It obviously cant be the car for everyone, but the all-new Volkswagen Eos may just have an enticing combination of form, function and fun for lots of singles, young couples and empty nesters.
Outfitted with a retractable hardtop, the Eos makes it possible for motorists who live almost anywhere to enjoy top-down motoring when the weather is right and to take refuge in the comfort and safety of a closed car when the rains fall, the temperatures plummet or the snow begins to fly.
Metal-roof convertibles are certainly nothing new how many of you can remember the 1957 Ford Skyliner? but they didnt emerge as a useful, but expensive alternative to the traditional soft-top until a mechanism devised by Mercedes-Benz proved itself to be practical and reliable in a 1998 two-seater, theSLK.
What is most significant about the Eos, as well as the recently releasedPontiac G6 hardtop convertible, is that their manufacturers have managed to bring this once crowd-stopping bit of exotica to mainstream motorists. The Eos has a base price under $30,000.
For most people, early December is not the ideal time to enjoy a convertible, but my wife and I were lucky enough to put the car through its paces during a visit to the sunny Southwest, where daily temperatures ranged from the mid 40s to the high 70s.
Our journeys took us in and around Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ, and across the desert to the Pacific Coast. Since the shifting temperatures discouraged full-time open-air motoring, we quickly came to appreciate the versatility of the Eos.
A tug on the proper button and the top disappeared into the trunk in about 25 seconds. If the temperature was borderline, we had a several choices.
First, we could turn on the standard seat heaters. If that didnt do the trick, we could raise the standard power windows. Still a bit chilly? We could set the temperature to 75 and turn on the climate control.
And if none of that worked, we could simply push the button the other way and watch the top rise to keep the weather out of our hair altogether.
Even after all of those choices, we still had one more option. We could open the standard tilt-and-slide power sunroof. Thats a feature exclusive to Volkswagen. No other car at any price has the versatility of a convertible top and a sunroof.
If the convenient roof were the only special feature, it might be hard to make a compelling case for the Eos to anyone who believes that time spent behind the wheel is not a chore but a pleasure.
However, the front-wheel-drive Eos scores in this category, too. The German engineers have made sure that the car is a peppy and poised performer.
Two engines are available. Standard is a two-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant that features direct fuel injection and four valves per cylinder. It generates 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.
The standard transmission is an easy-shifting, short-throw manual transmission with six speeds that are well matched to the engines power band. The clutch engages smoothly and requires such little effort that its possible to drive in stop-and-go city traffic without developing any left-leg fatigue.
For those who prefer a different pleasure, Volkswagens clever six-speed auto-manual transmission, known as DSG, allows the driver a choice of lightning-fast, clutch-free manual shifting or letting the transmission take care of gear changes by itself. It adds $1,075 to the price.
The optional Eos engine is a 3.2-liter V-6 powerplant that produces 250 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. It is available only with the DSG transmission, and has a base price of $36,850.
The car supplied for my test had the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. It is the most involving combination and the one I would choose.
The combination of a rigid chassis, independent suspension, anti-lock disc brakes and electromechanical, power-assisted steering made the Eos an enjoyable companion when I ventured off the four-lane highways and onto the more challenging back roads.
Turbo lag was almost imperceptible, tires gripped tenaciously in tight turns and there was only minor torque steer under full acceleration. (Full acceleration, incidentally, will rocket the Eos from a stop to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.)
Having driven a multitude of Volkswagens over the years, I expected the Eos to be a willing companion for the enthusiast driver. But I did not expect, and was pleasantly surprised by its poise as a top-up, high-speed cruiser on the run from Phoenix to Malibu and back.
Even cruising in sixth gear at speeds approaching triple digits, the Eos had a reserve of passing power. It defied strong desert cross-winds and was unruffled by the wake from a never-ending stream of trailer trucks.
And, thanks in part to the tightly sealed cabin, the atmosphere inside remained so serene that my wife was blissfully unaware of speeds that would have normally brought complaints.
Another surprise showed up on the Eoss handy trip computer. While averaging more than 75 miles an hour for the entire 400-mile dash across the desert, the Eos returned 28 miles per gallon of the recommended premium fuel. During my entire time with the car, it never averaged less than 18 mpg and on one, somewhat leisurely stretch it averaged 31 mpg. For the record, the EPA estimates mileage at 23 to 32 mpg.
The Eos contains a full complement of safety features, including traction control, stability control and front, side and side-curtain airbags. Most notable is the rollover protection system, in which a bar behind the rear seat head restraints pops up almost instantly in the event of a rollover or a severe crash with another vehicle.
Standard comfort and convenience features on the test car included power seats for driver and front passenger, cruise control, leatherette upholstery, power windows, remote keyless entry, trip computer, and eight-speaker audio system with in-dash CD player and MP3 capability.
Eos prices start at $27,990 for a car that is available only with the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission.
However, the starting point for most people will most likely be the more lavishly appointed Eos 2.0T, which I drove. Its base price is $29,990. Two options and a $630 delivery charge raised the bottom line to $36,110.
One option was the $3,690 sport package, which included brushed aluminum trim, real leather seats, 12-way power passenger seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, six-disc cd player, satellite radio and 17-inch alloy wheels. The second option was the $1,800 navigation system.
Volkswagen convertibles, going all the way back to the original Beetle ragtop, have often been considered chick cars because they lacked appeal to males looking for a sports car-like driving experience.
With its poised and sporty driving traits, The Eos should appeal to both men and women - even though it is named after the Greek goddess of dawn.
Standard Equipment (partial list)
Turbocharged 2.0 liter 200 hp 4 cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
16 inch alloy wheels
4 wheel disc brakes with ABS
Dual front side mounted air bags with head protection chambers
Power retractable hard top
Power glass sunroof
Tire pressure monitoring
Front fog/driving lights
Remote power door locks
Heated power mirrors
Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
AM/FM in-dash single CD player with CD MP3 Playback stereo with 8 speakers
The 2.0T adds... (partial list)
8-way power driver seat
Heated front seats
Front console with storage
Power rear seat easy entry
Dual zone climate controls
Leather-wrapped steering wheel & shift knob
The 3.2L adds... (partial list)
250 horsepower V6 engine
6 speed shiftable automatic transmission
17 inchalloy wheels
Automaticrain sensing wipers
Premium leather upholstery
8-way power passenger seat
Exterior automatic dimming electrochromatic mirror, driver only
Power retractable mirrors
Universal remote transmitter for garage door
AM/FM in-dash 6 CD player, CD-controller with CD MP3 Playback stereo
Major Available Options (Partial List, depends on model. Some items only available as part of an option group, see your Volkswagen dealer for details)
12-way power sports seats
Rain sensing windshield wipers
6-disc in-dash CD changer
17 inch wheels and tires
18 inch wheels and tires
Sirius satellite radio
DVD navigation system
Dynaudio AM/FM premiumaudio system
Park distance control
Bi-xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System
For more information on the Volkswagen Eos, visit vw.com
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