Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Sporty small convertible does it all.
Consider the Volkswagen Eos an everyday, all-season convertible. The Eos is good on gas, lively, carefree and comfortable, if more so for those riding in front.
The Eos has been substantially updated for 2012, with fresh styling front and rear, new interior appointments and more standard equipment, including HD radio and keyless unlocking and start. Yet it remains what it has been since its introduction: a good compromise between practical daily transportation and sporty, emotion-fueled sun worship.
The updated 2012 Eos comes with only one engine-transmission combination. Its 2.0-liter, 200-hp turbocharged engine, used in many VW and Audi vehicles, is economical to operate and quite powerful for its size. It's smooth and comfortable for commuting, and fun when a driver gets enthusiast. The 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox works fine as a fully automated transmission, which it is. Yet it's also one the sportiest automatics available, and better suited to a fairly small engine than most.
At about $34,000, the 2012 Volkswagen Eos Komfort comes very well equipped, with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and a decent stereo with CD changer and satellite radio, three years scheduled maintenance included. The interior is nicely finished and user friendly. The Eos Lux adds leather seating and navigation, while the Executive adds larger wheels, a firmer sport suspension and premium audio. All models come with a folding hardtop that disappears under the trunk lid, the likes of which were once reserved for very expensive cars.
The top is made of glass and steel, rather than conventional fabric, and it automatically opens in 25 seconds from inside or outside the car. Like more expensive European jobs, the Eos has a pop-up roll bar that automatically deploys behind the rear seats and adds crash protection. Want a bit less sunshine? The forward portion of the top will simply slide rearward, working like a big, wide sunroof.
With the top up, the Eos is as snug, quiet and solid as the typical small coupe. It also rides comfortably, and even with the top down, it's largely free of the shake and rattles that plague some moderately priced four-seat convertibles. It handles predictably, and the sport suspension on the Executive model makes it a bit more responsive. It accommodates two with good space, and four in a pinch, though we wouldn't recommend it for four adults beyond a quick jaunt to the beach on a sunny day.
There are at least seven convertibles with lower base prices than the Eos, some substantially so. Some get better mileage; others are roomier, more powerful or more fun to drive in the purist's sense. The Chrysler 200 convertible offers the same sort of folding hardtop for a bit less cash. Yet few if any of those convertibles match the Eos for its overall combination of fun, practicality, security and convenience.
The 2012 Volkswagen Eos convertible comes in three trim levels. All are powered by 200-horspower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And all come with a power-retractable glass-and-steel hard top that folds itself into the trunk.
The Eos Komfort ($33,995) has vinyl upholstery, but otherwise comes very well equipped. Standard features include heated front seats with 12-way power adjustment for the driver, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker audio with a 6CD changer, Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity, heated washer nozzles, a full complement of power amenities, a trip computer and 17-inch alloy wheels. Scheduled maintenance for three years is included in the purchase price.
The Eos Lux ($37,250) adds leather seating, burl walnut interior trim and even more features, including a GPS navigation system, a power front-passenger seat, park-distance control, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The Eos Executive ($39,220) upgrades with a firmer sport suspension and 18-inch wheels. Eos Executive also adds a more elaborate navigation system and VW's 600-watt Dynaudio premium sound.
The only factory option is the Technology Package ($1,185), offered only on the Lux and Executive models. It's essentially a safety package, adding bi-xenon high-intensity headlights that turn with the steering wheel, LED daytime running lights and headlight washers.
Safety equipment for all Eos models includes front impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags that protect both head and torso. Standard active safety features include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and a tire-pressure monitor. Passenger protection in the Eos is enhanced by an active rollbar system. A stiff steel bar pops up behind the rear seats in a fraction of a second when sensors determine that a serious accident might occur. The rollbar works like rear roof pillars and, coupled with an extra stiff front windshield frame, helps protect passengers in a rollover.
The Volkswagen Eos is conservatively styled, but pleasant enough to look at. Its low-slung design is short and stubby in profile, almost like a toy. Styling updates for 2012 freshen the Eos's appearance without radically changing its familiar lines.
The Eos is categorized as a subcompact by the federal government. Its width and wheelbase (the distance from the center of the front wheels to the center of the rear wheels) are identical to Volkswagen's GTI and Jetta models, but bumper to bumper the Eos measures about eight inches longer than the GTI hatchback and about six inches shorter than the Jetta sedan.
With its folding hardtop up, the Eos doesn't look anything like a soft-top convertible. Its windshield has a low, sloping rake and, keeping with the coupe theme, the Eos has no middle roof pillars. The rear pillars are narrower than those on a traditional soft-top convertible. The trunk lid is expansive and flat, making room for top stowage underneath.
The 2012 Eos styling changes start in front, where a three-bar grille connects re-shaped light clusters. Each grille slat is shiny black and trimmed with a narrow chrome strip. The two-part taillights are re-shaped, too, spanning the trunk lid and rear fenders with LED elements, and no conventional bulbs. The rear bumper is smoother than before, with a single twin-tip exhaust pipe poking out under the left side.
A button on the remote key fob allows the operator to lower the roof while still walking to the car. It's a handy feature, and fun to watch the five-piece glass and metal top lower itself from outside the car. The top rises up a foot or so before the trunk lid opens and the rear window folds, and then all the pieces stack themselves and drop under the trunk lid. The process takes about 25 seconds, starting with the side windows up. Closing, in reverse order, takes about 35 seconds.
The glass portion of the roof adds value, because the forward third can simply slide back and stop. So configured, it works like a conventional, albeit very wide, sunroof. Park Distance Control does more than warn of parking obstacles hidden at bumper height. It also warns if anything will impede unobstructed operation of the top when it's opening or closing.
There's almost nothing to complain about inside the Volkswagen Eos, assuming a buyer's expectations aren't too far out of line. This convertible is a subcompact car, not a mid-size or something larger. There's plenty of room for front-seat passengers, and the back seat will work in a pinch, though it isn't a particularly friendly place. The interior design and materials are attractive, and controls are easy to learn and operate.
Improvements to the 2012 Eos interior are both cosmetic and substantive. The cosmetics include matte chrome detailing around the gauges and on the doors, with bright trim framing the window switches. The functional additions include a standard HD radio receiver and Volkswagen's Keyless Entry and Start System. An Eos owner can now open the doors or start the car without removing the key from pocket or purse.
In general, materials used inside the Eos are very good, but not fabulous. The plastics on the doors and dash are not the most visually attractive, but they're heavy and sturdy, and we'd guess they'll stand-up well under the heavy UV exposure one might expect in a convertible. The contrasting trim is an attractive silver-metallic plastic in the base model. The Lux and Executive models add a swath of genuine burl walnut along the lower edge of the dash and around the gearshift. Still, the Eos's real strength is immaculate fit and build precision. Every interior panel aligns perfectly, with tight connections and no visible gaps.
The base Eos Komfort has vinyl seating, and we'd be perfectly satisfied owning it. VW's V-Tex vinyl is sturdy and excellently grained, not particularly sticky, and presumably care-free in an open car.
The front seats are large and spacious for a relatively small car, and very comfortable. They're firm enough to grip, but comfortable over the long haul, and the side bolsters are substantial enough to keep bodies in place during reasonably aggressive driving. The standard seat heaters get very warm, and legitimately allow comfortable top-down motoring when the outside temperature is in the 50s.
Window buttons and door releases are properly placed, allowing the driver to operate them with the forearm flat on the door's armrest, no wrist contortions required. And we love the extra (fifth) window switch. It allows all four side windows to be raised or lowered simultaneously with one button.
Gauges in the Eos have big, white numbers on a black background. The tachometer sits on the left, with a coolant temperature gauge inset, while the speedometer surrounds the fuel gauge on the right. In the middle sits an LCD screen that shows direction, outside temperature and a range of vehicle and trip functions. It's very easy to read, and controlled by buttons on the right steering-wheel spoke. The left spoke has buttons for audio, phone and voice control. The wheel rim is thick and firm, with bulges at the 2 and 10 positions. The headlights operate with a radial switch on the dash, to the left of the steering column. That leaves the turn-signal stalk for cruise control functions, with wipers on the stalk on the right of the steering column.
Overall, the controls are straightforward and, as other cars grow tediously complicated, quite refreshing. Even Eos models that aren't equipped with navigation come with a large LCD touchscreen. It sits at the top of the center stack of buttons, and displays audio and climate information. Three mechanical switches on either side of the screen control band selection, tone and other audio functions. Big radial knobs in the bottom corners manage volume and manual tuning. Preset stations appear on the touchscreen.
Climate controls sit below the screen, with pushbuttons for airflow direction and fan speed and round dials for temperature adjustment on each side of the car. It makes an excellent package, with only one gripe. The LCD screen isn't shielded from sunlight, and it's neither bright enough nor glare-free enough for easy reading during mid-day drives with the top down.
Storage space inside the Eos is adequate, and not much more. The glovebox is average size. The molded bins at the bottom of the doors aren't long, but they are deep and wide and lined with rubber mats that keep items stored in them from sliding easily. That's about it for storage in front. The center console box has audio connections and a little rack to hold an MP3 player, but not much room for anything else. The cup holders are molded into the center console, one size fits all, without spring-loaded clips or anything else that might create a bit of tension on the sides of the cups.
The back seat? Well, the Eos is a subcompact, and a convertible. Access is eased by spring-loaded front seats that slide forward with one lever, but it's still a chore for adults to climb in back. A five-foot, eight-inch passenger will have a fraction of an inch of headroom to spare when the top is up, but lower limbs will feel cramped and it's a bit claustrophobic. Space occupied by the top mechanism squeezes hip room, so two people in back will be rubbing elbows, if not shoulders. With the top down, of course, there's more headroom than anyone can ask for. We can see the Eos working for four for a trip for ice cream on a summer evening, as long as the soft-serve joint isn't too far away.
The trunk provides 10.5 cubic feet of space. That's not bad at all for a small coupe or convertible, but the raw number doesn't tell the whole story. Inside the trunk sits a shroud, or a three-sided box in the middle of the load floor. It's handy, because it marks the safe space for convertible top operation. Any items that fit under the shroud won't hinder the top or be crushed when it closes, and under it there is 6.3 cubic feet of space: enough for a medium-size, carry-on type suitcase and a few odds-and-ends. The drawback? The trunk shroud divides the usable space in the trunk, even if you don't plan to lower the top. The largest item you can load in still has to fit under the shroud. The remaining space can only be occupied by smaller items on top or around its edge.
The Volkswagen Eos performs appropriately to its mission as an everyday, all-season convertible. It's comfortable for front-seat passengers, easily maneuvered, carefree, economical to operate and reasonably fun to drive. For the harder-core driving enthusiast, Volkswagen builds the GTI hatchback.
We have a soft spot for the Eos engine. This 2.0-liter four-cylinder is used in lots of VW and Audi products because it's a good one: small enough to deliver good fuel economy numbers, but fitted with a turbocharger and efficient direct fuel injection to maximize power. With 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of acceleration-producing torque, the Eos engine makes more power than many that are larger in size.
Initially, the Eos gas pedal can seem a bit touchy or quirky, with a lot of power delivery for a fairly small dip of the foot. But once the throttle is mastered, the turbo engine is quiet and quite smooth for gentle cruising. And the torque comes evenly, meaning that no matter how fast the car is traveling or how quickly the engine is already spinning, there's always a nice reserve of power when the driver stabs to gas pedal to merge or take advantage of a hole in the traffic flow.
The turbo engine is also nicely suited for more aggressive driving. At full throttle, it pulls strongly up to its redline, in satisfying, emotional fashion, and it moves the Eos with considerable zest. Indeed, the engine is strong enough that it might encourage anti-social behavior in drivers with a heavy right foot. We measured 0-60 mph sprints at 7.4 seconds with a hand-held accelerometer, and Volkswagen claims a top speed of 148.
The Eos is no longer offered with a manual transmission, but few buyers chose the manual to begin with, and the standard 6-speed automatic works quite well in this car. VW's Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG, is different from a conventional automatic. It has clutches, like a manual, but they work automatically, without a clutch pedal. The advantages include a slight improvement in fuel economy compared to a conventional automatic and the ability to shift the transmission manually with almost the same range as a standard full manual. The Eos comes with paddles on the steering wheel for manual shifting, and a sequential up/down slot in the floor-mounted gear selector.
As an automatic, the DSG works nicely. It's more responsive than a conventional automatic typically is with a small four-cylinder engine. Shifts are quick, and crisp, without interruption in the flow of acceleration. The transmission is authoritative in its gear selection, with no dithering as it decides whether it's time to change gears or not. The drawback, compared to a conventional automatic, is that the DSG is not as smooth, particularly when coasting down to a stop. Still, we'd reckon that few drivers will notice the difference, and even fewer will care.
Cruising with the top up, the Eos feels very much like a fixed-roof coupe: solid and rattle free. There's only a little wind noise inside, and the car is generally as quiet as the typical small coupe. With the top down, the driver might notice a bit more wobble or shimmy rippling through the body, particularly on rough roads. Still, the Eos stacks up well against other moderately priced, four-place convertibles. Volkswagen has done a great job addressing the structural limitations in an open car, without adding an inordinate amount of weight.
The Eos's ride-handling balance is middle of the road, by design. The ride is quite comfortable, and only the Midwest's worst roads will upset those inside the Eos with a lot of bounce, shake or noise, even with the top down.
We like the steering feel, too. It's responsive enough, with decent feedback through the steering wheel and the right amount of boost or power assist for the speed traveled. All Eos models include electronic stability control (ESC), which helps manage potential skids by braking certain wheels individually or cutting power. It was effective on a low-friction dirt road, and unobtrusive in its operation. And the brakes are more than adequate. The pedal is a bit softer than we'd like, but with familiarity any driver can muster quick, smooth stops.
The Eos Komfort and Eos Lux are not sporting in feel, but both deliver sure, predictable handling, and both can be good fun to drive. The Eos Executive model, with lower-profile tires and a firmer suspension, is more responsive. The Eos Executive leans and sways a little less in aggressive maneuvers, but there's a payback. With its firmer suspension, the Executive transfers more energy up through the body on rough roads, and it emphasizes the convertible's flex when the top is down.
With the top up, the Eos has minor visibility issues. It feels a bit closed in, and not because the front seats aren't roomy enough. The windshield pillars are quite thick, for safety, and they stretch a long way forward from the driver's eyes. The hard top's rear pillars fill a good portion of the over-shoulder view range. The rear glass is relatively small, and its bottom edge is high. None of it would factor significantly in our buying decision, but it does have a psychological effect. We found ourselves triple-checking sight lines before changing direction.
With the top down, the visibility issues disappear. The Eos is equipped with a wind deflector that can be raised along the top edge of the windshield, and it works best when just the forward portion of the top is slid back, like a sunroof.
At 75 mph, top lowered completely into the trunk, there is quite a bit of wind swirl or buffeting inside the car. But even then there's a spot, something like a vortex of calm, around the driver's head. Roll up the side windows and the high-speed buffeting in reduced considerably while maintaining the pleasures of open motoring. There's also a folding, wire mesh contraption that can be installed over the rear seats. It does reduce the buffeting a bit, but it can't be used with rear passengers, and we wouldn't be committed enough to install it for anything other than a lengthy road trip.
In total, the Eos can extend open motoring through a broad range of temperatures. During a high-speed, top down cruise on a clear, 55-degree night, we were comfortable with a light jacket and the seat warmers turned all the way up. Blasting the heater would probably make another 10 degrees of chill tolerable. With the top up, even in bitter cold, the Eos hard top seems no different from a fixed roof.
The Volkswagen Eos is substantially updated for 2012, with minor styling changes, a simplified model line and more standard equipment. It remains a convertible for all seasons, and quite practical to boot. With its glass-and-metal folding hardtop closed, the Eos is as quiet and snug as a small coupe. When the weather warms, it's a four-seat convertible at the touch of a button. For the in-between, the forward portion of the roof slides rearward, like a big sunroof. The least expensive of three Eos trim levels comes very well equipped. All are economical to operate, comfortable (at least for front passengers), maneuverable and lively to drive.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent J.P. Vettraino reported from Detroit.
Volkswagen Eos Komfort ($33,995); Eos Lux ($37,250); Eos Executive ($39,220).
Options As Tested
Volkswagen Eos Komfort ($33,995).
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