A talented poser
There are some cars that you find yourself trying your very best to like without any encouragement from anybody. This is the situation with the new generation Volkswagen Beetle (A5) which truly has promise. We have tested every single variant since the second generation of its rebirth in 2011. You may think that the stigma may begin with the iconic name which carries so much history and charisma that somehow still cannot be replicated despite being superior in every practical and dynamic way. Other territories have even changed the name recently: in Italy, it is called the Maggiolino; in France, the Coccinelle; and in Brazil, the Fusca. So, when Volkswagen announced that they would produce the Dune variant, I got thrilled that finally this could be the model that could inject the energy and brilliance of the past, making the Beetle more desirable to a wider market.
The current Beetle may not use the superior new MQB platform, but to be honest, I have no issues with its older PQ35 chassis. The Beetle is not expected to grow larger like its siblings. The chassis is more than capable enough; in fact, it is still underutilized, in my opinion. Beetle rear occupants are never expected to feel the spaciousness of a sedan. With the 2.0-liter TDI engine mated to the DSG, the Beetle in either coupé or convertible actually drove well, not great, but good as a starting point.
In the US, where we tested the Dune convertible, it is packaged with a detuned 1.8-liter turbo married to a manumatic 6-speed, so you get hit twice. I expected VW to at least apply the older, 200 bhp 2.0-liter TSI powerplant still used in the North American Tiguan, or the more overachieving 1.8T on the Alltrak which has a more elastic powerband using a DSG transmission. Did I mention that it is purely a front-wheel-drive? The new Dune is certainly not the Baja-conquering desert dweller that I had hoped it would be even if it does look the part. Sadly, yes, it is another poser.
Using unique bodywork, an extra 0.2 inches of ground clearance, 0.6-inch wider track with more purposeful trim-specific 18-inch Canyon alloys that are 8 inches wide with meaty 235/45R18 94H Continental ProContact TX tires, at least I can say the Dune actually rides the very best of the whole range despite being also heavier and less spirited. Our Sandstorm Yellow test unit did have the more playful and unique interior packaging, the dependably awesome Fender audio system, and standard 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system to support the powered soft-top that opens in about 9 seconds, closes in about the same time, both up to 50 km/h while still having 200 liters of trunk space. I am still hoping that the Beetle finds its soul again. Until then, it remains a good little coupé with some character.
Specification – 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune 1.8T Convertible
Engine: Inline-4, 1798 cc, dohc 16V, Direct Injection Intercooled Turbo, VVT, 6-speed AT
Max power: 170 bhp @ 4800 rpm
Max torque: 184 lb ft @ 1500-4000 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 7.9 sec.
Top Speed: 192 km/h (120 mph) Governed
Fuel Mileage: 24 mpg City & 31 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 32,500.00
C! RATING 8.5/10
+Most comfortable and most planted of the Beetle range, neat packaging.
-Under-powered, under-speced, no actual off-road ability, Bi-Xenon headlights not standard.