Friday, December 2, 2016



The website for Kelly Blue Book ( breaks down new cars into an even dozen categories with links to lists of sedans and coupes, crossovers and SUVs, hatchbacks and convertibles, hybrids and electrics, vans/minivans and wagons, and luxury and trucks for shoppers to peruse.

A good friend of mine would like to make it a Baker’s dozen and add a 13th category.

Toy cars.

We’re not talking here about 1/25th scale models that decorate shelves and desks of auto aficionados but vehicles that you can drive on the streets and highways in town and country. Yes, real cars but with a twist.

David got this idea a few years ago when he was trying to contort his 6-foot-1, 200-pounds plus (his numbers) frame into the bucket seat of an Acura NSX. He had no trouble getting in and out of a Corvette or Mustang or even a BMW Z3 and Mazda Miata, he said, but the NSX was like trying to get behind the wheel of one of the old stamp-wheeled toy pedal cars of the 1950s or the Power Wheels of today. A tight squeeze.

Thus the NSX, he determined, was a toy car.

Later, he expanded that definition to encompass vehicles that don’t necessarily fit into a specific set of specifications like length, width or seating capacity (though most are small) and aren’t necessarily difficult to get in or out off, but have a distinct aura about them that exudes an essence of pure automotive fun.

The Volkswagen Beetle, especially in convertible configuration, is one such car.

In fact, just to emphasize its spirit and carefree soul, when the New Beetle came out several years ago it was equipped with a strange vial-like tube attached to the dash that was about the thickness of a dime (or maybe a nickel — it has been a while).

Frankly, I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was (change for tolls?) until somebody told me was a bud vase similar to the porcelain one that was offered as a dealer option back in the 1950s.

If flowers don’t say “toy car,” nothing does.

As such, I would say that doesn’t make the 2017 VW 1.8T Dune Beetle Convertible a very good option for a family, unless that family is downsizing, but it does make for kind of a fun second vehicle for special excursions or even regular commuting in city traffic.

It is one of two new Beetles offered for 2017 along with a limited edition #PinkBeetle Convertible that comes with an purplish exterior that VW calls Fresh Fuchsia Metallic and pink accents on the interior. That would seem to be taking “toy car” to the extreme.

But we are dealing with the Dune here, not the #PinkBeetle. 

The Dune comes with a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine that with 184 pound-feet of torque kicking in at 1500 rpm gives a pretty sprightly driving performance. The six-speed automatic transmission features a “sport” mode and gears can be selected manually, but without paddle shifters to accomplish that that’s a chore that is best skipped. It’s good only if you want to hold it in third or fourth gear, say, to keep engine revs up for quicker throttle responses.

Mileage figures for the Dune are 24 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway and 27 combined using regular fuel.

What makes the Beetle Dune “dune” is that it sits slightly higher and is slightly wider than the base 1.8L Beetle, albeit less than a half-inch in either dimension, giving it what the Germans consider a “more rugged” stance.

The exterior gets new front and rear fascias and the side gets black strips and special “Dune” markings. It’s available in three colors, though the Sandstorm Yellow seems to be  a more logical choice than either the Pure White or Deep Black Pearl. The brownish hue seems to fit “dune” more than black or white.

Inside, the Dune gets sports seats that feature yellow stitching and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The seats are comfortable, adjustable manually, and — as is typical of many convertibles — spacious enough in front but tight in the back. Getting to the rear seats with the top up requires similar contortions to what David experienced with the NSX.

Two electric motors raise and lower the top, which latches and unlatches automatically so manual securing of the latch is not required. The operation takes only 9.5 seconds to lower and 11.0 to raise and secure and can be done at speeds up to 31 mph, which is good if you get caught in a sudden shower.

Standard equipment on the Dune included a rearview camera 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a power-operated insulated top, heated front seats with lumbar support, SiriusXM satellite radio, and an infotainment system that includes Bluetooth, VW Car-Net App-Connect, and a Park Distance Control (Park Pilot).

In a real shocker, floor mats are listed among standard equipment, which means the salesman can’t act like he is doing you such a big favor by throwing them in with your deal.

That comes with an MSRP of $29,395. With a technology package (Fender premium sound system, keyless entry and push-button start, and dual zone climate control) for $995 and the $820 destination and delivery charge added in, the total cost for my test vehicle was $31,210.

Too much for a Beetle? MSRP for the 1.8T S Beetle is $25,565 and the 1.8T Beetle Classic checks in at only $270 higher than that. The 1.8T SEL sits at the top of the line with an MSRP of $32,115.

What I liked about the 2017 Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune: It’s got a sporty feel to it when it comes to handling. Also, with the insulated top up, it is very quiet on the road even at highway speeds. With the top down, you don’t lose any trunk space, but you don’t get a lot to begin with (7.1 cubic feet).

What I didn’t like about the 2007 Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune: Response to voice commands for the radio are erratic. By the time you repeat the command two or three times, you might as well make the station change manually. It’s quicker. You don’t have to do it, of course, but after lowering the top, to finish it off you have to tug and push to snap a boot cover in place. Welcome to the 1990s!

Would I buy the 2017 Beetle Convertible 1.8T Dune: As a fun second car, I’d certainly  give it consideration. 

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