The Volkswagen Eos performs appropriately to its mission as an everyday, all-season convertible. It's comfortable for front-seat passengers, easily maneuvered, carefree, economical to operate and reasonably fun to drive. For the harder-core driving enthusiast, Volkswagen builds the GTI hatchback.
We have a soft spot for the Eos engine. This 2.0-liter four-cylinder is used in lots of VW and Audi products because it's a good one: small enough to deliver good fuel economy numbers, but fitted with a turbocharger and efficient direct fuel injection to maximize power. With 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of acceleration-producing torque, the Eos engine makes more power than many that are larger in size.
Initially, the Eos gas pedal can seem a bit touchy or quirky, with a lot of power delivery for a fairly small dip of the foot. But once the throttle is mastered, the turbo engine is quiet and quite smooth for gentle cruising. And the torque comes evenly, meaning that no matter how fast the car is traveling or how quickly the engine is already spinning, there's always a nice reserve of power when the driver stabs to gas pedal to merge or take advantage of a hole in the traffic flow.
The turbo engine is also nicely suited for more aggressive driving. At full throttle, it pulls strongly up to its redline, in satisfying, emotional fashion, and it moves the Eos with considerable zest. Indeed, the engine is strong enough that it might encourage anti-social behavior in drivers with a heavy right foot. We measured 0-60 mph sprints at 7.4 seconds with a hand-held accelerometer, and Volkswagen claims a top speed of 148.
The Eos is no longer offered with a manual transmission, but few buyers chose the manual to begin with, and the standard 6-speed automatic works quite well in this car. VW's Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG, is different from a conventional automatic. It has clutches, like a manual, but they work automatically, without a clutch pedal. The advantages include a slight improvement in fuel economy compared to a conventional automatic and the ability to shift the transmission manually with almost the same range as a standard full manual. The Eos comes with paddles on the steering wheel for manual shifting, and a sequential up/down slot in the floor-mounted gear selector.
As an automatic, the DSG works nicely. It's more responsive than a conventional automatic typically is with a small four-cylinder engine. Shifts are quick, and crisp, without interruption in the flow of acceleration. The transmission is authoritative in its gear selection, with no dithering as it decides whether it's time to change gears or not. The drawback, compared to a conventional automatic, is that the DSG is not as smooth, particularly when coasting down to a stop. Still, we'd reckon that few drivers will notice the difference, and even fewer will care.
Cruising with the top up, the Eos feels very much like a fixed-roof coupe: solid and rattle free. There's only a little wind noise inside, and the car is generally as quiet as the typical small coupe. With the top down, the driver might notice a bit more wobble or shimmy rippling through the body, particularly on rough roads. Still, the Eos stacks up well against other moderately priced, four-place convertibles. Volkswagen has done a great job addressing the structural limitations in an open car, without adding an inordinate amount of weight.
The Eos's ride-handling balance is middle of the road, by design. The ride is quite comfortable, and only the Midwest's worst roads will upset those inside the Eos with a lot of bounce, shake or noise, even with the top down.
We like the steering feel, too. It's responsive enough, with decent feedback through the steering wheel and the right amount of boost or power assist for the speed traveled. All Eos models include electronic stability control (ESC), which helps manage potential skids by braking certain wheels individually or cutting power. It was effective on a low-friction dirt road, and unobtrusive in its operation. And the brakes are more than adequate. The pedal is a bit softer than we'd like, but with familiarity any driver can muster quick, smooth stops.
The Eos Komfort and Eos Lux are not sporting in feel, but both deliver sure, predictable handling, and both can be good fun to drive. The Eos Executive model, with lower-profile tires and a firmer suspension, is more responsive. The Eos Executive leans and sways a little less in aggressive maneuvers, but there's a payback. With its firmer suspension, the Executive transfers more energy up through the body on rough roads, and it emphasizes the convertible's flex when the top is down.
With the top up, the Eos has minor visibility issues. It feels a bit closed in, and not because the front seats aren't roomy enough. The windshield pillars are quite thick, for safety, and they stretch a long way forward from the driver's eyes. The hard top's rear pillars fill a good portion of the over-shoulder view range. The rear glass is relatively small, and its bottom edge is high. None of it would factor significantly in our buying decision, but it does have a psychological effect. We found ourselves triple-checking sight lines before changing direction.
With the top down, the visibility issues disappear. The Eos is equipped with a wind deflector that can be raised along the top edge of the windshield, and it works best when just the forward portion of the top is slid back, like a sunroof.
At 75 mph, top lowered completely into the trunk, there is quite a bit of wind swirl or buffeting inside the car. But even then there's a spot, something like a vortex of calm, around the driver's head. Roll up the side windows and the high-speed buffeting in reduced considerably while maintaining the pleasures of open motoring. There's also a folding, wire mesh contraption that can be installed over the rear seats. It does reduce the buffeting a bit, but it can't be used with rear passengers, and we wouldn't be committed enough to install it for anything other than a lengthy road trip.
In total, the Eos can extend open motoring through a broad range of temperatures. During a high-speed, top down cruise on a clear, 55-degree night, we were comfortable with a light jacket and the seat warmers turned all the way up. Blasting the heater would probably make another 10 degrees of chill tolerable. With the top up, even in bitter cold, the Eos hard top seems no different from a fixed roof.