First Glance: A retractable hardtop with a unique twist
I'm not a big fan of hardtop convertibles. I think the convenience of a steel roof far outweighs the inconveniences: Complex mechanism and lack of trunk space with the top down. But thanks to some innovative technology and well-thought-out packaging, the Eos is starting to win me over.
Based on the same platform as the Rabbit, GTI, Jetta and Audi A3, the Eos is the successor to the Cabrio, which left the VW lineup after 2002. Unlike the Cabrio, which looked like a convertible Golf, the Eos has its own look with a Jetta-like grille and vaguely Passat-ish taillights. I think the Eos' styling is a bit too conservative, but friends and neighbors found it very attractive.
Unlike most retractable hardtops, the Eos' roof isn't entirely made of steel. The forward section is actually a large glass panel (link goes to photo) that lifts and slides backwards like a sunroof. A rigid blind slides forward to block out light completely. Sunroof and top are electrically operated: Push the big U-shaped switch on the console and the windows lower, the glass roof panel slides backwards, and the rear window lifts up and stacks itself on top of the roof. Then the trunk lid hinges backwards and the whole top lifts up and descends into the trunk. The operation takes about 25 seconds and requires about a foot of space behind the car (for those too lazy to check, an optional ($350) sensor warns you if something's in the way).
Photos of the Eos' retractable hardtop in action:
In the Driver's Seat: Comfortable seats and a trunk you can use
As with most Vee Dubs, the Eos treats front passengers well. The Eos is available in Base, 2.0T and 3.2L models; all get a height-adjustable driver seat (power-adjustable in the 2.0T and 3.2L) and a tilt-and-telescope steering column, so customizing the driving position to your liking is easy. My Eos had an optional stereo with integrated navigation system ($1800). The sound was great, but the system pops up a nag screen and requires you to push the "accept" button every time you turn on the stereo -- a major annoyance. The nav system lacks a touch screen, only shows major street names and is slow to program. Skip it and buy an aftermarket system instead.
The Eos' back seat would be generous were it not so narrow. The sides of the car pressed uncomfortably into my shoulder and upper arm. Unless you regularly hang with Nicole Richie and Ellen Pompeo, chances are your adult friends won't like the back seat much. My two kids, ages 7 and 10, thought it was fine.
One reason I don't like hardtop convertibles is that the roof takes up most of the trunk space. The Eos makes this arrangement less painful than most. A solid divider, which moves out of the way for easier loading, makes it plainly obvious how much real estate belongs to cargo and how much belongs to the roof. If you pack too much the divider won't snap into place and the roof won't lower. Nice and simple. The cargo area -- 6.6 cubic feet in volume, more than a Miata -- is just tall enough for grocery bags. It's open at the rear, making it possible to pack and unpack with the roof lowered.
On the Road: Best four-cylinder engine on the market
With the top down, it's possible to hold a conversation -- albeit in a slightly raised voice -- at 75 MPH. 2.0T and 3.2L cars come with a removable mesh-screen wind blocker that covers the rear seat. With the windows up it does a good job of keeping the air still around front seat passengers.
Top up, the Eos is as tight and quiet as a steel-roof car -- all the more amazing because the front section of the roof isn't steel, it's glass. When it's too cold to put the top down -- and for me, the threshold is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit; isn't that why convertibles have heaters? -- the glass roof, which reaches all the way to the windshield header and runs nearly the full width of the car, gives you just a smidge of the convertible experience, even with the roof up. It's one of the many things I really like about the Eos.
Journey's End: It's all good… except for the price
To be fair, the Eos doesn't really have any direct competitors. Mazda offers the MX-5 with a retractable hardtop in the mid-to-high 20s, but it's a two-seater. VW's New Beetle Convertible (link goes to review) is in the same range. Ford Mustang and Toyota Solara convertibles run mid-20s to low-30s, while premium convertibles like the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series (the latter with retractable hard-top) start at the upper end of the Eos' price range. The Pontiac G6 with retractable hardtop costs around $30k, but it's not half the car the Eos is.
Considering the competition, the Eos' pricing make sense, but it's still a lot of money considering how much you get. I'd like my test car a lot better if it were priced $5,000 lower - and who knows, I might even be totally won over to this whole retractable hard-top thing. -- Aaron Gold