They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To: The 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune
The 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune.
For the better part of 20 years now, carmakers have been indulging in nostalgia...making new cars that look a lot like old (50s-60s-70s) ones.  Mustang, Camaro, Jaguars and Thunderbirds from the aughts...all meant to evoke what those cars used to look like.  It all arguably began with the 1998-2011 New Beetle, and continues with the current generation Beetle, which has seen 50s, 60s and 70s Edition models...and now the Dune, which is named after and is nothing like a variety of old-school Beetles VW had virtually nothing to do with, other than providing the donor vehicle for some shade tree modifications.

Front 3/4 view of 1960s Baja Bug
1960s-era Baja Bug.
In its promotional materials, VW says the 2017 Beetle Dune (available in coupe and convertible form) is inspired by the classic Baja Bugs from the 60s.  These were owner and shop-modified Beetles that were never officially marketed by Volkswagen.  A few hundred bucks for a used Bug, a few hundred bucks in aftermarket goodies, and you were ready to go off-road.

Front 3/4 view of 1960s-era Dune Buggy
1960s-era Dune Buggy.
And then there were the beasts known as Dune Buggies.  With these, all that remained from the donor VW was the chassis and the engine...the body discarded and replaced by a fiberglass tub with seats, a roll bar and tacked-on lights and bumpers to make things street legal by the lenient standards of the time.

Rear 3/4 view of 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune
2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune.
Which brings us back to the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune.  Clearly a very different animal from the Baja Bug or the Dune Buggy, Volkswagen says it "successfully captures the iconic spirit of Baja Beetles, with a more rugged feel" and increased ground clearance.  Okay, they've boosted ground clearance by 4/10ths of an inch and widened the track by 6/10ths,  And the dark trim front, back and sides and the cool-looking sandstorm yellow-and-black 18-inch Canyon wheels do make the Dune look considerably more aggressive than other Beetle Convertibles.

Beyond that, though, any comparison to Baja Bugs and Dune Buggies is pure marketing-speak. You certainly wouldn't want to risk this car's paintjob or undercarriage by off-roading.  The changes in ground clearance and wheel choice aren't severe enough to impact what is typical contemporary VW Beetle/Golf/Jetta ride and handling.

What we have here is a nicely-equipped, fairly loaded special edition Beetle Convertible that slots in just about $7,500 below the top-of-the-line, more powerful R-Line SEL convertible the Phoenix Bureau reviewed this summer. , and has a spiffier-looking interior thanks to the body-color dash and door panels.

Interior view of 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune
2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune interior.
For a base price of $29,395, the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune gives you a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, which the EPA estimates will average 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway.

There's a long list of standard equipment, so your choices beyond the car itself are few.   You can get it in white, black or (like our tester) Sandstorm Yellow (a color that got us a lot of compliments in our week with the car).

After that, there are just two option packages...the Technology Package (Climatronic dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access with pushbutton engine start and a Fender premium audio system with subwoofer) for $995, which our car had, and the Lighting Package (Bi-Xenon high-intensity headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED license plate lighting) for $795, which our car didn't.

With the Technology Package and $820 destination charge, the bottom line came to $31,210, or still about five grand below the R-Line SEL convertible.    

All in all, the Dune is another, but easily the most distinctive of the special editions of Beetle convertibles.  And, as this generation of Beetle enters what are likely to be its final years, it might be the one to have.

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