2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Portland, Oregon – Whether you consider them faddish, frivolous or the best thing since beer in a can, you can’t dispute that the retractable hardtop is a hot automotive item. Once the province of only upscale rides, these clever and complex contraptions are working their way down market.

Spend any time in Europe, and you’ll see cute little two-seat Peugeot and Renault tin-top roadsters buzzing about. On this side of the pond, Pontiac recently launched the G6 GT coupe-cabrio, with a starting price of $34,995. Arriving in showrooms as you read this, the 2007 Volkswagen Eos ($36,900) is the newest member of this growing fraternity.

Eschewing VW’s tradition of naming vehicles after winds (Scirroco, Passat, Golf), unpronounceable nomadic tribes (Touareg) or furry garden pests (Rabbit), Eos is the Greek goddess of the morning – a mythical babe who rises from the sea in her chariot, bringing sunlight to the people.

It’s a fitting handle for this four-place convertible that features a five-panel folding top (most are two or three panel) and an industry-first sliding glass sunroof that allows for extra tan-time when the roof is in place. It’s called the CSC (coupe-sunroof-convertible) in V-Dub speak. Volkswagen says the five-panel lid allows for a longer roofline, giving the car a sleeker look and improving rear seat access. It also accordions up into a smaller package, leaving more free trunk space.

2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos. Click image to enlarge

As it is with all hard top convertibles, watching the roof’s cleverly orchestrated mechanical ballet is almost worth the price of admission alone. This car’s performance is especially riveting. With the aid of eight hydraulic cylinders, the Eos’ stores its top under a slick tonneau cover in just 25 seconds.

The Eos is not a convertible Golf er, Rabbit. It shares no body panels with that car, and is the first VW to use the company’s new PQ45 platform. This slots in between the Golf/Jetta PQ35 platform and the Passat’s PQ46 chassis. It shares the Golf’s front McPherson strut architecture, the Passat’s multi-link rear suspension and wider overall track.

2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos, top and bottom photos: Volkswagen of America. Click image to enlarge

The Eos is instantly recognizable as a Volkswagen, looking especially good from the front with its chromed corporate grill, integrated fog lights and aggressive sculpted halogen headlights. Canadian models have standard 17-inch alloys, although 18-inchers, a $720 option, fill out the wheel wells nicely. Overall the Eos gives the impression of a high quality piece.

However, from the C-pillar aft, things get a little wonky. Packaging is always a challenge with coupe-cabrios (especially in 4-seat form), and here, the Eos looks a bit ungainly. The thick C-pillar seems awkward, and the trunk is broad and flat. If Ms. Eos has a butt like this, she’d probably spend less time in her chariot and more at the gym. Once the roof is retracted, however, the Eos is a much prettier proposition.

The only available engine in Canada is VW’s impressive direct-injection 200-hp FSI 2.0-litre turbocharged four. It is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, although the trick VW/Audi six-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic with paddle shifters is a $1400 option.

The U.S. gets an optional 250-hp 3.2-litre V6, but I can’t for the life of me imagine why you’d want it. The 2.0T works so well here that the added expense, weight and fuel consumption of the V6 makes no sense. I guess us Canucks are just smarter, eh.

2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos. Click image to enlarge

Typically of Volkswagen, the interior is a very nice place to spend some time. The materials and build quality are top shelf, exuding an expensive ambiance that says “money well spent”. Every surface is a visual and tactile delight. The dash is unique to the Eos, so you won’t feel like you’re driving a gussied-up Jetta.

The standard heated seating is “leatherette”, but the $3855 Sport Leather Package adds leather seats (12-way power for the driver), leather multi-function steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone Climatronic, premium 8-speaker sound system and trip computer.

A big surprise is how much room there is in the back for two adults. At just under six feet, I could “sit behind myself ” very comfortably, and with the roof in place there was plenty of headroom.

Trunk space is limited to 205 litres (7.2 cubic feet) when the roof is folded.

Those hoping the GTI’s enthusiasm for the twisties has crossed over to the Eos won’t be too disappointed. The Eos is tuned for cruising and comfort – two tasks it performs admirably – but it still has enough GTI-ness to make very rapid progress on a sinuous rural road. Body motions are well controlled and it is nicely balanced through the turns.

Get too frisky and the car defaults to understeer and a bit of body roll, but up to that point it handles just fine, with nicely weighted and communicative steering, smooth clutch take-up and a satisfying shift linkage.

2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos. Click image to enlarge

I think the optional DSG transmission is the way to go in this car, though. It gives the choice of a shiftless mode if you’re just into cruising, or F1-wannabe mode when you feel like snapping through the gears with the paddle shifters. It’s a brilliant piece of kit.

At 1590 kg (3505 lbs), the VW Eos is no Callista Flockhart, but the little turbo motor has no problem motivating this car with brio. At any speed the Eos will rocket forth on a wave of torque. Volkswagen claims a 0-100 km/h time of 6.4 seconds.

The 2.0T emits a lusty snarl and is happy to run to its redline of 6500 rpm. Turbo lag is a non-issue, and with a torque peak of 207 lb/ft that arrives at 1800 rpm and sticks around ’til 5500 rpm, this is a very flexible powerplant. It is decidedly un-Japanese in its right-now throttle response and grin-inducing mid-range punch.

Our drive route took us through some gorgeous mountainous Oregon countryside over mostly smooth roads, and in this environment the refined and comfortable riding Eos was in its element. A couple of times I felt a few quivers through the structure, but for the most part it seemed very solid.

2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos. Click image to enlarge

At highway speeds, the optional windblocker ($375), which attaches right behind the front seats, keeps wind buffeting to a bare minimum. With the hard top in place, you’re as snug as a bug in a rug. And incidentally, the sunroof is huge.

There is a long list of active safety features in the Eos, which includes Rollover Protection System (pop-up roll hoops), front airbags, combined side-curtain and side-thorax airbags and front seat-belt tensioners. On the passive safety front are ABS braking with brake assist and disc wipers, ASR (anti-slip regulation), EDL (electronic differential lock) and ESP (electronic stabilization program).

Available colours are candy white, silver essence, black, paprika red and eismer blue. Interiors come in black or beige.

2007 Volkswagen Eos
2007 Volkswagen Eos. Click image to enlarge

Clever as the Eos is, it perfectly illustrates the inherent compromises of the folding hard top: excess weight, higher centre of gravity, skimpy trunk space and slight posterious expandus.

In the plus ledger, the nifty roof, which performs the ultimate automotive party trick, quickly transforms this secure all-weather coupe into a tres chic mobile tanning salon. And it surely is a pleasure to drive.

Ms. Eos would approve.


Pricing


Specifications

Type 2-door, 4-passenger compact hardtop convertible
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, turbocharged, 16V, DOHC
Horsepower 200 @ 5100 rpm-6000 rpm
Torque 207 lb-ft @ 1800-5000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual; 6-speed DSG auto
Tires 235/45R17 all-season
Curb weight 1672 kg (3686 lb.), DSG; TBA, manual
Wheelbase 2578 mm (101.5 in.)
Length 4410 mm (173.6 in.)
Width 1791 mm (70.5 in.)
Height 1443 mm (56.8 in.)
Cargo capacity 297 litres (10.5 cu. ft.) top up; 187 litres (6.6 cu. ft.) top down
Fuel consumption TBA
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Side airbags standard
Curtain airbags standard
Anti-lock brakes standard
Traction control standard
Stability control standard


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