Let me come right out and say it: I'm not a convertible guy. I like wind in my hair and sun on my face as much as the next fellow. After 10 minutes however, I need a quiet, calm cabin and the security of an overhead roof. Moreover, I've never been overly impressed with the integrity of a convertible. Most of them are noisy, prone to wear and suffer the effects (cowl shake) after losing a sizable chunk of structure.
Most of them.
In all honesty I had no idea what an Eos was right up to the point where I was sitting in it. My first impression was of a small, sporty sedan, a cross between a Jetta and a GTI. Its low-slung demeanor was reminiscent of the Mercedes-AMG C36, a damn fine lump of metal. Sport seats, great steering wheel and the fabulous 2.0T FSI engine... hell, whatever this thing was, it well assembled. And then a bunch of Volkswagen engineers excitedly pushed a few buttons and my roof was gone, folded up like a Transformer action figure. I felt my bald spot burning in the Grecian sun, smelled wildflowers and heard the laughter of children. I pushed a button and 25 seconds later was safe in my steel shell, the A/C on Arctic blast. Judging by the look on their faces, you would have thought I killed a Christmas puppy. I've never seen a group of sadder engineers.
Like I said, I'm not a convertible guy. However, the Eos doesn't feel like the typical convertible. Its vault-like structure hides its "fun-in-the-sun-look-at-me" alter ego. Once again, I don't like convertibles... but I like the Volkswagen Eos.
The Eos is quite a departure for VW as it is a purpose-built convertible rather that a variant of an existing model. With the exception of the Karmann Ghia, no other Volkswagen has looked this good without a top. Perhaps Volkswagen is moving backwards. Perhaps the Eos will be converted into a proper hard top. While I doubt that'll happen, the point is the Eos looks fantastic with its roof up. The Eos is one of two convertibles I'd consider owning, the first being the new Mercedes SL, a car nearly four times as expensive.
In Southern California I seem to be an anomaly. Everybody here owns a convertible or aspires to own one. A few industrious lads have even tried to build their own ragtops. I remember a few guys armed with a Sawzall and a 12-pack of Bud scalping an older Jetta. Despite the blood it looked fairly cool, at least until it left the driveway and promptly folded up.
Any structural engineer will tell you the same thing: Remove the roof on a car and you remove a great deal of the chassis' rigidity. That's a bad thing. Volkswagen has gone to great lengths to ensure the Eos chassis remains solid including the use of super strong, mold-hardened steel blanks in the floor and lateral structure and a special railing pipe inside the doors. A fortress-like rear section has been gusseted with multiple diagonal struts inside a "reinforcement shell" which forms a connection between the front auxiliary frame and longitudinal members in the vehicle's front. Furthermore, the Eos has a self-aligning bearing of the engine gear unit. Consisting of two journal bearings supported by the front subframe including a motor torque support, the system acts as a clever vibration damper. Separate counter-weights are therefore unnecessary. And if you look closely at its proportions, it's evident the Eos is fairly broad in shoulder, sporting a track width some 1.55 meters, somewhat disproportionate to its height. Its 101-inch wheelbase is the same as the Jetta although the Eos has a more compact, muscular appearance. Volkswagen says this further enhances vehicle stability.
Because the Eos was designed as a convertible, VW engineers were allowed to build it as a convertible rather than convert an existing model. Ultimately, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more solid ragtop than the Eos.
Volkswagen's deep and capable parts bin yielded the GTI's front suspension and the multi-link rear geometry of the Passat. Bits of other VW models are recognizable, including the automatic rollbar system from the Beetle, the Climatic climate control from the Jetta and buttons and knobs from the Passat. This collection of bits has been smartly assembled and in some ways makes the Eos more elegant than its siblings. Think of the Eos as more of a convertible Phaeton than convertible Jetta.
Being the cranky bastard I am, I left the top raised for a good portion of the test drive. The impression is that of a typical European sports coupe, a sensation of both solidity and refinement. Handling is typical of all new Volkswagens with a hint of understeer at the limit. Especially brave souls can pitch the Eos through corners and power out like a rally car. This was especially easy on Grecian roads where olive trees are abundant. The squashed fruit yields a liquid akin to 90-weight oil. I found this out the hard way. Luckily, VW's ESP stability control was there to catch us. Had things really gone south, the Eos is equipped with twin-hoop rollbars that activate when the sensors indicate a 43-degree angle. In 0.25 seconds a substantial chunk of steel is there to protect your noggin. This is augmented with VW's new head-thorax airbag system that opens horizontally and vertically and cover the entire lateral window band.