It’s not my favourite VW from a driver’s perspective, but for a proper four-seat convertible with a clever folding metal roof and smart styling, the Volkswagen EOS represents outstanding value for money against its competition.
Volkswagen has done a remarkable job over the years rising from humble beginnings with the likes of the iconic rear-engined Beetle to a complete range of quality cars and commercial vehicles, which cover almost all segments within today’s automotive landscape.
Better still, and despite the fact that you can get into a Volkswagen Polo for as little as $16,990, the brand carries considerable prestige cachet among Australia’s new car buyers.
The Volkswagen EOS was first launched in Australia in 2007 to great fanfare. Here was a stylish prestige convertible with a sophisticated metal folding roof, plenty of pace and plenty of room for four adults, and all that for under $50,000.
This was no ordinary drop top though. Volkswagen’s new convertible was the first car in the world to feature a revolutionary five-section metal roof with an integrated sliding/tilting glass roof, and dead easy to operate. Just push down and hold the brushed metal handle on the centre console, and the miracle of electrohydraulics transforms the EOS from a proper hardtop coupe to an open-air convertible in around 25 seconds.
Just watching the roof open and close can be mesmerising for the first time, and it’s easy to forget that it can also function as a typical electric sliding glass sunroof, with tilt function to boot.
While it certainly adds more weight than a traditional folding soft top, benefits such as noise insulation, rollover safety and security far outweigh any negatives.
It’s a neat mechanism too. Once the roof is lowered, it is magically stored inside the boot as though it was never there in the first place. But like all folding metal roofs these days, they tend to rob you of legitimate storage space when in convertible mode, and the EOS is no different in that respect. Load space with the roof down is 205 litres, and in ‘roof up’ coupe mode, that grows to 380 litres. Even with roof down there is still enough space for at least 10 grocery bags (tried and tested).
On the passenger front, the EOS is a bone fide four-person car, and that’s four adults. There’s also sufficient leg and headroom for those adults, if of average height. Taller folk will suffer on long journeys in the rear seats, but you’ve got to ask yourself how often that need would truly arise?
An outstanding feature in almost all Volkswagen passenger vehicles is the seat design. On any other marque, these pews offered as standard kit in the EOS (that’s front and rear) would be ‘sport seat’ options. They offer unconditional support with their pronounced bolster on the seat bottom and seatback. They’re comfortable too but I wouldn’t call them luxurious or supple in any way, more to do with being anatomically correct for posture approach.
While the dash and console are fabricated with soft touch materials, the switchgear and general layout is more business like than luxury. There’s plenty of high quality metal trim throughout the cabin to give the cockpit a premium feel, including the performance look metal pedals.
It’s true, some might classify the 2.0-litre TSI 155kW petrol EOS as a sports car, but that’s something 103kW TDI is surely not. There’s a fair old dose of turbo lag if you drop the accelerator pedal in a hurry, which can be slightly irritating. Best to feed on the throttle in a gentle manner, but even then, it doesn’t provide the same driver enjoyment as its more powerful sibling.
Once you get going though, the TDI’s 320Nm of torque packs a fair degree of punch, making high-speed overtakes a relatively safe manoeuvre.
Our test car was fitted with the optional six-speed DSG transmission and while it’s still a little bit jittery in peak hour traffic crawl (nothing much has changed on that front), once you’re out of the road, gearshifts are all but a quick blip. Overall, there are very few negative characteristics of Volkswagen’s Direct Shift Gearbox, although fast getaways from intersections can be problematic as the system seems to hesitate for a moment if you jump on the right pedal too quickly, notwithstanding the effect of turbo lag in this situation.
There’s a ‘Sport’ mode, which holds each gear ratio a little longer before each shift, but it’s too noisy for city and suburban duties. There are no paddle shifters on board the EOS, but you can use the shift lever as a Tiptronic manual shifter, which works quite well in windy or undulating terrain. In fact, the DSG transmission matches up well to the low-power/high-torque diesel powertrain, providing a more spirited drive than this car might otherwise be.
On the road, the EOS is relatively agile and feels sporty like a well-sorted Volkswagen Golf, reacting well to steering input. Adjust the driver’s seat down to the lowest setting for a lower centre of gravity and the chassis feels very connected with the tarmac. At the same time, the ride is nice and supple even over the harshest of road surfaces.
That’s always been a major strong point with Volkswagen passenger cars, the near perfect balance between sharp handling and a comfortable ride, and the EOS doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s probably closer in ride comfort to the larger Passat than the Golf, but the handling is more Golf ‘agile’ than Volkswagen Passat.
EOS employs an electro-mechanical power steering system, which is specifically tuned to each of the two powertrains offered with this model. There’s good weight in the steering from dead centre, and it’s quick to respond. I’m also surprised at how little body roll there is into corners, despite the additional 30kg weight penalty of the diesel engine.
The EOS comes loaded with a stack of comfort kit, but surely that’s expected when you’re spending near enough to $47,000 plus on road costs. That said, I’d like to see Bluetooth connectivity (including music streaming) as part of the standard feature pack when the 2012 model EOS is launched to the press in a week or so.
It’s the same with the active and passive safety systems; the EOS comes with the full suite, and then some.
When you start to look at the competitive brands with a convertible body in this segment, you realise just what a bargain the Eos is.
While I can certainly appreciate the various benefits of the less expensive TDI-powered EOS, my preference would be for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder TSI petrol engine with 155kW and 280Nm of torque between 1700-5200 rpm, with a DSG transmission.