In 1992, Michelle Shocked released a record about driving in Los Angeles. It went like this: "I've come a long way...I've gone 500 miles today...and never even left L.A."
Us, too. We've racked up the miles in the new 2007 Volkswagen Eos 2.0T. Spent the day cruising the beaches of the South Bay to the Hills of Beverly, moseyed on by the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, then drifted up the coast to catch the sunset in Malibu. Five freeways and hundreds of miles, but we never left the infinite variety of L.A.
From dawn till dusk, in each Southern California setting we reconfigured our Paprika Red Eos to suit the environment. Whether we had the steel top in place, powered it back to a top-down and wind-in-your-hair convertible, or were kicking it with the open sunroof, its "CSC" coupe-sunroof-convertible design adapts to any situation with style.
Goddess of the dawn
VW's Eos is named for the ancient Greek goddess of the dawn, whose team of horses, named Lampos and Phaethon, pulled her chariot every morning to open the gates of heaven so her brother Helios, the sun, could travel through the sky bringing forth daylight. Young and vivacious, rosy-fingered Eos is also the mother of the winds: Jetta and Passat. Sound familiar? Volkswagen likes its mythology.
Equipped with the same zippy 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that graces the GTI, Jetta and Passat, the front-wheel-drive Eos wastes no time spooling up. Its 207 pound-feet of peak torque is delivered in a nonstop flow that starts at 1800 rpm and continues all the way to 5000 rpm. Put your foot on the gas and enjoy its agreeably meaty sound. Our tester had a six-speed manual transmission, which had the usual VW rubberiness to it, but a six-speed DSG automatic transmission is available for $1,000. A 3.2-liter version available with the DSG automatic transmission only goes on sale November 15.
Thanks to its hefty hardtop apparatus, our Eos weighed 3549 pounds, about 400 pounds more than a GTI and 300 pounds over the Jetta. Even so, the Eos accelerated to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds at 91.1 mph. Not quite GTI numbers, but quick, and betta than the Jetta.
Our test chariot had the optional sport package, which provided more of a cosmetic sportiness than real sports-car sport — leather seats and 17-inch alloy wheels, and only slight suspension changes. Which makes sense. The Eos is meant to be sporty, but it's not meant to be a sports car. The ride is soft, and its long-wearing Michelins prioritize a smooth, quiet ride over ultimate road-holding.
Still, the Eos showed good balance in our handling tests, holding its own at 0.83g on the skid pad and skipping through our 600-foot slalom course at 65.1 mph. Pretty impressive for a non-sports car. VW equips the Eos with four-wheel disc brakes, brake assist and ABS, all of which combine to bring the car to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet. Not too shabby, but after repeated test runs, telltale brake fade became apparent.
Perhaps it was the eye-catching red paint combined with the beige leather interior or maybe it was just its newness, but the Eos drew attention wherever we went. Its front end sports the new VW wide-mouthed shiny chrome grille, while the back end is assertively sporty. People stopped us in parking lots to tell us it was "pretty," or we'd go round a corner and hear "Hey, there's an Eos." Once we caught a man peeping in the window when we left it in a parking lot.
We also caused lots of distraction at traffic lights. People were mesmerized by the power top operation, which takes about 25 seconds for the coupe-to-convertible transformation to take place. We never tired of watching VW's enthralling little bundle of engineering, so pull over before you pull the switch. The top doesn't require a lot of extra space above the car to operate, but you do have to provide at least 16 inches behind the car. Rear sensors will warn you if you do not have enough room to complete the process.
With a body size between the Golf and the Passat at 173.6 inches in length, the Eos enters the convertible market with no real rivals. Her closest competitors include the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, which is a little longer but only has a power soft top. Then there's the Volvo C70, which has a power-retractable hardtop but starts more than $10,000 higher than the Eos. The Pontiac G6 also has a power-retractable hardtop but is much longer and heavier. So for the time being, she is alone in the sky.
Our sport package outfitted the seats and steering wheel with leather, accented the interior with brushed aluminum, and provided a power-adjustable seat for the front passenger. The five-level heated seats were supportive and remained comfortable even after long journeys.
Interior storage is limited. Our optional navigation system forced the six-disc changer into the front center console. It was easy to load discs but took up valuable space for things like CD cases. In our wanderings, we relied heavily on the DVD-based navigation system, which was easy to use despite the fact that it would speak to us only in German. The English language disc was not provided so we had to convert kilometers into miles on the fly.
For motoring around town, a small pop-up mesh wind deflector is housed in the windshield frame. It's a unique feature, and it works. Driving on the freeway with the side windows down can still be hair-raising, so VW also includes a folding wind blocker that can be installed behind the front seats. When not in use it can be housed in the trunk in a neat little protective compartment. We didn't feel the need for it, but it's there if you want it.
Chassis rigidity is admirable top up or down, but sharp bumps did cause the stowed roof to rattle, which seemed a bit weak. At 70 mph with the top up, the VeeDub is quieter inside than a BMW 330i.
Any trunk space in a convertible — especially a hardtop convertible — is a joy. So we were pleased with the 10.5 cubic feet with the top up and 6.6 cubes with the top stowed. We often used the rear seat as an extra storage area for our gear. There's not really enough room back there to carry adults, not if you like them anyway, but the rear easily fits two child seats and a picnic basket.
Safety features include front airbags, a combined curtain and side airbag system for the front seats and a rollover protection system that deploys in 0.25 of a second in an emergency.
The morning after
The Volkswagen Eos is a good all-around car, adaptable to different climates and situations. As much as we enjoyed our time with its multiple personalities, we're concerned about the high price tag. Our well-equipped tester cost over $36,000, which is frighteningly close to the base price of an Audi A4 soft top.
We suspect most buyers will opt for the base model, which at around $28,000 is still a decently outfitted car. Prepare to see a lot of Eoses riding off into the sunset. This could be the dawning of a new hit for Volkswagen.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
System Score: 7.0
Components: The standard audio system for an Eos 2.0T (our tester) is an eight-speaker system with a single CD player and an auxiliary jack for connecting handheld MP3 players. It can also play MP3-coded CDs. However, our Eos came with several major options that force some interesting entertainment decisions. Opt for the Sport package and you'll get a host of upgrades including an in-dash six-disc CD changer that's MP3 compatible. That CD changer is also available as a stand-alone option for $550. Our car also had the optional navigation system. Check that box on the option sheet and the CD changer moves from the dash to the center console and you do not get to play MP3 CDs. If you must have a nav system, VW will let you substitute the console-mounted CD changer for an iPod connection. But you cannot have a navigation system, CD changer and an iPod connector. On top of all that, you can opt for an upgraded Dynaudio system for an extra $1,000. Our test car did not have this option.
Performance: While we're happy VW offers so many entertainment options, including an iPod-specific connector, the sound quality of the standard stereo is average at best. It's passable, but certainly doesn't belong in a car that costs more than $35,000 (as tested).
The main problem is that the system's tone is too bright. With all adjustable levels flat, the base stereo's sound is biased toward the highs. Bass is adequate at times, but lacks the punch we'd like. Even after moving the various tone adjustments around for awhile, we never quite got a sound that we thought was really pleasing. It always sounded too high and somewhat hollow, and noticeable distortion creeps in as the volume is raised.
On the other hand, this type of high bias worked well while driving at high speed (say, 60 mph or faster) with the top down. Even with the prominent wind and road noise the bright-sounding audio system meant that we could still hear the vocals on most rock and pop tracks. That's clearly a bonus for those who love to drive with the top down. Songs that are midrange-rich sound best on this stereo, and that means a lot of pop music will work well for most people. While deep bass is somewhat lacking, tracks like Hillsong's "Salvation is Here" with its inspired bass line really shine because the midrange moves front and center.
VW's controls are intuitive for the most part, and when paired with the navigation system each audio menu is easy to access and displays a lot of useful information. The CD changer being moved to the center console isn't so bad because it's still an easy reach from the driver seat. The only thing that's kind of a bummer is that the way you're forced to load those CDs encourages you to put a big thumbprint on the business end of the CD you're inserting.
Best Feature: Available iPod-specific connector.
Worst Feature: Overall sound quality is too bright.
Conclusion: The Eos' sound system is certainly adequate but we think it should sound much better given our test car's price of $36,000. Audiophiles should consider an aftermarket stereo or perhaps the Dynaudio system VW offers as an option. — Brian Moody
Inside Line Editor in Chief Richard Homan says:
Niche cars have broken into the big time, with first-tier manufacturers creating segments and making their best guess at finding an untapped market segment. Vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz R-Class and now the Volkswagen Eos don't really have any natural competitors. The next closest animal vying for the four-seat retractable-hardtop buyer's attention must be the Volvo C70. Though the two companies' names are close in the alphabet, their two-in-one coupe/cabrios are thousands of dollars and a few miles apart in both price and execution — the Eos' trunk space and exquisite roominess alone are worth the comparative recommendation.
Even though it's the heaviest car in VW's lineup, the 2.0-liter turbo four is still a fun engine — doesn't feel compromised at all. The brakes huff a bit in the slowdown, however, and the car understeers unapologetically. But heft has advantages, too, and the Eos serves up a very good ride on very bad roads. The VW Eos is not a sports car at all, but it looks good in traffic. And it looks great in Arctic Blue.
Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot says:
Slipping through our slalom cones, the Eos responds smartly, with quick steering and reasonable confidence for a car without focused sporting intentions. Its brilliant folding hardtop/sunroof is an engineering marvel that greatly expands the car's desirability and functionality. Its controls all feel pretty good and it seems well-built. Overall, my first impressions of VW's latest convertible were good — for a $25,000 car.
Problem is, the base Eos starts at $27,990, and our tester will punch a $36,110-size hole in your wallet. I have a hard time imagining buyers will be willing to part with that kind of cash for a car like the Eos. This is a fun car — a weekend car. And it's not small, but it functions like a relatively small car because of the smart but space-consuming hardtop design.
Bottom line? That's just too much money for a car like this. And it will only get worse if you opt for the 250-hp 3.2-liter V6. Ouch.
"The word conventional does not apply to this car. Elegant styling, quality workmanship in all details. Finally a car that gives you value, satisfaction. I have compared and toiled over the last couple of weeks in purchasing a hardtop convertible and was prepared to pay well over the price of this car. The comfortable four-passenger seats are unmatched in the hardtop convertible class. The motor is peppy and economical. I turned in my M45 Infiniti V8 with joy. I have not given up on luxury. The leather interior and smart easy controls spell SMART." — Gabriel, September 28, 2006
"When I originally was looking for a new car, I also considered the Volvo C70. This car drives so much better, the interior is more luxurious (very much like the Audi A4 cabriolet I traded in). My Eos is equipped the same as the Volvo and is about $10,000 less. The design of the car continues to amaze me, from the sunroof to the gymnastics the roof performs when it goes up and down. I got a manual and I think it pairs up better with the engine than the DSG." — flheat, September 6, 2006
"I bought my Eos yesterday and cannot stay out of it! I'm truly enjoying driving it. Top down or top up, it's a fun ride." — eoslover, August 27, 2006
"I just purchased an Eos. I was comparing it to the Pontiac G6 Convertible and the Chrysler Sebring. I must say, this is the best convertible I have ever seen. It has great craftsmanship, is super fun to drive, and all at a price that is more than fair. I would have bought the car even if the dealership would have charged me $5,000 over sticker, which is common for the G6 Convertible. This is the best car I have ever had and I recommend it to anyone." — VWenthusiast, August 20, 2006