Convertibles are not what they used to be - praise be to the gods of progress. Take my father's 1976 Triumph TR6: Despite my eyes telling me the interior is covered by a vinyl-like "roof," I always seem to get wet, cold and/or wind-burnt depending on the weather that day.
Today's convertibles are a far cry from those old, rightly nicknamed, "ragtops." Exhibit A: Volkswagen's Eos. It can convincingly play the part of a coupe or an open top four-seater thanks to a trick, electro-hydraulically-operated, five-piece folding hard-top made of steel and glass.
Compared to something like its top-selling Golf, the Eos is a low volume model for Volkswagen Canada. Only, 774 were sold last year. In a way then, it's a halo car to display the engineering prowess of the German brand rather then some market dominator. For 2012, Eos has been upgraded with more modern looks and what seems like even better build quality. Performance
The only engine offered in the Eos (named for the Greek goddess of the dawn) remains a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder. It's the same engine used in the hot-to-trot GTI hatchback, here making 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Given that the droptop weighs a considerable 436 lbs. more than the hatch, the engine still feels strong here.
We're a little miffed that the six-speed manual transmission standard on the 2011 model has been given das boot. The droptop Veedub's only tranny is now a double-clutch six-speed automatic, or a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) in Volkswagen-speak. At least it sends power to the front wheels smoothly, shifts with uncanny rapidness and has a semi-manual Tiptronic function where you can select gears yourself.
'Composed, but not sporty,' is the best way to sum up the Eos' driving manners. The suspension soaks up bumps nicely and the electromechanical power steering is light, if a little vague in feedback. A cruiser, not a bruiser, is what we have here. Credit goes to Volkswagen engineers for making the chassis noticably solid even with the roof down.
This 2012 model is offered in two trims: Comfortline and Highline. The latter now comes standard with "sport" suspension, which could mean a modicum of GTI-'tude may have crept into the Eos' recipe. We tested the entry-level Volkswagen here, so the jury's still out on any newfound dynamic dance moves, but we'll update after any future test drives.Ergonomics/Comfort/Quality
Largely, the changes to the 2012 Eos are cosmetic. The chrome goatee grille is gone, replaced by much more conservative, though handsome, styling that follows the path laid out by the new Jetta and Passat sedans.
The Eos' cabin remains a four-person affair. Rear seat acreage isn't exactly sprawling like a Saskatoon wheat field, but decent for smaller riders. Access is notably easy thanks to front chairs that power forward via electric switches on the seat backs. Of course, access and headroom suffer if you have to drive this VW with the roof closed.
As we've come to expect from most German cars, much attention is paid to the ease of getting comfortable inside and accustom to the controls behind the wheel. Thumbs down for Wolfsburg though for making the multifunction steering wheels, sat-nav, satellite radio - and real leather seating - step-up options.
Volkswagen hasn't said, what, if any, materials inside the 2012 Eos have been upgraded, but this is one seriously premium environment. Materials are top-notch and build quality is industry-leading to put it plainly.Functionality/Usability
We're a little put off that, despite only minor changes to the 2012 Eos it costs $2,100 and $2,000 more respectively for the Comfortline and Highline trims. We're talking $39,075 and $45,775 now, creeping the Volkswagen near the price bracket of its premium cousin, Audi - without options, taxes, freight, etc.
The so-called CSC (Coupe-Sunroof-Convertible) automatic folding hard-top does help to lessen the sticker shock somewhat. It's quite the bit of engineering, folding neatly away with the touch of a button in 25 seconds. Volkswagen claims the Eos is also the only hard-top drop-top with a sunroof built in, so you can still soak up Vitamin D, even when the outside temp's gone below zero.
Do note though, that this trick folding roof eats up nearly all of the cargo space in the trunk when folded down. Packing light or filling the back seat with bags would be necessary for anything beyond a weekend trip.Conclusion
Pegging competitors for the Eos is a bit of a challenge. We put it up against the Chevy Camaro and Mini Cooper cabrio in a recent comparo
, but arguably the iconic, two-seat Mazda MX-5 and not-so-legendary Mitsubishi Eclipse could be included here as well.
That said, the Volkswagen's carved out a niche as a unique, four-season, hard-top convertible. It would be a great second car for a family already rocking a Tiguan SUV or the like. As long as you don't have to carry a lot, it could make the daily commute just a little sunnier.