Let me come right out and say it: I'm not a convertible guy. I like wind in my hair and sun on my face as much as the next fellow. After 10 minutes however, I need a quiet, calm cabin and the security of an overhead roof. Moreover, I've never been overly impressed with the integrity of a convertible. Most of them are noisy, prone to wear and suffer the effects (cowl shake) after losing a sizable chunk of structure.
Most of them.
In all honesty I had no idea what an Eos was right up to the point where I was sitting in it. My first impression was of a small, sporty sedan, a cross between a Jetta and a GTI. Its low-slung demeanor was reminiscent of the Mercedes-AMG C36, a damn fine lump of metal. Sport seats, great steering wheel and the fabulous 2.0T FSI engine... hell, whatever this thing was, it well assembled. And then a bunch of Volkswagen engineers excitedly pushed a few buttons and my roof was gone, folded up like a Transformer action figure. I felt my bald spot burning in the Grecian sun, smelled wildflowers and heard the laughter of children. I pushed a button and 25 seconds later was safe in my steel shell, the A/C on Arctic blast. Judging by the look on their faces, you would have thought I killed a Christmas puppy. I've never seen a group of sadder engineers.
Like I said, I'm not a convertible guy. However, the Eos doesn't feel like the typical convertible. Its vault-like structure hides its "fun-in-the-sun-look-at-me" alter ego. Once again, I don't like convertibles... but I like the Volkswagen Eos.
The Eos is quite a departure for VW as it is a purpose-built convertible rather that a variant of an existing model. With the exception of the Karmann Ghia, no other Volkswagen has looked this good without a top. Perhaps Volkswagen is moving backwards. Perhaps the Eos will be converted into a proper hard top. While I doubt that'll happen, the point is the Eos looks fantastic with its roof up. The Eos is one of two convertibles I'd consider owning, the first being the new Mercedes SL, a car nearly four times as expensive.
In Southern California I seem to be an anomaly. Everybody here owns a convertible or aspires to own one. A few industrious lads have even tried to build their own ragtops. I remember a few guys armed with a Sawzall and a 12-pack of Bud scalping an older Jetta. Despite the blood it looked fairly cool, at least until it left the driveway and promptly folded up.
Any structural engineer will tell you the same thing: Remove the roof on a car and you remove a great deal of the chassis' rigidity. That's a bad thing. Volkswagen has gone to great lengths to ensure the Eos chassis remains solid including the use of super strong, mold-hardened steel blanks in the floor and lateral structure and a special railing pipe inside the doors. A fortress-like rear section has been gusseted with multiple diagonal struts inside a "reinforcement shell" which forms a connection between the front auxiliary frame and longitudinal members in the vehicle's front. Furthermore, the Eos has a self-aligning bearing of the engine gear unit. Consisting of two journal bearings supported by the front subframe including a motor torque support, the system acts as a clever vibration damper. Separate counter-weights are therefore unnecessary. And if you look closely at its proportions, it's evident the Eos is fairly broad in shoulder, sporting a track width some 1.55 meters, somewhat disproportionate to its height. Its 101-inch wheelbase is the same as the Jetta although the Eos has a more compact, muscular appearance. Volkswagen says this further enhances vehicle stability.
Because the Eos was designed as a convertible, VW engineers were allowed to build it as a convertible rather than convert an existing model. Ultimately, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more solid ragtop than the Eos.
Volkswagen's deep and capable parts bin yielded the GTI's front suspension and the multi-link rear geometry of the Passat. Bits of other VW models are recognizable, including the automatic rollbar system from the Beetle, the Climatic climate control from the Jetta and buttons and knobs from the Passat. This collection of bits has been smartly assembled and in some ways makes the Eos more elegant than its siblings. Think of the Eos as more of a convertible Phaeton than convertible Jetta.
Being the cranky bastard I am, I left the top raised for a good portion of the test drive. The impression is that of a typical European sports coupe, a sensation of both solidity and refinement. Handling is typical of all new Volkswagens with a hint of understeer at the limit. Especially brave souls can pitch the Eos through corners and power out like a rally car. This was especially easy on Grecian roads where olive trees are abundant. The squashed fruit yields a liquid akin to 90-weight oil. I found this out the hard way. Luckily, VW's ESP stability control was there to catch us. Had things really gone south, the Eos is equipped with twin-hoop rollbars that activate when the sensors indicate a 43-degree angle. In 0.25 seconds a substantial chunk of steel is there to protect your noggin. This is augmented with VW's new head-thorax airbag system that opens horizontally and vertically and cover the entire lateral window band.
As a sport coupe, the Eos is impressive. It's simply a very sharp compact car. I suppose the convertible aspect is a bonus. And if that's the case, prospective Eos buyers score big-time.
The five-piece Eos top is something of an engineering marvel, the type of thing worthy of a college thesis. Although the objective (electronically positioning a hard top into the boot) appears fairly straightforward, the reality is a complex bit of ballet, a repetitious dance that will be repeated thousands of times in the exact same tempo.
VW partnered with Webasto, a German company specializing in convertible roof solutions. The end result is a brilliant, self-folding, five-section steel roof, a system powered by a series of hydraulic pumps, electric motors and its own computer. All told, there are some 470 parts in the Eos roof; within 25 seconds each component conspires to sandwich the top in a shape roughly the size of a child's table. The whole thing tucks itself away within the forward section of the trunk, leaving some 205 cubic liters of storage space (from an original 380), a fact destined to cause much weeping from Mercedes SLK owners.
Despite my convertible disinclination, watching the Eos transform from handsome coupe to an equally handsome convertible is remarkable. And what's especially nice is how clean the Eos looks while the top is down. No gaping spaces on the doorsills, no bulky rubber boots. In fact, the Eos appears to be a purpose-built convertible, one of those cars born from a designer's "dream car" sketchbook.
North America will see three versions of the Eos. The basic 2.0T model, only available with a manual transmission and little in the way of options, starts at $27,990. The next level up is a Package 1 Eos 2.0T ($29,990) that includes leather steering wheel, shift knob and hand brake handle, automatic headlamps with coming home feature, dual-zone Climatronic, 12-way power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, windblocker, center armrest and trip computer. Volkswagen's innovative DSG six-speed automatic is optional at $1,075 (you really want this...trust me). The Eos will also include the same ride height as the German-specification model and optional Sport Package models including stiffer shocks and springs and increased anti-roll bar diameters front and rear will be identical to the European Eos models.
Package 2 cars include everything from Package 1. The Package 2 Luxury models include leather seating, leather wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, wood trim, rain sensing wipers, premium sound, Sirius satellite radio prep, auto-dimming mirror, 12-way power passenger seat with adjustable lumbar support, and 17-inch Le Mans alloy wheels with 235/45-17 all-season tires. If you opt instead for Package 2 Sport, you get leather sport seats, a leather wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, brushed aluminum trim, rain sensing wipers, premium sound system, Sirius satellite radio prep, auto-dimming mirror, 12-way power driver and passenger seats with adjustable lumbar support, sport suspension and 17-inch Avignon alloy wheels with 235/45-17 all-season tires. Stand alone options for the 2.0T Package 2 cars include 18-inch alloy wheels for $400, a fantastic Dynaudio premium sound system for $1,000, DVD-based navigation system for $1,800 and Park Distance Control for $350. Later in the fourth quarter of this year a 250-bhp 3.2-liter VR6 model will be added to the lineup. All 3.2 models will include Package 1 equipment and DSG standard, starting at $36,800. An additional Technology Package option is available on the V6 models and includes Park Distance Control and Bi-xenon headlamps with AFS (Advanced Frontlight System - steerable headlamps) for $1,400.
The Eos is a convertible for people who don't like convertibles. The Eos could live its entire life with the top up and life would be swell. However, if you appreciate a top-down experience, the Volkswagen Eos is as good as it gets.
2006 Volkswagen EOS
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
2.0-liter inline four, dohc, four valves per cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled
Six-speed manual or DSG
F: MacPherson struts with lower wishbones, anti-roll bar
R: Four-link suspension with separate springs/shocks, anti-roll bar
Dual circuit system, ABS, ESP, mechanical parking brake
Wheels and Tires
Cast aluminum, 7x16215/55R16 W
Length x Width x Height (in.)173.5 x 70.5 x 56.8Wheelbase: 101.5 in.
Curb Weight: 3,393 lb
Peak Power: 200 bhp @ 6600 rpm
Peak Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
0-62 mph: 7.8 sec
Top Speed: 144 mph
Why we love it:
Handsome profile, dual-purpose nature, great engine
Why we don't:
Smallish rear seat
The Price Tag: $27,990