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Buyers are often put off purchasing convertibles because of their inherent disadvantages. Among them: noise, cowl shake, potential water leakage and increased risk of theft by break-in. Manufacturers of expensive luxury roadsters have overcome these problems with high-tech folding metal roofs. Now, manufacturers are beginning to develop more affordable systems for the rest of us.
The newest and example of an affordable hardtop convertible is the all-new 2007 Volkswagen Eos. The Eos is the first European hardtop convertible priced under $30,000.
The Eos, named after the mythical Greek goddess of dawn, delivers the top-down thrill of driving on a sunny day and, at the flick of a button, the warm, quiet comfort one desires on a cold or wet day. When driving with the top up, the Eos feels tight and quiet, like a coupe. With the top down, it feels more like a convertible but tighter, with less cowl shake on rough roads, than in older convertibles. The glass top gives the Eos a unique appearance, and it's entertaining to watch when raised or lowered, a feat that can be performed by remote control.
In spite of its diminutive dimensions, the Eos seats four, and getting into the back seat is relatively easy. The interior is trimmed nicely, an area where Volkswagen excels. Our preference was for the cloth upholstery in the base model, but leather upholstery comes with the Luxury and Sport packages along with nice looking wood or aluminum trim.
We were more than happy with the $27,990 base model, equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission, and loaded with safety features, air conditioning and a decent stereo. The turbocharged engine delivers brisk acceleration performance and is a smooth companion around town.
Drivers who prefer an automatic transmission, especially those who must commute in heavy traffic, might prefer the V6 engine, although those decisions can add $10,000 to the bottom line.
Either way, the Eos represents a good compromise between a sports car and a sedan. It's sporty and practical and offers top-down motoring.
We spent all of our time driving a European-spec Eos with a six-speed manual transmission so we did not get to try the model with the V6 engine or DSG automatic transmission.
As in other VW models, the combination of the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and the slick six-speed manual transmission is a delight to drive. The engine produces plenty of torque, making it a good car for gentle cruising or more aggressive driving.
In the past, we haven't cared too much for the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired up with an automatic transmission. Until we test this combination we can't be sure, but we're inclined to recommend getting the V6 if you want the automatic. Volkswagen's V6 with automatic has been a delightful combination on other models and we expect that will be the case with the Eos.
All Eos models include an electronic stabilization program (ESP), which we found to be completely unobtrusive, perhaps because we never drove the car past its limit of adhesion. We had the chance to drive a short distance on a dirt road at a slow speed and there was no drama from the car nor any squeaks or rattles.
Because of the added weight and a less rigid body the car does not handle as well as the GTI. Hardly any surprise, but again it's not really an issue as the GTI is so good it is almost in class by itself, making it an unfair comparison.
The electro-mechanical steering is fine; in fact we felt it delivered a slightly better feel than in the GTI. Brakes are also more than adequate. The majority of owners will find the Eos is acceptable for all driving except at high speed on winding roads.
With the top up there is virtually no indication that you're in anything other than a coupe. There is little wind noise and the body feels tight. With the top down there is some cowl shake on rough roads. It's far less than in older convertibles, which indicates VW has done an excellent job of creating a stiff new frame under the svelte body.
The Eos includes a couple of extras to help reduce wind buffeting with the top down. These include a deflector that can be raised up along the top edge of the windshield that is mostly to prevent buffeting with the sunroof open. The other is a wire mesh contraption that goes over the rear seats when there are no passengers to lessen air turbulence behind the front seats. We found it helped but wonder whether most people will bother to install it unless they intend to drive some distance with the top down.
We did not have the chance to try an Eos with the Sports Package. In some ways it almost seems unnecessary for this car as it handles just fine in standard trim. If you want a really good handling car the GTI is a much better deal and we doubt the Eos could never match it due to the inherently less rigid body structure and added weight.
If the Beetle Convertible has become passe for fans of VW's iconic car, the new Volkswagen Eos is an all-new, up-to-the-minute alternative. It's truly a car for all seasons. When the metal roof is up the Eos is sealed and you'd never know it was not a normal two-door, four-passenger coupe. On warm days it takes less than half a minute to transform the Eos into a four-seat convertible. For in-between days there's the option of a sunroof with a very wide opening. Compared to the price of other metal-hardtop four-seat convertibles, the Eos is truly one for the masses, priced about ten grand less than the Volvo C70.
New Car Test Drive correspondent John Rettie filed this report after test driving the Volkswagen Eos 2.0T with six-speed manual in South Africa.