Top Down Fun!
It doesn’t matter where you live, eventually the weather will be perfect and, you will be thinking how nice it would be to have a convertible. It takes a certain type of person, one who can’t get
enough of the great outdoors, to own a convertible (or cabrio, rag top, drop top—whatever you want to call it). Some people kind of sneak up on the convertible lifestyle by buying a car with a sunroof, so they get at least a little bit of the open air driving experience. Frequently, the biggest objection to owning a convertible comes from a personal experience many years ago. It could be air or water leaks, rear plastic window cracks or yellowing, or an ill-fitting, rattling top. Well, those days are over with the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Convertible—a thoroughly modern and cool car without a fixed top.
The Dune is part of the 2017 Beetle lineup offered by VW that includes the base 1.8T, sporty R-Line and the Limited Edition PinkBeetle. Clean Fleet Report’s Beetle Dune was powered by a 1.8-Liter turbocharged and intercooled, inline four-cylinder engine putting out 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, which also allows you to go through the gears manually, the torque maxes-out at a low 1,500 rpms. Fuel economy estimates by the EPA are 24 city/31 highway/27 combined. In 195 miles of driving throughout Southern California we averaged 29.8 mpg with a ratio of 70-percent highway/30-percent city driving, meaning we easily beat the highway estimate of 31 mpg.
Driving Experience: On the Road
If we only consider that there is no roof on the car, the fun factor of driving the Dune Convertible could be enough. However, a couple of the most common issues with convertibles are too much road and wind noise, top up or down, or body flex when cornering.
Let’s start with the noise. To begin with, since there is no top, you cannot expect a quiet, wind-free cabin. With the top up, the Beetle Dune is quiet compared to non-convertibles with the snug-fitting top that doesn’t allow air to whistle in. The smooth-operating, electric-powered top, which can be raised and lowered at up to 31 mph, latches, unlatches, opens and closes in around 12 seconds with the ease of pushing a button. Depending on your speed, with the top and windows down there can be significant wind inside the cabin. But, when on the highway at 65 mph with the top down and all the widows up and the Integrated Wind Blocking System, turbulence is greatly reduced. Even wearing a baseball cap is not an adventure.
The 2017 Dune delivers a sure-footed driving experience; this is where body flexing comes in. In 2015 the body received engineered-reinforcements to help increase rigidity, which included using ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steel to replace cold-formed metal. Along with adding sheet metal in the lower body side members and laser welding select parts increased the body stiffness by 20 percent compared the previous Beetle drop-top.
The body stiffness improvements are only part of the ride and handling equation. Clean Fleet Report’s Dune convertible had 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 235/45-R18/94H Continental ProContact TX all-season tires, which gripped well. Continental says these are “luxury all-season touring tires designed for high performance coupled with a quiet, comfortable ride.” The handling was precise, but not sporty (that can be experienced on the performance-tuned VW Beetle R-Line which comes equipped with 19-inch wheels and tires).
The strut-type front suspension with coil springs and the multi-link, coil springs and anti-roll bar on the rear gave a smooth and stable ride. Weighing in at 3,093 lbs. the Dune initially felt heavy, but soon that feeling went away and road feel was accurate for each driving and road condition with the speed-variable, electric-mechanical power-assist steering thankfully not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Highway cruising at 70 mph was solid and confident with no wind buffeting from passing trucks. Overall, the lack of a fixed roof was overcome by Volkswagen, so the Beetle convertible’s road worthiness was never an issue.
Of course, a good handling car is nothing without good brakes. Stops were straight and true with the Dune’s standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system, power assisted front vented and rear solid discs, electronic brake pressure distribution and electronic stability control.
Driving Experience: Interior
Assembled in Puebla, Mexico, the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Convertible interior has a clean fit and finish that was German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The simple layout of all gauges was a unique instrumentation cluster located above the dash, including oil temperature, a turbo boost gauge and a sport chronometer or stop watch. VW did a good job of designing the dash without fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or other design gimmicks, which often can be found on other cars. Oh, and don’t forget the Kaeferfach, or the Beetle Bin, which is a second glove box with a lid that flips up while the conventional glove box has a downward opening lid. These are only two of several bins, storage areas and cup holders located throughout the cabin.
With a black background and white lettering, the dash gauges were easy to read, as was the driver information center located in the speedometer. The shifter for the six-speed automatic was situated perfectly in the center console, especially if you wanted to manually go through the gears. The heat, air conditioning and infotainment controls were all within easy reach.
The Dune comes with a special interior that matches and complements the exterior color, which in our case was the striking and eye-popping Sandstorm Yellow. The black, heated sport seats came with a contrasting “Curry Yellow” stitching and piping, a color combination that was carried through to the leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dash and door panels. All areas also saw brushed aluminum accents for added visual appeal.
The manually adjustable (including height and lumbar) V-Tex leatherette front seats offered good bolstering. When combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, it made finding a comfortable position for long, top down drives a breeze. There is plenty of head and legroom up front, even for 6’+ drivers and passengers. But the rear seat, well, let’s just say that legroom is not so generous when the front seats are in a normal position. Remember, this VW Beetle has the engine in front, so there is a trunk. It has ample space as is, but with a pass-through or the 50/50 split rear seats laid flat, this cool car is perfect for two on a long, top down journey.
Taking center stage in the dash is the 6.3-inch color touchscreen that handles the rear view camera and the navigation system. While modern touchscreen technology is nice, Clean Fleet Report
is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and single zone HVAC system with the turn of a few knobs. The simple dash design carries the exterior Sandstorm Yellow inside the car and is offset by black, with accents of aluminum finishes, and a black leather-wrapped gearshift knob and parking brake handle.
The centerpiece of the Composition Media system is the eight-speaker sound set-up that is well-suited for top down, highway driving. The audio system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM radio and CD player, with MP3 playback and App Connect. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI), which includes a SD card slot and a USB port.
Other conveniences are power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, push button start/stop, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, variable intermittent front windshield wipers, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, ambient lighting with map lights and front and rear carpeted floor mats. Standard on all Beetle trim levels is Volkswagen’s CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The current Beetle body design was introduced in late 2012 as a 2013 model, which was a reshaping of the New Beetle that came out in 1997. VW wants us to know that these recent design iterations, changes and updates always reference the original Beetle introduced in 1938. The Dune Clean Fleet Report was driving is a new model for 2017, the boldest of the Beetle line-up, which offered a more aggressive look with new front and rear fascias, front bumpers featuring a large central air intake with a black honeycomb screen, a raised ride height and tasteful “Dune” graphics on the doors. One of the trickiest parts for automobile design teams is how to make a convertible look good with the top up or down. In the case of the Beetle, VW has done a very good job of keeping the lines flowing and heads turning even when the sun is shining bright on the driver.
Safety and Convenience
Along with a rigid body structure, all 2017 Volkswagen Beetles come with six airbags, electronic stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system and an Intelligent Crash Response System that turns off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard lights in case of an accident.
Another very important safety feature on VW Beetle convertibles is the Automatic Rollover Support System, which consists of two spring-loaded roll bars that pop-up from behind the rear seat
headrests in the case of a rollover crash. The bars are activated by the air bag control unit and can fully extend within one-quarter of a second. If for some reason the bars were activated, but the car did not roll over, they can be pushed back into their housings by hand. These bars, along with the reinforced and rigid windshield frame, will protect front and rear passengers in the case of a rollover.
Lastly, the automatic post-collision braking system, in the case of an accident, causes the brakes to be automatically applied so the car does not continue moving and cause a secondary accident. This technology shows its value in the case of an accident, keeping an incapacitated driver from being injured further.
Pricing and Warranties
2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible pricing begins at $19,725 and tops-out at $32,550. Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Dune Convertible had a MSRP of $29,395. All prices do not include the $820 destination charge.
All 2017 Volkswagen Beetles come with these warranties:
- Basic – Three years/36,000 miles
- Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
- Scheduled Maintenance – One year/12,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – Three years/36,000 miles
- Corrosion Perforation – 12 years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Convertible
Whether it’s a bucket list or a mid-life crisis, there is something to be said for once in your life owning a convertible. Curiously, considering how low their sales are, the mystique of topless cars is
strong. There are a quite a few to chose from, including the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, Mazda Miata MX-5, Mini, Ford Mustang, Fiat 124 Spyder, Nissan 370Z, four Audis (A3, A5, TT, R8), four BMWs (2 Series, Z4, 4 Series, 6 Series), Jaguar F-Type, four Mercedes-Benz (S-Class, SL-Class, SLC-Class, SLK-Class), Buick Cascada and the Porsche 911 and Boxster. If you want to spend a few more dollars, there are also the Ferrari California and 488 Spider, Bentley Continental GT, the Rolls-Royce Dawn and high-end Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
The appeal is simple, once you have spent time in one. For me, cruising through California’s Redwoods, along Highway 1 through Big Sur or Yosemite National Park just isn’t the same once having seen these majestic wonders of nature without the restriction of a roof. Just driving through any rural area or city will bring sights, sounds and aromas that, when inside the cocoon of a sedan or coupe, simply can’t be fully experienced.
So, take a step towards the wild side by finding a Volkswagen dealer that will let you take the Beetle Dune Convertible on the open highway and around town. Your joy will be apparent, but you probably don’t want the sales representative seeing you grinning from ear-to-ear as that kind of poker face has lost many a high-stakes hand.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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