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2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune: Looks More Fun That it Delivers

2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

Walking up to the Beetle Dune edition, especially in the awesome mustard-yellow metallic color on our test car, it looks like you’re in for a whole lot of fun.

Higher-ride height, bigger flares and taller tires make it look like there’s some off-road capability. There’s a great throwback feeling to the Baja Bugs of the past, but once you climb in and take off you quickly realize it’s all for show. A fun-looking show, but a show nonetheless.

First of all, despite looking much taller, the ride height is less than an inch taller than a standard Beetle. The engine is the same 1.8-Liter turbo, churning out 170hp that powers the regular car. The tires are road-centered all-season tires instead of something with a little more all-terrain capability. Essentially, it’s all for looks. And that’s fine, because it does look great! But let’s look at a few simple ways that VW could have given this thing a little more bite.

The 2.0-Liter turbo could have powered this just as easily, giving it over 200hp. With the classic Baja Bugs all being RWD, this front-drive version just falls flat. VW has an all-wheel drive drivetrain that can go with this platform. And just selecting different tires would have made this thing actually go off road instead of just looking like it. Today’s tire technology means that it wouldn’t have had to sacrifice comfort as well.     

Thinking about what could have been makes it harder to enjoy the Dune.

Once inside the cabin, the great looks from the outside continue. The steering wheel is a standout, with aluminum accents and contrasting stitching. The painted-body color inserts on the dash and door panels look great and add to the vintage flair of the Dune. Even the seats have a great combination of fabric, stitching and comfort. It’s a comfortable and attractive cabin to spend time in.

There’s also nothing to really knock about the power plant. The 1.8-Liter turbocharged direct-injection engine is torquey, peppy and efficient. It’s rated to get up to 34 MPG on the highway, which is great considering the lack of any green technology to augment it. There is an odd simplicity to the Beetle that feels dated even though it’s essentially how all cars were made ten years ago. That translates to value, with a starting price of only around $24k. In a sea of ‘same’ this really stands out too, with its retro-modern styling, striking color and off-road vibe. If you’re looking for a way to be different, this is a good start.

Overall, it left us wanting a bit more. While it’s great to look at, it still makes you feel that something is not there. Unfortunately, that’s all too common in the car industry these days. I don’t want to be deceived by a car’s looks. If you can get past the fact that the styling over-promises and the car under-delivers, this is a really unique-looking compact car. Of course, there’s always the aftermarket if you want to add some power, raise it up a bit and fit appropriate tires. With VW’s involvement in the Global Rallycross race series, you’d think they would have done it themselves, but at least they have given us the starting point and the idea.