If you don’t enjoy driving a convertible you should probably check to see if you have a pulse. There is just something magical about driving around with unfettered access to the sights, sounds and smells around you.
Granted, that stimuli can include noxious diesel fumes and the blare of traffic and horns, but it can also be that delightful combination of sun, salty air and surf or –insert your favorites here –.
The usual downsides of a convertible in a country with harsh winters and short summers are: a) you use it for such a small portion of the year; b) a noisy canvas top; c) no place for passengers; and d) a tiny trunk
The Volkswagen EOS takes care of the first two with a folding hard top that ensures four-season versatility and closed-coupe sound levels when in place.
There are seats for two passengers in the rear and a surprisingly useful trunk when the top is up. I would be remiss not to point out, however, that rear seat space is tight as is trunk capacity with the top lowered.
First introduced as a 2007 model, the EOS (Greek Goddess of the Dawn) was designed by a team headed by Peter Schreyer, who has since been lured away by Kia. It was based on the same platform used for the Passat and received a major facelift for the 2012 model year.
There have been some minor trim and content changes for the 2013 model tested here, including a new grille, front and rear bumpers, headlamps and tail lights.
Inside you will find a new multi-function steering wheel, new audio system and a keyless access system that also allows the top to be open or closed via the remote keyfob.
The EOS was among the first and remains one of the few convertibles with a folding hard top. The power-operated five-piece structure designed and built by fellow German company Webasto, can be equipped with a powered tilt and slide glass sunroof ensuring even greater accessibility to the sun. Slick!
And this is no tiny glass area – it measures 1117-mm wide by 558-mm long. On models equipped with the sunroof the portion of the roof behind it is made of matching tinted glass, making it look like the entire roof is made of glass.
The roof raises or folds in less than 30 seconds, an operation sure to draw crowds as the five panels stack or un-stack from the trunk in a ballet-like performance.
The folding top consists of 470 parts including an eight-cylinder, electro-hydraulic pump beside the spare wheel under the luggage compartment.
Calm and quiet
The EOS comes with a foldable wind blocker that attaches behind the rear seat and very effectively reduces turbulence in the cockpit when the top is lowered.
When it is in place, the hardtop provides sedan-like levels of quiet and 300-litres of cargo capacity. Lowered you get all the great benefits of top-down motoring but lose 110 litres of cargo space.
The remaining space is still greater than some small cars and most convertibles.
Hats off – pun intended – to Webasto.
Aside from the mechanical attributes, what I like most about this convertible is the way the top folds completely into the trunk with no canvas or other secondary cover. Whether the top is up or down, the lines remain sleek and attractive. Everything is contained, with no gaps or lingering bits and pieces hanging around, as is the case with most convertibles.
My test vehicle displayed a slight loss of structural integrity with the top lowered – not as much as most convertibles I’ve driven over the years, but sufficient to generate small rattles and cowl shake over rough surfaces. With the top in place, the situation improved significantly.
I suspect most of the problem may have been attributed to the low-profile (40-series) tires of the top-trim-level model tested and their lack of impact-absorbing sidewalls.
Also, the suspension of my tester was of the stiffer "sport" variety which made it unnecessarily stiff on nasty surfaces. Great on frost-free freeways in the sunny south, but not a good idea here in the great white north.
The interior features a pleasant combination of dark and light colours, soft touch surfaces and controls and instruments that will be familiar to anyone who has driven a Volkswagen product recently.
The front seats are spacious and adjustable in a myriad of ways. The two rear seats, separated by a console, are wide enough to accommodate adults, but they will require some co-operation from front seat occupants in order to get enough knee and legroom.
The standard dual-zone climate control system allows separate driver and passenger settings but also senses the amount of sunlight and radiant heat entering the car and adjusts each side accordingly.
VW Group drivetrain
The drivetrain is a Volkswagen Group staple that is also found on some Audi products. Its a turbocharged, intercooled and directly-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and is, in my estimation, one of the best in the industry.
With gobs of low-end power readily available from only 1700 rpm there is no need to rev the heck out of the engine to extract performance. And this quiet, effortless low-end grunt is perfectly suited to a convertible.
The only transmission available is VW's excellent six-speed DSG (Dual Shaft Gearbox) automatic.
The EOS is available in two trim levels - Comfortline and Highline. Standard equipment on both includes: power heated mirrors, park distance control system, folding hardtop with integrated panoramic sunroof, alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, heated front seats and a tilt and telescope steering wheel.
All of this fun in the sun doesn't come cheap. The base price, at more than $40,000 including freight, confirms that this is a high-end Volkswagen. My 2.9 TSi Highline tester with a few options bumped that number dangerously close to $50,000.