. Pricing will be announced closer to the time VW’s Beetle Dune convertible hits the showroom floor; with the minimal additions to this car, I’d expect it to price out starting around the $27,000 range. Add your gizmos from there.
For that kind of money, one gets an enviable interior cabin experience. Windows dip on entry and return to give a secure closure on this convertible Dune Beetle. Fit and finish are excellent throughout, with manual seats that give excellent support, have height adjustment and include VW’s lumbar lever for the driver. Gold piping on these light/dark gray chairs adds to the elegance. Grippy cup holders in the central tunnel are in front of VW’s slim central storage and open tray beneath. Those who dare to venture in the cramped rear seat will have a single cup holder for their beverage – plus their own 12-volt plug.
The driver has information directly in front, with a triple-gauge pod showing tachometer, speedometer (with trip info inserted) and fuel gauge. There is no temp gauge and the trip computer only shows oil temps. The base of the VW Beetle Dune convertible’s central stack has a nice, grippy floor with USB and auxiliary plugs; a 12-volt lies closer to the shifter. There’s a nice glovebox and a secondary, golden storage area above that. There’s plenty of hard plastics in this car – as well as some soft – but it all feels so cohesive. And well-built.
The golden theme throughout the interior is so enticing, making it easy to want to simply insert the key, turn it and go motoring. With the Dune-inscribed steering wheel handling phone and audio on the left side and the right side dedicated to trip information, everything really falls readily to hand. Separate stalks operate the excellent cruise control (left) and wipers on the right. The halogen front lights have a separate upper-left destination on the dash; VW does include auto lights on this model. Fog lights operate through the left stalk.
A tonneau cover is provided for the top but was left behind for this trip, allowing the trunk to be stuffed with a 22-inch suitcase, a large backpack, to-the-track bag and gifts. There was still space available if needed in the 15.4-cubic-foot dedicated trunk, and with the 50/50 fold applied to back seats, cargo volume increases to 29.9 cubic feet. Mileage of 25/34/28 mpg from the 14.5-gallon tank, using regular unleaded is given for the VW Dune coupe; we’d figure it’s close enough for the convertible and our mileage was 33mpg for the entire trip, with plenty of around-town driving.
Volkswagen’s “App-Connect” technology allows integration with the current platforms for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink – it was seamless for my Apple iPhone6s and allows me to use my apps and, of course, to make phone calls during the boring drive home on I-5.
The Dune lineup has Composition Media, VW’s infotainment system that includes a 6.3-inch touch-screen for gesture controls. The use of pinching, swiping and pinch-zooming is easy peasy, as is syncing the phone (important stuff). VW’s backup camera is sharp and crisp – and accurate. I easily backed into a cramped garage parking space with just the right amount of room remaining to open doors without worry. The Park Distance Control incessantly beeped to warn me, and colors changed on the screen.
There were some glitches in the interface as it recognized my iPhone on occasion and took a while to sync, forcing me to use Apple CarPlay (which really isn’t that much of a hindrance and happily allows me to charge the phone while I’m listening to Pandora and/or Spotify. I also wonder why VW raised the ground clearance on this vehicle without giving it 4Motion all-wheel-drive. Track’s a little wider and that does contribute to the handling characteristics I definitely enjoyed.
It seems VW has different packages for all of its models that allow one to choose what suits a driver’s needs and personality. I definitely enjoyed the near-1,000-mile week I spent with the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune convertible and, obviously, so did quite a few people that stopped me to gain further information on the car. No doubt VW will sell as many as they can make and that’s a good thing.
By Anne Proffit