Driving a convertible is one of the greatest pleasures in motoring. To feel the rush of the air and the warm sunshine makes me feel more alive and in touch with my surroundings. In fact the only transportation experience I enjoy more is riding my motorcycle. But there are many times when the fun of two-wheeled locomotion has to give way to practicality. Often times one needs to arrive at one’s destination in clothing that is not conducive to riding a motorcycle, or one needs to carry some luggage or packages that can’t be strapped to the back of a bike. A convertible is much better if you’ll be taking a passenger along with you, and wish to be able to chat comfortably with that person, or if the weather forecast is iffy and the possibility of rain is in the picture.
|1. The Eos is offered exclusively with VW’s excellent 200hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that is both peppy and good on gas.
2. Pricing starts at $31,615.
3. The Eos is a hard-top convertible that also features a built-in moonroof.
Unfortunately, there are precious few autos being made today that allow for the unique enjoyment of top down driving, and for the most part, you have to be in the position to spend some big bucks for the privilege. Not so for the Volkswagen Eos, which is one of the more affordable convertibles on the market, and is one that offers a nice blend of performance, handling and hard-top weather protection.
POWER COURTESY VW’S EXCELLENT 2.0 TFSI ENGINE
The Eos is powered by a 200 horsepower 2-liter turbocharged engine with enough power and torque (207 ft-lbs) to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just under 7 seconds. That’s more than enough zip to satisfy most drivers, and more than enough to be able to enjoy attacking you favorite ribbon of twisties. Gone for 2009 is the larger optional V6 motor that had been available, but that V6 offered only marginally more power, and the price difference made it an unpopular option. And the 2.0-liter turbo offers good gas mileage with 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, with a combined average of 25 miles per gallon.
The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, but my test car had the $1100 optional 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), which I found to shift faster than most other tiptronics I’ve tested.
SPORTY DRIVE AIDED BY OPTIONAL WHEELS AND TIRES
The compact dimensions of the Eos, with its 101-inch wheelbase and 173-inch overall length, makes it easy to dart in and out of traffic as needed. The steering is quick and light, the optional 17-inch wheels shod with all-season 235/45 tires provide good grip. The Eos also has standard traction and stability control to keep things safe and secure. There is little body lean, so hard cornering won’t upset the driver, although when pushed to the limit, the front wheel drive car will exhibit some understeer to be reckoned with.
The ABS brakes are up to the task, and will haul the Eos down from speed safely and securely, although the brake pedal tends to feel a bit spongy in the process.
HARD-TOP CONVERTIBLE BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS
The ride comfort is generally very good, even on broken pavement. The body structure is outstanding, with very little cowl shake when going over rough railroad crossings or sharp bumps or potholes when the top is down, although at times you can hear the top rattling in the trunk.
When the top is up, the Eos is quiet, and feels as solid as a bank vault. It is far superior to almost any convertible I’ve driven and much better than the soft-top BMW 128i Convertible I recently tested.
Hard-top convertibles are a good news – bad news affair. The good news is that the solid top is much more weather protective than a rag top, it’s quieter, provides better vision out of the rear window with smaller blind spots, and allows for a stiffer body structure when the top is up. The bad news is that it’s heavy, takes most of the trunk space when the top is down and the mechanism intrudes upon the shoulder room for the back seat passengers. In the case of the Eos, there is enough room in the trunk when the top is up to fit a medium sized golf bag, or enough luggage for two people traveling for a week on the road. With the top down, there is only enough room for two rather flat soft luggage pieces, so you must be prepared to use the back seat for storage if you want to drop the top for that week-long getaway.
But what tips the scales in favor of the Eos’ hard-top versus all others is the fact that the roof panel is a large, fully retractable glass moonroof. So with the top up, you still have a nice bright airy cabin atmosphere and plenty of ventilation with the roof slid open if you don’t want the full top down experience.
Putting down the top is fully automatic, including unlatching it from the windshield frame, and it takes only 27 seconds to accomplish that feat. And it still stops onlookers in their tracks watching it go up and down.
QUALITY, WELL-APPOINTED INTERIOR
The Eos interior is a model of efficient and tasteful design and the look and feel of quality. The leather seats are comfortable and well bolstered. The driver’s seat is a 12-way electrically adjustable unit that includes an inflatable lumbar support. Unfortunately, you’ll need to step up to the Lux package to get heated seats, which is always a nice feature on chilly days or evenings when you’d still like the open sky above your head.
At the top of each front seatback, there is an electric push button to move the seat forward and aft for easy ingress and egress for back seat passengers, as well as a convenient latch to tilt just the seatback forward. Rear seat room is tight at the shoulders because of the hard-top’s mechanism as mentioned earlier, and the front seats can’t be pushed all the way back and still leave leg room for adults. But it is no worse than the BMW 1-series, or a Mustang Convertible or Pontiac G6 in that regard.
The dash, steering wheel and brake handle are covered in leather and the center stack contains the dual zone heat/AC controls, and in-dash 6-CD changer and radio controls (there is a built-in jack for an MP3 player). Both are easy to use and straightforward. Cruise control and redundant stereo control buttons are located on the steering wheel, and the column tilts and telescopes for comfort. The center AC vents are shaped much like the dual front grills of a BMW and ad a little style to the cockpit.
All the windows and locks are power operated, and other amenities include cruise control, power heated outside mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a multi-function trip computer with compass. There is a center pass through from the trunk with a lockable storage compartment. The Eos also supplies a windblocker that is designed to keep the cabin quiet and free from backdraft when the top is down. I didn’t find that to be necessary, as the cabin was fairly quiet and relaxed, even at highway speeds, without it. I found it was easy to carry on a conversation without having to shout when driving down the road with a passenger.
The center console lid adjusts fore and aft and for height, which is a nice feature. Unfortunately there is very little storage space in the console and in the door pockets. The glove box, however, is fairly large.
STYISH GOOD LOOKS
Top up or top down the Eos is a stylish looking car. The roofline sweeps nicely onto the rear deck lid for a sleek look. The aerodynamic front fascia, with its horizontal split grills and wrap around headlamps and integrated fog lights is distinctive and aggressive looking. Fit and finish is top drawer.
The base Eos Komfort starts at $31,615. My test car added a Technology Package for $1,100 which included bi-xenon headlamps and Park Distance Control (back-up sensors that beep when you get close to objects behind you). The 6-Speed automatic transmission cost $1,100, and for $450 you get the upgraded 17” allow wheels, and the iPod adaptor goes for $199. Including the destination charge of $700 brings the sticker price up to $35,164, which is still thousand less than a 1-Series BMW, which offers a rag top only, instead of the hard-top. The Volkswagen Eos is an excellent choice for fun open air driving.