Car reviews - Volkswagen - Eos - TFSI coupe-cabriolet
Better than average coupe-convertible looks, sunroof versatility, punchy turbo four
Room for improvement
Luggage space suffers a little, roof squeaks and rattles at times
12 Jul 2007
By CHRIS HARRIS
STRANGE as it may seem, not everybody is convinced hardtop convertibles are a long-term likelihood.
Citing styling challenges that have some steel-roofed convertibles looking awkward and heavy-rumped (Peugeot 307CC, Lexus SC430) as well as long-term issues concerning the complexity and vulnerability to damage, some observers reckon we’ll eventually see a return to the good old fabric-roofed convertible.
If that does prove to be the case, there’s still no question that the growing collection of coupe-convertibles indicates the design and the technology just keeps getting better.
BMW, for example, with its elegant new roofless 3 series, has just demonstrated that a hardtop convertible doesn’t need to be awkward and frumpy.
And Volkswagen has done the same with its new Golf-based Eos – while taking it a step further by being the first metal-roofed convertible to also offer a sliding glass sunroof as part of the deal. This really is a convertible that poses, when the roof is up, as a regular coupe.
Wherever the concept goes from here, there’s no doubt coupe convertibles have a stranglehold on the market – although Mazda has taken a bizarre each-way bet with its MX-5 that is available in either regular fabric or metal-roofed form.
But back to the new Volkswagen.
Introduced here in February this year, the clever little Eos is a most impressive execution of a theme that has captivated the whole car industry. It appears to be a flawless design, right down to the often-questioned roof-lowered luggage capacity, that remains at a reasonable 205 litres if you’re able to stash your gear away with minimal space-wastage.
What makes the Eos especially impressive – along with the BMW – is the fact we are talking about a four-passenger convertible here. With more roof to deal with than a two-seater, there’s a greater call on design ingenuity to make the whole 470-piece arrangement of roof panels, articulated struts and two-way boot lid all work together without ending up a twisted, shattered mass of glass and lightweight metal.
The Eos goes through the motions in a rapid 25 seconds, all with one press of a button, only asking that the carpeted box designed to keep luggage out of the way of the descending roof be securely in place.
Loading into the slightly confined, 205-litre space is made easier because it can be hinged out of the way, but you are still reminded of the one real shortcoming of such designs.
Roof in place, the boot grows to a handier 380 litres, although the space in this configuration is nowhere near as large as that of, say, Renault’s Megane CC. But the Eos does offer load-through from the rear seat, which means it can actually carry a couple of sets of snow skis.
The piece de resistance is the sliding glass sunroof. It can be either tilted, or slid back to give Eos passengers a taste of fresh air in conditions where full convertible exposure might not be entirely comfortable.
The only noticeable difference with regular sunroofs is the lack of a wind spoiler at the front edge to minimise cabin buffeting.
With the sunroof open, the Eos calls for a little adjusting to minimise the uncomfortable pulsing of air, but otherwise there’s no detectable sign that this is anything other than a fully enclosed coupe. There’s even a blind to shut the sun out entirely in really hot weather.
The Eos gives an impression of a very thoroughly thought-out design. From the neat detail work to the seamless operation of the folding or unfolding roof, it’s a tidy, complete package imbued with a sense of quality consistent with its $50,000-plus pricetag in DSG-gearbox turbocharged TFSI form.
Although the options list can add an awful lot to that (powered leather seats, bi-Xenon headlights, satellite navigation with TV, wood trim and bigger, classier wheels are included in a long list of goodies that mean an Eos tagged at well past $60,000 is a distinct possibility), the VW convertible is well enough fitted out with all the usual safety electronic systems, as well as things like the pop-up rear rollbars that protect passengers in an inversion, and front side airbags that act to protect the head, as well as the thorax area.
The Eos comes with front and rear parking sensors, climate-control air-conditioning, auto rearview mirror and a decent eight-speaker sound system as part of the standard kit that already includes that glass sunroof.
Like most four-passenger convertibles the back seat is a lot tighter than the vehicle it sprang from – the Golf – but a bit of juggling will enable four adults to ride in the Eos for short distances at least. It’s not a kids-only back seat.
The presentation is VW-classy, clearly based on the Golf but maybe a bit cleaner in the dash area, and there’s a nice solid tactility to the controls.
Our test car was substantially optioned up with power leather seats, satellite navigation, bi-Xenons and a fair bit more, so with its black paint it looked every bit the classy Euro coupe-convertible.
The five-section design of the roof enabled the Eos to come with shorter A-pillars than most coupe-convertibles, so this helps not just the feeling of being exposed to the open air with the roof packed away, but also allows easier climbing in and out without having to consciously avoid jutting windscreen pillars.
VW talks about the Eos being a solid, safe structure, with special steels used in the floor and the side panels, as well as extra reinforcements in the front and rear firewalls and solid pipes in the doors helping give what it describes as “a significant improvement in comparison to conventional solutions in terms of the protective function of the passenger space.”
Certainly the Eos feels strong on the road. If there is any giveaway that this is not a full coupe it’s the tendency of the complex roof to jiggle and squeak a bit when driving along rough roads.
The Eos comes in two versions the turbo-petrol TFSI as tested and the slightly cheaper turbo-diesel TDI model.
Both are available with a six-speed manual transmission, or VW’s automated DSG manual gearbox which, in this case, defies normal expectations by quoting slightly slower acceleration times than the regular manual – although it is slightly more economical.
Zero to 100km/h in the heavyish Eos is a relatively fast 7.8 seconds for the manual, but the urgency of the turbo direct-injection 2.0-litre four is such that it actually feels faster.
Accelerator response is vivid, with no signs of any initial turbo reluctance. The TFSI is not what you’d describe as creamy-smooth, but it’s hard to fault at the same time, especially with its ability to return 8.2L/100km on the average fuel consumption cycle.
We even had the Eos registering less than that on freeway cruising during our test, which is just as well because the mid-mounted fuel tank (between the back seat and rear axle) only contains a miserly 55 litres and the recommended octane rating is 98 RON.
Cruising at 100km/h the turbo four is spinning at around 2500rpm in sixth gear and is strong enough to hold pace on hills. A flick back to fifth or fourth is usually more than enough for quick overtaking. But although the shift action is positive enough most of the time, it will occasionally baulk when moving between third and fourth gears.
The Eos is a cruiser, not a bruiser, so it’s no surprise that the focus is on providing smoothness and comfort above all else.
That said, it is far from being soft and responds to the helm with European alacrity, the electric power steering taking the wheel from lock to lock in only 2.9 turns. The turning circle isn’t bad either, at a tight 10.9 metres.
A hard to fault package, the Volkswagen Eos.
With its inbuilt sliding sunroof it takes the already-clever coupe-convertible theme to a new level, while also suffering none of the style shortcomings that afflict more than a few of its ilk.
Where does it all go from here?
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