Even though Volkswagen has one of the fullest lineups in its history of selling cars in the U.S., these aren't the best of times in North America for the German automaker. Since 2005, VW has lost somewhere around $2 billion in the U.S. and the company has decided to lay off 30% of its workforce by moving its U.S. headquarters from Detroit to Virginia. Horrendous Euro to Dollar exchange rates are certainly part of the problem, but VW is having much more trouble offering Americans vehicles that fit our tastes.
The Volkswagen EOS hit the scene with surprisingly little fanfare, even though it combines the sporty 2.0T engine and athletic driving dynamics of a Rabbit with a killer hard-top convertible. The EOS appears to have everything it takes to be a summer classic, a claim we put to the test by inviting the car into our Autoblog Garage for a week.
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When looking at the Volkswagen EOS from the outside in, we see a cool car wearing the trademark Volkswagen front end, a totally trick hard-top convertible, and the best rear end in the VW lineup. The soft lines of the sheetmetal are slightly feminine, a feeling that was reinforced by a couple of Woodward Dream Cruise participants calling the EOS a "girl's car." Regardless, the design is crisp and clean, and the vehicle attracts attention when the top is up. When the top was down, we also experienced several long, jealous stares. The engineering ninjas at VW also managed to put a moonroof into the state-of-the-art hard top, a design feature that no competition within $10,000 of this price range can match.
Volkswagen put plenty of expressiveness into the design of the headlights and taillights, which gives the EOS a different identity than the otherwise similarly-styled Jetta or Rabbit. Our model came equipped with terrifically-bright bi-Xenon lamps, which further advanced the cachet of the EOS. VW always seems to find a way to employ the use of attractive, large wheels and tires to fill their fenders, and this four-seat drop-top is no different. The 17s-inchers on our Fire Red EOS made for a much more sporty look, and the provided grip of the Pirelli rubber helped keep honest the well-respected 2.0T engine.
While some may feel the design of the EOS is a little soft, the little 2.0T engine is anything but. What a blast! The power that comes from this little turbocharged engine surprises with every push of the pedal, and turbo lag is nowhere to be found. The only issues we had were some torque steer under very heavy acceleration and a tendency for the EOS to take off on you if any throttle is applied when up-shifting. The first couple of times this startled us, but we got used to it quickly. Another issue with the engine is that it's quite loud for such a small motor, and the injectors caused the 2.0T to sound much too diesel-like for our tastes. Our tester had a 6-speed manual short throw gearbox, and while we'd have preferred to test the paddle shifters, the manual was very capable.
The EOS we tested came in at a whopping $36,000, and while that seems like a lot of money for a VW (Note: it is for this size vehicle), the materials inside met expectations set by the price. VW shines with regards to interior design, especially when it comes to quality build materials and ergonomic layout. Material look and feel is rich, with the right mix of soft touch materials and brushed aluminum accents. When passengers enter the vehicle, they're compelled to stroke the soft-touch dash material, and the LCD screen of the navigation system sets off the center stack nicely.
While the materials of the EOS were superb, the layout of the vehicle was just as good. Ergonomics are well thought out, and nice touches like an adjustable center arm rest make driving a vehicle with a manual transmission that much easier. Buttons and dials were also pleasing to the eye and touch, and the layout is so simple that it's difficult to find your fingers fumbling for the wrong switch.
The hard-top convertible of the EOS is very easy to operate, and when the top is going up or down, everyone takes notice. It all folds origami-style into the EOS' miniscule trunk in about 30 seconds. It would have been nice to just pull the aluminum roof lever so and let the mechanicals can do the rest of the work, but that lever needs to be held during the entire process, which was a little annoying. It's not like anybody would be interested in keeping the top half down, so there isn't much of a point to the whole process.
We were finding everything about the Volkswagen EOS just peachy, but after a day or two, problems began to pile up. While the entertaining engine and trick top kept our attention for a while, after a couple half-hour drives we began to notice just how uncomfortable the seats are. While the leather material appeared to be high quality, we spent about half the time in the EOS cockpit sitting on one cheek. The reason? VW didn't account for hefty Americans when designing its seats. At six feet tall and 230 lbs., this blogger is probably considered to be a bit larger than the average American male, but not by that much. The problem is that VW reinforced the lateral support of the EOS' seats with hard metal. That left me to either sit on one cheek, or sit on the hard metal support. If that weren't bad enough, children's car seats didn't fit properly in the mini-sized rear bucket seats. Both boosters needed to be tilted to the side so the seat belt could be used. Since I have twin four-year-old daughters, they ended up leaning towards each other, heads nearly touching. That caused a few fights. Even to install the seats without contorting uncomfortably, we had to take the top down and lean over the sides. That would be fun during the rain, we imagine.
Ah yes, rain. In days gone by, sunroofs and convertibles were like Niagra Falls in anything more than a sprinkle. As technology has progressed, many of the leaks have disappeared. Not in the EOS. Our left leg was literally soaked after braking hard to avoid something in the road, the unexpected force causing the hard-top to become misaligned. The water kept coming in until we found a gas station where we could open and close the top to reestablish a tight seal. Unfortunately, the problem wasn't resolved. A constant drip existed for the duration of the 22-mile trip, and then later on the way back home. The issue resolved itself only when the rain stopped, which is not an ideal solution
The EOS not only leaked in the rain, it also had issues with traction. When driving at 45 MPH on the weekend in the rain, the vehicle was pulling to the right. Not surprisingly, we no longer felt confident with the way the EOS in the rain, so we headed to the right lane and slowed down to 35 MPH. This was both disappointing and odd, especially since the EOS comes equipped with stability control.
After all this, we'd say the EOS is definitely an interesting vehicle, and the hard-top convertible is a trick piece of hardware, but we expected quite a bit more than what we got for $36,100. It's obvious that the EOS was designed for European tastes, but the quality problems we encountered are unacceptable in any price range. VW makes great products that usually carry a premium anyways, but the EOS needs to go grow up all around and fix its leaky roof to gain significant traction in the U.S market.