VW digs into its past for the Beetle Dune Convertible
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Sep 24, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Zoran Segina
There were those blue eyes. Thin cigars. Chess games. Flights in his glider. A skeleton of a beach house on the Massachusetts coast, in the middle of nowhere. And, of course, crazy rides on the endless expanses of Crane Beach in his specially designed dune buggy. Vicki Anderson, an investigator hired by the insurance company to investigate a multi-million-dollar bank heist, did not stand a chance.
Thomas Crown, a successful, wealthy businessman, who organized a perfect robbery out of boredom, is no longer around. He organized the second perfect bank heist just to impress Vicki, and then flew off to Rio, leaving her holding the bag (with the money in it) and his Rolls Royce.
Almost half a century later things have changed a lot. Perfect bank heists are now organized from the inside of corporate boardrooms, and wealthy businessmen engage in pursuits that may land them in Washington, D.C. Most of the sandy expanses near the beach are nature preserves closed to traffic. But we can still get into the Dune buggy.
The one we tested over a hot Southern California week started as a regular VW bug. The engineers expanded the rear track width by 0.6 inches and lifted the suspension 0.4 inches. From the rear, widely spread rear lights, combined with the black accents, and the wide stance give the Dune more aggressive look bearing uncanny resemblance to a car bearing the VW founder’s name. After all, it’s family. In front, there is a large fascia with black accents and honeycomb pattern beginning a black-on-sandstorm-yellow-paint theme, then through large plastic covers around the wheel-wells, and continuing along the doors where a thick plastic trim element coupled with a large Dune sign above optically makes the two-door convertible longer than it is. The rear view mirrors are contrasting silver color with a light strip. The Dune is equipped with a skid plate and my mechanic swears that the plate stretches the length of the car. But Dune is not an off-road machine and prefers asphalt surfaces to undulating sandy hills.
Inside, the driver is looking at a nicely appointed instrument cluster with a speedometer in the center tachometer on the left and big fuel gauge on the right which tricks one into believing that the tank is fuller than it is. The black leather steering wheel with contrasting yellow stitching is borrowed from the GTI class; it has a sporty feel with the flat bottom, and the square Dune logo in the center spoke. The wheel has controls for audio and telephone and on the right various controls to bring various menus, from the car setup to bring up driving parameters, including the temperature of the coolant. The Dune has a regular glove box but also has a small box which in the test car housed a large tube of sunscreen lotion. On a short ride through downtown Los Angeles, fair-skinned Lin found the SPF-50 cream very helpful. There is also a nice shelf in the center of the dashboard. Instruments cluster, the entertainment center, door handles and the shifter are accented in brushed aluminum. As it befits modern cars Dune comes with MIB II infotainment system, which allows the users to plug in their smartphone for some cruising music and more. Unfortunately, a 6.3-inch touchscreen that allows for swiping and pinch-zooming is nearly impossible to read under the blazing sun.
The front bucket seats have been borrowed from the Dune’s more competitive brethren and hug the body well. Adjustments are manual but with telescopic and rake adjustment of the steering wheel, a driver can easily find comfortable position from which to gawk at the people on the sun- dappled promenade. When properly positioned, the front seats for all practical purposes block access to the rear. Any longer travel would require rear seat passengers with no legs. In addition, the protective mesh which protects the driver at freeway speeds against wind buffeting lies flat across the rear seats and must be removed. We just treated the Dune as a two-seater convertible.
A 1.8-liter, turbocharged, direct-injection inline four-cylinder engine the Dune is not a bruiser. With 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the 3,100 lb. Dune moves well, and with a help of six speed Tiptronic transmission (just push the shifter to the right) can zip through traffic with ease. But stomping on the gas in low RPMs generates noticeable turbo lag. Underway, the suspension is firm, and the brakes seem adequate. After all, what is the point in thrashing around a 170 HP convertible? We did note that large tires tend to make the Dune skid when breaking hard and changing direction.
Some reviewers have criticized Volkswagen for not making the Dune a true off-road machine. Despite the ride height and attempt at muscularity this convertible still prefers flat firm surfaces to sand. In fact, it is the pronounced fascia that lowers the angle of attack, and - despite skid plates underneath - prevents the Dune to become more than a street vehicle with off-road aspirations. But the lack of off-road capability is more than compensated by the cuteness factor. In its sandstorm yellow livery with black accents under the July sun, the Dune is one attractive convertible. Especially to ladies. Let’s see – Rosario, Tanya, Susie, Lin, Deborah, three unnamed women on the Marina Del Rey promenade. . . . they all found it irresistible. Even the Tall Girl - who initially compared the Dune’s color to that of a bodily effluent - declared after an afternoon ride, that she could easily adapt to it. A rearview camera, and park distance control which progressively get louder as the walls get closer make sure that the sandstorm yellow coat remains pristine.
The best way to test the Dune convertible is a lazy jaunt from somewhere north in Santa Monica, through the back alleys of Venice, toward Marina Del Rey, and beyond, on a sunny weekend afternoon while every corner is packed with good looking youths heading to the beach. Speed? Crawling. Performance? Comfortable. Fun factor? Immeasurable.
Opening the cover requires but a simple push on the button above the rear view mirror. Despite its size, a very thick cover folds neatly, and because it sits out in the open, the process is quick. In addition, driver’s window control can also raise or lower all four windows simultaneously. With the cover closed, the cabin becomes surprisingly quiet even at freeway speeds. The tonneau for the cover is stashed in the trunk. This, and a shelf for the screen mesh hanging on the roof of the trunk make the remaining space not particularly large. Nevertheless, the test car still managed to swallow a small suitcase and several bags.
The doors have large speakers. The test car appears not to have been equipped with the Fender audio system, an upgrade, but the speakers were powerful enough to overcome the traffic noise even with the top down. The rearview mirrors can be folded. The doors have practical rubber bands that create a convenient storage space for flat items at the bottom. The cloth covered seats are grey with contrasting yellow bordering and accented by a black leather imitation.
As it befits the car with a summer romance in mind, the speakers can be illuminated by rotating a button next to the one for adjusting the dashboard brightness. Depending on the mood, the speakers can be turned white, red, blue, green, or completely off when the moonshine will suffice. The same control coordinates the color in the recessed light strip above the handles. Neat. Summer drinks can be placed in the two cup holders next to the handbrake (which is also embroidered with the contrast yellow stitching.
One annoying feature is the placement of the alarm button on the side of the key fob. With the key in the ignition, and the button pointing down, it is easy to accidentally push the alarm. The Dune begins to beep incessantly while the driver - in the middle of the intersection - has to endure accusatory looks of the people around him wondering whether this pretty convertible has been stolen. Also, while sitting in the front it is nearly impossible to flip the protective mesh down. After several unsuccessful attempts we kept it up. It affected the overall image with four windows down, but. . . . . .
At the time of this review the Dune convertible is not offered for sale in Southern California. Based on a comparison with the price of the Denim convertible at the Santa Monica Volkswagen dealership, one can expect that the Dune will come with the MSRP of around $30,000. Stay tuned.
For more information about Volkswagen products, go to vw.com.
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2017 Volkswagen Dune Convertible Price: $23,995 (coupe) $30,000 (convertible estimate) Engine type: 1.8-liter inline four cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine EPA mileage estimates (city/highway): 25/34 (LA Car observed: 20.7) Horsepower: 170@6200 rpm Torque: 184@1500 rpm Transmission type: Six speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic Steering: Rack and pinion; hydraulic power assist Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Suspension Front: Strut-type with lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, 22mm diameter anti-roll bar Rear: Multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers 18mm diameter anti roll bar Wheels and tires: 18-inch aluminum alloy, with Continental Pro Contact 235/45 R 18 94H M+S tires Brakes Front: 11.3 x 1.0 inch vented discs, power assist, dual circuit Rear: 10.7 x 0.4 inch solid discs Dimensions Length: 168.7 inches Width: 78.7 inches Wheelbase: 100 inches Weight: 3093 pounds