In a sea of silly automotive names, Volkswagen’s new Eos stands out. The car is named for the Greek goddess of the dawn, in contrast to the muddy mess of number-centric nomenclature that plagues the industry today. And unlike some names (Pontiac LeMans, anyone?), the Eos’ handle is entirely fitting.
The story with the Eos – despite its inherent capability as a regular car – is its folding hardtop. As far as we know, it’s the only top of its kind on the market. A folding hardtop; big deal, you might say. Mercedes-Benz’s SLK had one in 1997, and that wasn’t even the first. So why all the fuss?
Put simply, the Eos’ top is a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to folding into the trunk in under thirty seconds, which is now almost mundane, the Eos has a bona fide sunroof. No other manufacturer offers a hardtop convertible like this. The top panel is glass, rather than metal, so the Eos can let in the sunshine even when the roof is up. It tilts and slides, and offers a good enough open-top experience on its own.
When you want to go all the way, the Eos is happy to oblige. The sunroof and power top are controlled through two small buttons on the leading edge of the car’s center console. Before you put the top down, make sure you’ve got a minute to spare. Considering what a technological marvel it is, it happens very quickly, but it’s not a process you want to rush.
The windows roll down, the bottom half of the c-pillar swings upward over the roof, and the entire ensemble of panels then retracts into a chasm created by a symphony of opening body panels and a trunk opening clamshell-style. The entire process takes less than 30 seconds, although it can seem interminable waiting for the trunk to close.
So, the top is like something out of Transformers. What about the rest? The Eos is built on the same platform as the front-wheel-drive Volkswagen Passat, so it’s already somewhat of a known quantity despite its new appearance (the first coupe body built by VW since the Corrado). It shares engines and transmissions with the rest of the VW lineup, and our car came equipped with the top-of-the-line drivetrain: a 250-hp, 3.2-liter VR6 mated to the stupidly good Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG.
If you’re not familiar with DSG, it’s basically an automated manual transmission with two clutches, which enables the elimination of the torque converter, that scourge of conventional automatics. Shifts are direct and precise, even hard, contrasting with the slurry, imprecise gear changes of traditional slushboxes. Once you go DSG, you won’t go back. Shifts take just 8 milliseconds, and fuel economy is much improved. Whereas a traditional automatic presents a considerable trade-off in the area of driving involvement when compared with a manual gearbox, the DSG makes no such compromises.
This pays dividends in a variety of areas. DSG can be used in fully automatic mode, or a semi-manual mode. In manual mode, we were slightly frustrated by the transmission’s habit of upshifting at redline, and downshifting from sixth to third when the pedal was mashed. But those are the only niggles in what is otherwise a sporting drivetrain for the masses. We had the DSG in manual mode the entire time, and being able to skip 3 gears at a time with the precision of a racecar is reason enough to buy a VW product. Fuel economy is a uperior to any other kind of gearbox, and our Eos got highway mileage well into 30-plus miles-per-gallon territory despite having the brawniest motor.
That motor makes 250 hp at 6300 rpm and 235 pound-feet of torque at 2500-3000 rpm. And the Eos, despite its bulky convertible mechanism, only weighs about 3700 pounds. That makes for a pretty sprightly combination, and the Eos is quicker and more responsive than we expected it to be. Not to mention it makes a very throaty growl when pressed hard, with a rasp almost like that of the last six-cylinder BMW M3.
However, this is merely a sporty car, not a fully-fledged sports car. Turn-in is brisk and linear, and on smooth pavement the Eos is completely civil. However, over rough pavement it exhibits the classic cowl shake and squeaks that plague all convertibles. No getting around that, so we don’t see a reason to complain. One thing that could use some improvement is the Eos’ braking. The pedal feel just isn’t very firm, and doesn’t jibe with the high-revving nature of the car’s powertrain.
The end result is that VW has produced a genuine four-season convertible. Front-wheel drive, European luxury and aesthetics, the most versatile roof in the business, and cutting-edge performance make the Eos a convertible you can drive no matter the weather. Most convertibles are weekend playthings, but this Eos is roomy and fuel-efficient enough to be your only car. Visibility is superior to most convertibles, as well.
Our loaded VR6 model came out to $40,930, including a Dynaudio sound system ($1,000) and a DVD-based navigation system with a six-CD changer mounted in the center armrest ($1,800). However, if you choose your Eos with the 200-hp 2.0T (VW’s bulletproof turbocharged four), you can get in for less than $29K. The Eos isn’t perfect, but it’s the most versatile convertible we’ve ever seen, and as such we think the price is entirely reasonable.