2017 VW Beetle DUNE Cabriolet – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

Is the Beetle Dune ragtop just what the doctor ordered?

Back in September, we tested a VW Beetle Dune, and decided it could be the answer to VW’s Diesel-inspired tummy troubles.

While the folks at VW may (still) be reaching for a Super Gulp-size Pepto, we found a much better choice for quick relief.

The 2017 VW Beetle DUNE Cabrio.

The recipe for the convertible is pretty similar to the Dune hardtop. Based as an homage to the Baja Bugs of yore, all Dune models get a notable bump in the macho department, with a slightly taller ride height (half an inch), and a 0.2- inch wider rear track.

The Dune also gets some nice eye candy, with black moldings in the fenders, and unique 18-inch “Canyon” alloys that fill out the wheelwels. Add in a honeycomb front grille, skid plates front and rear (for appearance only), a chunky Porsche-like rear spoiler, LED taillights, and you’ve got about as butch as a VW Beetle convertible is going to look.

Like our previous hardtop tester, our convertible was finished in Sandstorm Yellow – actually closer to a gold metallic – and like that tester, it’s the best color available. For those who want to fly low on the radar, there’s also a Deep Black Pearl, and Pure White available. All three colors come with a black convertible top.

OK, this is not a car for wallflowers. The bright color, chunky stance and top-down adventurous looks get attention. Even more than our very popular Dune tin-top. It’s a car that exudes a cheerfulness that draws people in. They smile, they talk. Even in jaded, car-crazed SoCal, our tester was a big hit.

Inside, the convertible is a comfy place to be, with VW’s usual attention to using high quality materials. The good times continue with body-color dashboard and door caps, along with a neat flip-lever upper glovebox inspired by the original Beetle.

There’s nothing retro with the Info-tainment. Even in our non-Navi equipped car, you get a touch-screen sound system, streaming Bluetooth, rearview monitor (a real help when the top is up) and VW’s Car-Net App-Connect which can load apps from your smartphone onto the large touchscreen for easy interactivity.

Other places worth interfacing include amply-padded two-tone front sport seats with durable-looking V-tex leatherette trim, set off by contrasting yellow piping on the seats. Reach out to the fat-rimmed, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with tasty yellow stitching, and you know you’re in something special.

You might not feel as coddled in back, though. The folding top and associated gear take up space, and the squeeze put on the rear seats mean adults will find it best for short trips. Kids will be happy for longer ones – don’t forget the sunscreen. When empty, the 50/50 split-folding seats give useful cargo-carrying ability.

Even with seats up, the trunk is actually pretty accommodating – especially when you ditch the removable tonneau cover for the top. It’s a bit of a pain to put on, and its bulk means it eats up space in the trunk when not in use. Our recco: keep it in its original wrapper, and store it in the garage.While the coupe’s more aggressive look had us salivating with Porsche-on-a-budget fantasies, the convertible offers more of a “hey, let’s cruise” mentality.

Well, that couldn’t be easier. The fully-automatic top lowers in about 10 seconds via a switch above the rearview mirror. You can even raise or lower the top at speeds up to 30 mph – nice when the light changes and you’re in mid-act.

Powered by VW’s familiar 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder turbo, and backed up by the smooth-shifting 6-speed auto, the Dune’s fat turbo powerband makes for easy, effortless performance – just what you’d want for a top-down drive.

The Dune’s slightly raised suspension also pays multiple dividends here. The soft ride is exceptionally comfortable, and also sops up the kind of urban bumps and potholes that can cause rattle and shake, making many convertibles creakers before their time. None here.

It’s also easy to enjoy the Dune convertible on the freeway – good power, excellent visibility (with the top down), and civilized demeanor make it an excellent choice for a road trip. Windows up will reduce road noise, but you really don’t get blasted very badly going full Al Fresco.

Head for the two-lanes, and you’ll find handling is smooth and predictable with nice steering feel. While it’s not designed to be a sports car, it’s easy to take on twisty roads. Overall, there’s an underlying feeling of harmony between engine, transmission, suspension. It’s groovy. (You know one Beetle-ism had to sneak in…)

That harmonic convergence will cost you, though. The Dune convertible starts at $29,395, a pretty stiff increase over the hardtop’s $23,995. While our drop-top tester didn’t feature it, we would have opted for the available Technology Package. Including keyless access with push-button start, a sweet-sounding 8-speaker Fender Premium Audio System, and dual-zone climate control, it’s a good value at $995, and the VW feels so well-built and upscale, it would be a shame to go without.

Thus equipped, that would put our Dune convertible at $31,460. While it’s not cheap, it is a premium product. Over at Mini, a notably smaller Cooper S convertible starts at $29,600. Comparably equipped though, it’s an eye-watering $35,000. Apparently, less is more.

Maybe by the time you read this, VW will have sorted through the problems with the diesel.

In the meantime, the carmaker offers some other great products.  The GTI we recently tested, the Golf Wagon that we’re hoping to drive soon, and this wonderful little cabriolet.

Hold the Pepto – the Dune is just what the Dr. ordered.

2017 VW Beetle DUNE Cabrio

 

2016 Volkswagen Beetle DUNE Editions - Hitting Sand in Hard or Soft Tops Next Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round -- whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, or learning to surf.