Volkswagen's Eos perfect for sunny days

Friday, March 9, 2007
The 2007 Eos convertible is Volkswagen's first hardtop convertible. (Associated Press)

Spring can't come too soon this year. It's the first spring that American car shoppers will find Volkswagen's enticing and new-for-2007 Eos convertible in showrooms.

Perfect for sunny days, the four-seat Eos is a pleasantly styled, lowest-priced convertible from a German brand. It's also VW's first convertible with a hardtop, rather than a fabric roof.

Better yet, integrated into the Eos' hardtop is a fully functional sunroof, so an Eos driver can see and feel the sun overhead through the sunroof glass -- on fickle, not-so-warm spring days, for example.

Best of all, the Eos comes standard with lots of safety equipment, including electronic stability control, rollover bars useful in crashes when the car might overturn with the top down, and side air bags that activate to provide protection for both head and thorax in side crashes.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $28,750 for a base, 2007 Eos with manual transmission and 200-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.

Competitors include the 2007 Volvo C70 hardtop convertible, which starts at $39,785 for a base model with 218-horsepower, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine and manual transmission. Another competitor is the 2007 Pontiac G6 hardtop convertible, which starts at $29,330 for a model with 224-horsepower V6 and automatic transmission.

Cheaper production

VW, Volvo and Pontiac all introduced four-seat hardtop convertibles for the first time in the past year as development and production processes for these sophisticated convertible tops became less costly than before.

Indeed, before the debut of these new models, the lowest-priced hardtop convertible on the market was the 2006 Mercedes-Benz SLK, which is a two-seater that started at more than $43,000.

Despite the complexity of hardtop roofs, many consumers are bound to appreciate the security they afford -- for foiling so-called slash-and-grab thefts and for imparting better vehicle crashworthiness.

Many shoppers also view hardtop convertibles as more practical year-round cars than are convertibles with fabric roofs, even if the roofs have many layers of fabric that try to keep out noise and hold in warm air from car heaters.

The Eos roof is a steel structure with five panels, including the glass sunroof, that separate and stack in a sophisticated manner at the push of a button on the center console.

In fact, the 25-second process to lower the roof, operated by hydraulics, is impressive to watch as the trunk lid first opens in clamshell fashion, the panels stack and then lower into the back of the car.

Even with the Eos roof down, there's still 6.6 cubic feet of space left in the trunk. When the top is up, the Eos trunk has a commendable 10.5 cubic feet of space.

But beware how quickly Eos prices can get up over the relatively affordable starting price.

An automatic transmission isn't available on the base Eos. So buyers must move up to the Eos 2.0T with automatic, which starts at $31,825 and was the test car. Buyers who want leather seats or satellite radio must select a pricey option package adding at least another $3,490 to the car.

To be sure, the test Eos 2.0T looked and felt good. Sized just right for easy parking and maneuvering, it wasn't so small that the back seat was unusable.

The turbocharged four cylinder in the Eos tester gave a peppy ride, with strong get-up-and-go coming on after just a very slight lag.

Peak torque of 207 foot-pounds surges as low as 1,800 rpm and is available through 5,000 rpm, according to VW.

Easily passed cars

As a result, the test car passed other vehicles efficiently on both city and highway thoroughfares, though sometimes the car seemed to rush forward breathlessly rather than smoothly propel forward.

Drivers looking for smoother, effortless power might consider the top engine for the Eos. It's a 250-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 with 235 foot-pounds of torque starting at 2,500 rpm.

But starting price for an Eos with V-6 is $37,610.

And the fuel economy rating falls from the 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway for the four-cylinder model to 22/29 mpg. These ratings are for Eos models with automatic transmission.

I especially liked how the front-wheel drive Eos handled.

Built on the platform of the VW Jetta sedan, the Eos is some 270 pounds heavier than a Jetta.

But there was nothing unpredictable in the Eos' behavior, and the four-wheel disc brakes had strong stopping power that came on quickly.

The car held tight in curves, moved solidly and stably over road bumps and never seemed to suffer a shimmy or shudder the way lesser convertibles can. The Eos rides so well, drivers would be well advised to keep an eye on their speedometers. This convertible just doesn't seem to be going as fast as it is.

Some of this has to do with the decent quiet found inside the Eos when the roof is on. Unlike in fabric-topped convertibles, I didn't hear much noise from loud semitrailers nearby. I didn't notice much road noise from the tires, either.

Controls and gauges inside the Eos are well laid out, and, in typical VW style, are not gimmicky.

The Eos seats also have the usual supportive style and firmness that VW is known for.

Buyers can opt for a sportier suspension.

And, Trunk Lid Assistance is an intriguing option that prevents the roof from going up or down unless there's enough distance behind the car for the clamshell trunk lid to maneuver. Otherwise, the lid might crunch into a garage wall.

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