By Jim MacPherson
For several years in my town there was a young man who drove his convertible nearly year-round with the top down. He raised the top for rain and snow, but kept the roof down even on the coldest of days.
Most convertible owners are not nearly as hardy, or masochistic. And most convertibles, even with the fabric top raised, are not nearly as enjoyable as a closed coupe. Top up, they are noisy.
For people who love the concept of top down driving but want nothing to do with the year-round compromises, Volkswagen offers the Eos. This is a true convertible that substitutes a clever retractable hardtop for a folding canvas roof. Introduced in 2006, the 2012 version has been treated to mildly freshened styling and updated interior treatments.
“It’s an elegant, sophisticated model with a sporty feel,” said Tyler Martocci, a sales representative at Langan Volkswagen of Vernon.
However, the most intriguing feature, a retractable hardtop, remains unchanged. Raised, it presents a fully finished appearance – inside and out – while providing exceptional isolation from noise and weather extremes.
This folding top features a large rear window, a sunroof function and, of course, full top-down motoring. All it takes is the press of a button and a little less than 30 seconds to transform this snug closed coupe into a rolling fresh air tanning booth on a sunny day. Activating the same button raises the roof in roughly the same amount of time. Holding the button after the roof is raised prompts all four windows to close in unison.
Whether you are raising or lowering the top makes little difference. The process with its folding, flipping roof panels and automatically opening trunk lid is quite a show. Onlookers stop and stare.
Three trim levels are offered; a base but exceptionally well equipped Komfort, the mid-level Lux and the top of the line Executive, which Volkswagen loaned us.
“Most people buy the Komfort,” Martocci said. “It’s probably a matter of its price point.”
The only engine offered domestically is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, 200-horsepower four-cylinder motor paired with a six-speed transmission that drives the front wheels. The transmission is an automated manual that features quick shifts and a generally smooth operation. Downshifts can be delayed, but manual overrides remedy that mild complaint.
The engine suffers a mild case of turbo lag when first starting out, but quickly delivers impressive amounts of power. For passing or merging, the Eos feels particularly responsive and eager in the 45 to 65 mile per hour range. A zero-to-60 run took 8.1 seconds. Fuel economy, on the recommended premium, ended up at 24.5 miles per gallon.
The ride is firm but reasonably compliant. You’ll feel the bumps, and our Eos suffered from some mild rubbing sounds where the top of the windows met the raised roof while traveling over rough pavement. Still, the body structure is exceptionally solid. The shaking and vibrations that plague some convertibles were absent.
Handling is good. The Eos clings in corners, feels balanced and gives good feedback through the steering wheel. Braking also inspires confidence.
Pleasant to drive top up or top down, the Eos turns out to be a convertible for all seasons.
“It offers a different dimension” Martocci said of the car.
Volkswagen Eos: $33,995 plus $770 in destination charges.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder: 200 horsepower; 207 lb-ft of torque