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Retro Road Test – Volkswagen Eos & MG B
Could Eos be the modern day MG B?Models Tested:
- 2008 Volkswagen Eos Coupe Cabriolet Auto - $52,290 (RRP)
- 1968 MG B Roadster Four Speed Manual - $3,355 (when new)
- by Matt Brogan
When the opportunity arose to drive one of the most popular and well-loved roadsters of all time just so happened to coincide with my week of driving one of the most stunning coupe-cabriolets of the modern age, an idea was spawned - introducing our first Retro Road Test.
This review aims to combine the two loves (old cars and new cars) that so many of our reader’s share in what I hope will become a semi-regular column and an enjoyable comparison of appreciating just how far cars have come, and indeed what becomes of the cars that were once as popular as the old MG.
Eos has been a remarkable draw card for VGA (Volkswagen Group Australia) since going on sale here in January last year and we at CarAdvice have been lucky enough to have reviewed most variants of the stunning little coupe-cabriolet to this point.
The Eos is fresh, popular and just different enough to stand out, whilst still being sufficiently reserved in its styling to attract a following beyond that of the sports car enthusiast, in much the same way the MG B first did in 1962.
Inspired by Aston Martin's DB2/4 the Thornley designed B was never meant to be as popular as it was, a sales surprise spanning three decades and some 512,243 units (9,090 in Australia), the B was Britain's most popular sports car and indeed MG's largest success.
Later sold all over the world the B was especially popular in the United States and was of course sold in Australia after being reassembled from complete knock down kit at BMC's Zetland plant in NSW.
A somewhat modern and aerodynamic design in its day, MG utilised a monocoque body for the (company's) first time with the B offering considerable gains in strength and rigidity as well as decreased manufacturing costs. It was also the first MG to offer luxuries such as wind up windows and a glove box.
Being a car of so many initiatives, the MG B was also one of the first cars to include controlled crumple zones boasting that both driver and passenger were fully protected in a frontal collision up to 30mph (48km/h), though I think somehow I'd prefer the airbags offered in the Eos for that one.
Pre-production crash test circa 1962
With brisk performance and acclaimed handling the MG B could almost manage 1 g in turns (0.96) which for its day was rather remarkable and something many modern vehicles still struggle to match. Our little car though was sadly in need of some TLC and I was not about to put this theory to the test.
Originally the B was meant to have been in production for only five years, but due to unprecedented demand went on to be produced until 1980 when the last two examples were produced in October of that year (production for the Australian market having ceased in 1972).
The MG B (typical and as tested) was fitted with a 1.8 litre four cylinder overhead valve (pushrod operated) engine with twin SU (HS4) carburettors boosting the celebrated engine's performance to 71kW @ 5,500rpm and a respectable 149Nm from 3,000rpm.
A four speed manual transmission with no synchro on first offered a great spread of cogs for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 12.2 seconds, something our test candidate seemed almost capable of even in it's lack lustre condition. Electric overdrive offered comfortable and efficient cruising and was operated by a flick of the switch and a quick pop of the clutch.
Being a light car with rear wheel drive the MG is a delight to drive, and despite its age is still very popular with enthusiasts and car lovers alike. The little wave from other MG drivers in passing is reassurance that the little B is still very much adored among those who've taken the classic to heart.
Roof off, the MG allows an enjoyment of motoring that seems lost in many modern replications. That feeling of motion, the smell of the crisp autumn breeze and the aural symphony between the throaty twin SUs induction note and that classic tail pipe concerto, it’s easy to get lost in it all.
The MG’s exhaust note has to be one of the most recognisable and distinctive sounds in motoring and sure to prick the ears of even the most die hard V8 fan, especially north of 3,500rpm. It’s not loud, it’s hardly ground pounding, but it has a raspy little bark that has not been emulated since.
Having owned a few classic cars in my time, and occasionally being lost in their nostalgia, I am nonetheless very relieved to jump back in a modern vehicle once the trip down memory lane is over.
Eos is of course a far more modern approach to motoring and although derived from the Passat (PQ46) platform is a stand alone model. Representing the best of both worlds the Portuguese built Eos was first introduced at the Geneva motor show in 2004 and offers the flexibility of enjoying either a smart, practical coupe – with a sunroof no less – or at the push of a button, and some 25 seconds, a beautiful open air convertible to see and be seen in.
The Eos name, like most in the Volkswagen range, comes from a word pertaining to wind, in this instance Eos is the Greek goddess of dawn and wind, and to anyone taking a back seat in the car with the top down I am sure the latter would be especially true - best option the wind breaker.
Offering not only style and comfort through its many creature comforts, the Eos also packs quite a punch with its Golf GTi sourced 2.0 litre turbo charged four cylinder offering a very tidy 147kW @ 5,100rpm and 280Nm from just 1,800 rpm. Though driven through the front wheels the Eos is still quite poised in terms of handling and offers performance around the eight second mark for the sprint to 100km/h.
Along with such impressive performance times the Eos is nonetheless a pleasure to cruise in managing around town traffic just as easily as a quick sprint down some meandering country corners. The DSG box is brilliant and although it misses the paddles of the GT and GTi Golf, is still very responsive in Sport mode or with the use of +/- mode on the gearshift.
Boasting a raft of safety features including ABS, EBA, EBD, ESP, Front and Side Airbags, Seat Belt Pre-Tensioners and Traction Control, the Eos makes for confident motoring even with the five piece roof in fold down mode with Active Roll Over Protection rounding out the standard safety features.
The Individual Pack (referring to interior trim - as shown) allows a more personal touch to what is already a reflection of one's tastes and means owning an Eos really sets you aside from more common place sedan based convertibles that seem to be so very prevalent on our roads.
One thing I'd really like to have seen offered for the Australian market is the brilliant 3.2 litre V6 engine offered in North America and Europe which also comes with paddle shift DSG, though perhaps that's just the petrol-head in me.
When all is said and done, the Eos perhaps best demonstrates just how good a modern convertible can be and though the MG is a lovely old car, I think given the amount of vehicle on offer for the price, I'd be hard pressed to choose it over an Eos for the pace of modern life's motoring.