Last month we brought you our first impressions of the new Eos - VW's intriguing hard-top convertible. And just as the car was arriving at US dealers, the North American design studio was preparing a concept car to be unveiled at the legendary Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Called the Eos Highway 1 concept, we thought it deserved a closer look.
Of course, we went straight to the man responsible, VW's Chief Designer in the USA, Derek Jenkins. He told us he'd been approached to build the car by VW's public relations department; it was looking to raise VW's presence at Pebble Beach and introduce the Eos to visitors. However, an agreement with VW Germany meant the project would be restrained and conservative. With the car being so new, they didn't want it disguised under spoilers and graphics, they simply wanted to generate interest.
What you see here is essentially a special trim package for the Eos. Derek told us, "it's conceptual right now but there's been plenty of interest in its elegant GT theme and a lot of this is very achievable for either VW or the aftermarket."
The name of the concept celebrates the annual pilgrimage for enthusiasts from Southern California to Pebble Beach. "We'd always leave at 5am and would choose Highway 1 over the freeway because it's such a nice drive. And this Eos would be the perfect companion for that journey because of its elegance and ability. This is a great cruiser, a traditional GT, and we wanted people to see that," Derek explained.
Black was chosen for the concept because it's both "elegant and sporty". It would also be the perfect background for Derek's highlights. "I wanted to use machined aluminum surfaces to contrast the black paint. We found the perfect wheel for the job from Mille Miglia. It's looks OE and is nicely finished. It came in either 19 or 20" diameter and we chose the bigger wheel because we thought it'd have the most impact when the car was parked on the lawn at Pebble Beach. On the street a 19" would be more appropriate, but for this purpose the 20 was ideal," Derek said.
The wheels are 8" wide and have the perfect offset for a Passat, Phaeton and, as it turned out, the Eos. Sadly, they're no longer available, but we did learn there's a similar Votex wheel available for the Phaeton in Europe should VW ever want to do something similar
The designers turned to Continental for tires. The manufacturer came up with two sizes: 235 or 245/30-20 SportContact 2 tires. Again, the wider size was chosen for its greater impact. "I really like the Conti's sidewall, it's square and makes the tires look aggressive. And I'm impressed at how well they ride for such a low profile," Derek told us.
Suspension is H&R's Street coilovers. Nothing fancy, just a good adjustable ride height to get the car where the designers wanted it. "I didn't want to overdo it and drop the car too low," Derek said. "We could have gone crazy and it would've looked awesome, but we wanted to achieve an OE+ look. With the SEMA cars we can go over the edge and build something wild, but for Pebble Beach it needed to look as if it could've come from the factory."
Our next question was about the performance. With the 3.2 VR6 under the hood, he must have been tempted to play. "We originally looked at a full performance conversion, but at this stage of the car's existence we felt a GT cruiser was more appropriate. Then we looked at adding an exhaust but in the end we left it dead stock," Derek confessed.
As instructed, exterior mods were kept to the bare minimum. In this case, the car simply has a lip on the trunk. "It's very subtle to enhance the OE+ theme. We did experiment with bigger spoilers on the trunk but this one felt right," Derek said.
We wondered where VW had sourced the lip and if owners could buy the same. "It was designed and built from aluminum in-house, but it's one of the parts that's being looked at for possible production in the future," he confided.
The interior is going to be the envy of all US Eos owners because it's a special order Individual interior only available in Europe. Its inclusion was to gauge public reaction, with a view to possibly making such options available to US buyers in the future.
In keeping with the car's elegant cruiser theme, Derek specified black leather seats with tan center panels and tan piping. The carpets have a similar black and tan color scheme. "We felt this combination would appeal to US buyers and that it gave the interior a more premium, yet sporty feel," Derek told us.
The three-spoke steering wheel is another Individual option. "It's similar to the GTI wheel but without the squared-off bottom," Derek explained. "It has a thick rim, to which we added tan stitching. The wood trim at the bottom of the wheel was finished in piano black lacquer, and we did the same to all the wood trim in the car.
"What's nice about the Eos is its proportions; it's very sleek. It looks greaton the road, as good as a CLK or 3-Series Convertible, for example. And yet the 2.0T version can be had for under $30,000 with a folding hard-top. So we wanted to elevate the car to a position where people can see it as an alternative to the luxury, premium brands, despite its lower price point.
"The message we wanted to convey with this concept was that you can get a lot out of this car with very subtle changes. This is just one example of what's possible, and hopefully there will be plenty more to come.
"We want people to realize that, for the money, there's nothing else with this much style and a folding hard-top. It transforms from a coupe to a convertible at the touch of a button and I think VW enthusiasts are going to love its versatility."
So there it is: the Eos Highway 1 - a simple makeover to highlight the potential of VW's capable new roadster. We're delighted the manufacturer is continuing to look to the aftermarket and its own parts bin to improve its products, but recognize this has only scratched the surface. Let's have a 300hp 2.0T or a 3.2 VR6 turbo under the hood and some more aggressive styling to really see what the Eos has to offer.