VW’s Eos retractable hardtop coupe was launched about five years ago – in 2007 – when VW was ramping up an attempt to redefine itself as an upscale brand in the same league with cars from Audi, BMW and Volvo, among others.
It had the content – and the price – but unfortunately, not the cachet. And that’s still the big problem for this model today.
WHAT IT IS
The Eos is a mid-sized, four-seater retractable hardtop coupe.
Base price is $32,940 for the Komfort trim; a top-of-the-line Lux has a sticker price of $36,100.
Both versions are FWD and feature VW’s turbocharged 2.0 liter engine with either six-speed manual or six-speed “dual clutch” (DSG) six-speed automated manual transmission.
Seventeen inch wheels are now standard equipment on the Komfort and a few other minor tweaks have been made here and there.
Otherwise, the Eos is a carryover.
Retractable hardtop looks and feels more solid than a fabric top; also gives more protection from weather – and thieves – than soft-topped competitors.
Luxury-car finish,materials and attention to details.
Costs about $7k less to start than the Volvo C70 – the only other retractable hardtop coupe currently available for less than $40k
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
It’s kinda plain looking… for the price.
Leisurely performance (nearly 8 seconds to 60).
Formerly available 250 hp 3.2 liter V-6 no longer is.
Retractable hardtop hardware eats up the already-small trunk.
BMW/Audi price tag – VW status.
UNDER THE HOOD
The 2011 Eos – all versions – comes standard with VW’s 2.0 liter turbocharged and intercooled four rated at 200 hp.
The formerly available 3.2 liter V-6 is off the table.
The standard (Komfort) model can be ordered with either a six-speed manual transmission or – optionally – VW’s technologically sophisticated dual-clutch (DSG) six-speed automatic. Lux models come standard with the DSG – which is also a manual transmisssion, but one where computers and servos handle the clutch action while you handle the up and downshifts by tapping the shifter handle. Or just leave it in Drive. DSG engages the clutch automatically when you roll to a stop – so you don’t stall out if you’ve left it in gear – and re-engages the clutch as the car accelerates from a standstill.
0-60 takes just under 8 seconds with either transmission.
Gas mileage with the manual is 21 city/31 highway; the DSG-equipped Eos is slightly better in city driving (22 MPG) and slightly worse on the highway (29 MPG).
VW recommends premium unleaded to get the most performance (andmileage) out of the 2.0 liter engine, but doesn’t require it, so it’s ok to use regular if you want to save a few bucks and don’t really care if your engine is making max power at all times.
ON THE ROAD
The Eos has the heart of a GTI but lags a few steps behind in the 0-60 race because of the much higher (by about 500 pounds) curb weight.
Still, the car’s not slow – as such. No signs of strain accelerating from a stoplight or merging with traffic. It is a pleasant driver, with the turbo’d two providing good low-end torque in stop-and-go driving and also high-speed power when you punch it.
The issue for the Eos will be the inevitable comparisons with the power/performance of other cars in its price range like the $34,500 BMW 128i convertible – which comes standard with a 230 hp six-cylinder engine that delivers 0-60 in just 6.7 seconds. And then there’s the Volvo C70 – which also features a retractable hardtop. It comes standard with a 227 hp five-cylinder engine and can get to 60 in about 7.4 seconds, noticeably quicker than the Eos.
Or – wild card – how about the just-launched Chrysler 200 convertible? It can be ordered with a 283 hp 3.6 liter V-6 and you can get this car – loaded – for about $32k.
The Eos is caught in quandary. It’s not really intended to be a sporty car – it’s too heavy and it’s not packing enough heat under the hood. But many buyers are going to make comparisons with similarly priced – and sportier/better-performing – models like the BMW 1. On the other hand, Leisure World cruisers like the new Chrysler 200 deliver comparable sunny Sunday afternoon driving enjoyment – at a much lower MSRP. Meanwhile, the Volvo C70 delivers the same retractable hardtop experience, better performance – and upmarket brand status – for not all that much more money (about $2-$3k) than you’d pay to get a top-line Eos Lux with a few options.
If the Eos could be ordered with something along the lines of the 266 hp version of the 2.0 liter engine that’s going to be put into 2012 Golf R it’d be plenty sporty enough to face down the BMW1, clean the Volvo’s clock and – perhaps more to the point – its mid-high $30k price tag would go down a lot easier.
The fact is that in mid 2011, 200 hp is dangerously close to economy car hp. Which puts it close to economy car status.
Whether people actually use the power is largely irrelevant. It’s a question of feeling good about what you just spent a wad of cash on. And people who spend $35-$40k on a car want to know they can outrun people who spend $25k on their cars – even if they never actually do it.
AT THE CURB
Another problem for the Eos is its curb appeal – its attention-getter ability.
It doesn’t have all that much.
As with the Engine Issue, people who spend this kind of money want to be noticed. Or more precisely, they want people to notice what they’re they’re driving. But the Eos is a wallflower. With its almost seamless retractable hardtop in place, it easily fades into the crowd. When the similarly Shy Guy Pontiac G6 retractable hardtop was still around, VW had the edge as a nicer-than-Pontiac alternative. But given what you can get for $35k today – hell, for a lot less than that, if you are ok with a soft-top rather than a retractable hardtop (see, for example, the spiffy little Mini Cooper convertible – just $24,850 – or how about a new Camaro or Mustang convertible… ?) the Eos doesn’t really have anything spectacular to counter with.
And it ought to.
Yes, the retractable hardtop is neat – especially the fact that it also has a power sunroof built in that you can use to let in some sun and breeze when you don’t feel like dropping the entire top. But what else is there? Take the retractable hardtop out of the equation and what are you left with – that justifies spending $35k, anyhow?
And when you do drop the top, the trunk goes away. Literally. Small to begin with (10.5 cubic feet with the hardtop up) it shrinks to 5.4 cubic feet whenthe top is folded – or about the same real estate for Stuff as you get in a much smaller two-seater roadster such as the Mazda Miata.
The Chrysler 200, meanwhile, has a 13.1 cubic foot trunk; the BMW 8 cubic feet. The C70 slots into the middle with 12.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity. None of these have huge trunks, but they are significantly larger – and more usable – than the VW’s.
On the upside, the Eos does have usable back seats – a feature that many (cough) “two-plus-two” convertible coupes like the Camaro and Mustang don’t have. And the Mini? Ha!
Legroom back there especially is pretty generous (for a two-plus-two): 32.5 inches. For perspective, the Mustang has just 29.8 inches of backseat legroom and Elvis help any adult who tries to sit back there. The BMW 1 has 31.3 inches of rear seat legroom – better – but you’ll definitely miss that almost-inch-and-a-half difference. If you’re not 12 years old, anyhow.
But the Chrysler 200’s 33.5 inches is a counterpoint against the Eos.
So also the Volvo C70’s very decent 33.9 inches.
My test car had the optional GPS unit but – apparently – not the latest generation software VW has available. In other models, anyhow. The week before I got the Eos, I had a new (2011) Jetta. It had GPS, too – but a different (newer) version that showed you the road ahead vs. the look-down, digital map layout in the Eos. I much prefer the Jetta’s GPS, which in addition to showing you things like curves coming up ahead also rolls with elevation changes – both features providing a more life-like sense of where you are and where you’re about to be.
The materials used and detail items in the Eos are – and should be – noticeably nicer than in the new Jetta, which VW recently redesigned to be less expensive than it used to be – in order to make the car more competitive – a tacit recognition that previously, it wasn’t. Or at least, was less competitive than it needed to be for VW to make adequate money off the deal, anyhow.
I suspect that when the Eos is redesigned – if it’s redesigned – it’ll either be Jetta-ized (i.e., made more price-competitive with stuff in the under-$30k class) or its content – under the hood, especially – will be brought up to spec with the current par for cars with sticker prices in the $35-$40k range.
Odds and ends: As in most German cars, the Eos has top-drawer seat heaters that can actually get hot – and that’s a good thing, when your back’s sore or the weather’s cold outside.
The top drops at the touch of a button; well, the pull of a handle located on the center console, just below the armrest. The same pull handle also slides and opens the integrated sunroof.
The paintwork was beautiful – including the door jambs and trunk underside.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The retractable hardtop remains the signature feature – and main selling point – of the 2011 Eos.
Throw it in the Woods?