August 21, 2011

Eos means easy in a convertible

By SCOTT WASSER Executive Editor

When it comes to convertibles, there are two kinds of people:

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Four model years since its introduction, Volkswagen’s Eos continues to claim distinction as the only hardtop convertible with a sunroof, a surprisingly enjoyable feature.

Photos courtesy Volkswagen

Der neue Volkswagen Eos
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Volkswagen’s customary refinement is evident in the interior of the Eos, along with many high-tech features.

Additional Photos Below


WHAT IS IT? 2012 Volkswagen Eos Executive, a compact hardtop convertible.

WHAT DOES IT COST? The Eos is offered in three trim levels with starting prices ranging from $33,995 for the Komfort model to $39,990 -- including $770 destination fee -- for a loaded Executive model like the one tested.

WHAT I LIKED BEST: Slick convertible top with integrated sunroof; plenty of power.

WHAT I LIKED LEAST: Top won't budge if you're moving, and the wheels spin easily when starting from a stop.

IMPORTANT NUMBERS: 2.0-liter, 16-valve, turbocharged, direct-injection, inline 4-cylinder engine produces 200 horsepower, 207 pounds-feet of torque. Six-speed, dual-clutch automatic. 101.5-inch wheelbase. 3,569-pound curb weight. 22 city/30 highway mpg (EPA). Zero-60 in 7.4 seconds (VW spec). 10.5/6.6 cubic foot trunk with top up/down.

Those who love even the rattiest ride on four wheels, as long as it enables them to drive with the sun on their face and the wind in their hair.

And those who demand that the top be raised before you even leave the driveway because the wind might mess their "do." They wouldn't drive with the top down even if Vidal Sassoon was in the back seat.

The feeling of the wind in my hair turned into a scalp massage several years ago, but I still love convertibles. They turn bumper-to-bumper traffic jams into sunbathing opportunities. They make routine trips to the grocery store fun excursions. And they bring a whole new meaning -- and vantage point -- to leaf-peeping.

But convertibles can also have a dark side, and I'm not referring to what happens when you find yourself on the interstate with the top down and thunderclouds mushrooming all around. Convertible tops can be clumsy to operate and sometimes cause poor visibility and a noisy and choppy ride.

If you drive a convertible in a major metro, you're easy prey for any thief with a pocketknife.

But technology is changing that. Although many current convertibles still rely on conventional soft-top designs, there is a growing crop of hardtop convertibles. The most affordable with five-place seating is the 2012 Volkswagen Eos I recently tested.

For just shy of $34,000, the Eos eliminates virtually all of the conventional convertible kinks while delivering joyful open-air motoring at the touch of a button. No kidding. Simply push a button and the Eos' hardtop separates into five pieces and deftly deposits itself in the car's trunk.

There's no muss and no fuss. No pins to align, no latches to latch. And even in the most unexpected downpour, you'll be doused for no more than 25 seconds. That's about how long it takes to fully raise or lower the top.

One caveat, however: Unlike some other convertibles, the Eos' top won't budge if the car is in motion. That means you can't open or close it while creeping down your driveway or rolling to a stop at the side of the road. Of course that's likely to matter only to anal convertible owners who are incredibly impatient or have previously gotten caught in an unexpected downpour.

With its top up, the Eos is as quiet and weatherproof as a conventional coupe. Its large rear window with electric defroster makes life with the Eos more pleasant than with most soft-top convertibles. And there's no need to worry about pocket knife-packing punks.

Wait, there's more: VW claims Eos is the only hardtop convertible with a built-in sunroof. I initially scoffed at that claim. Who needs a small hole in the roof when the entire roof disappears?

But VWs clever engineering makes Eos' sunroof special and appealing. That's because it creates a massive opening that extends from door to door and from the top of the windshield to just behind the front-seat passengers.

It's more like a removable "targa" top than a typical sunroof porthole. It's a great alternative to the full convertible experience on spotty days.

The Eos and its great top have been around since the 2007 model year, but there are some major changes for 2012. One is that a high-tech, six-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual override is now standard on all Eos models. Keyless entry also is standard this year. Other changes include new interior trim and a redesigned exterior that reflects Volkswagen's new corporate look (say goodbye to the "shield" grille).

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Additional Photos

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Volkswagen’s clever retractable top design is complemented in the Eos by a potent engine.

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The Eos is attractive from the rear as well as the front.


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