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Preview: 2007 Volkswagen Eos

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2007 Volkswagen EOS

By Carey Russ

Volkswagen has a new convertible, the Eos. Why would VW want another convertible when it already has the New Beetle Convertible?

There's plenty of room in the VW lineup for both the Eos and New Beetle Convertible. They don't even compete for the same niche. The Eos is larger, and more likely to appeal to both male and female buyers. It's also unlike any VW ever to come before, or any other car currently made.

Eos is, appropriately, the ancient Greek goddess of the dawn, who brought daylight to mankind. Like most new luxury convertibles, and even a few middle-class ones, the 2007 Volkswagen Eos eschews the time-honored soft top for a folding metal top. The basic technology is hardly new, dating back almost a decade in its current form, and nearly 50 years since early attempts. But VW has a new twist on the coupe-into-convertible trick. That's the "CSC"(tm) structure of the car, as in Coupe, Sunroof, Convertible. Where other metal-top convertibles have solid roofs, the Eos very neatly integrates a smoked-glass sunroof panel into the front top panel - and the glass panel can tilt or retract just like a regular coupe's sunroof. When the entire top is lowered, the front sunroof panel is sandwiched in with the other roof panels. It takes only 25 seconds for the top to go completely down, with no manual latching.

Unsurprisingly, given the production techniques in today's automotive industry, the Eos is built on the same front-wheel drive, transverse-engine platform as Volkswagen's other sedans and hatchbacks. It's closest in size to the Jetta, with which it shares its 101.5-inch wheelbase, although it is slightly shorter, wider, and lower. The Eos shares no bodywork with any other Volkswagen, but is immediately recognizable as a VW by its chrome-goateed grille and handsome, subtly-sculpted lines. Its wedge-shaped profile gives it a sport-ready look top-up or top-down, and its style and proportions work well whether the top is up or down.

Being as it's built on the current VW platform, the Eos has a fully-independent suspension, with MacPherson struts in front and a four-link setup at the rear. It's tuned in a sporty but comfortable manner, a bit stiffer than Volkswagens of yore.

Inside, too, the Eos is similar to other current VWs but far from identical. The instrument panel design is most highly-styled than the Jetta's, or the Passat's. The seats, though, are to the same high standard as those in other Volkswagens, with comfortable multi-adjustable front buckets and a rear that can hold two people. Unlike some other convertible coupes, the Eos has a functional trunk, 10.5 cubic feet with the top up and 6.6 cft with the top down. That's enough for a long weekend for two if luggage requirements aren't excessive.

Safety is a concern of today's car buyer, and VW hasn't skipped there. Three-point harnesses, driver and passenger front airbags, with the Passenger Occupant Detection System (PODS), front combined side thorax and head airbags, emergency locking belt retractors, and the Rollover Protection System, with spring-loaded roll bars that pop up from behind the rear seats in the event of a collision or if the car gets extremely sideways. Brakes are four-wheel discs, with standard antilock, Brake Assist, traction control, and the ESP electronic stability control program. A brake disc wiper system keeps moisture from unduly decreasing brake performance in wet weather.

The Eos is on sale now, and all early-production cars will be fitted with VW's lovely direct fuel-injected, turbocharged, and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. With 200 horsepower between 5100 and 6000 rpm, and 207 lb-ft of torque between 1800 and 5000 rpm, it rivals some V6 engines, and is far more than adequate in the performance department, matched with either the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed twin-clutch, non-torque converter DSG automatic. For those with a more serious need for speed, wait. The 3.2-liter VR6, with 250 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque, will be available later in the model year, matched to the six-speed DSG.

Even in base form, the Eos is well-appointed and comfortable, and priced very competitively at $27,990, although the average transaction price is expected to be around $31,000. That's comparable to its domestic competition, the Pontiac G6 Convertible, and much less than the Volvo C70, its closest European competitor.

Ask me how I know about the Eos's suspension and performance, and I'll tell you. I was recently introduced to the car in Portland, Oregon, at Volkswagen's short-lead press introduction. After a morning briefing, with the information above, members of the automotive press were turned loose with the cars on a drive route that combined both freeways and scenic mountain roads.

Contrary to the city's reputation, the weather was perfect, and the first thing I did upon getting into a DSG-equipped car was to drop the top, a simple and quick process. Then off to the east along the Columbia River, and south over the south flank of Mt. Hood. Having the windows up or down made little difference, and the interior noise level was low enough for conversation (and route directions!) to be easy, even at highway speeds.

The ride was firm but not at all uncomfortable, and the car was thoroughly enjoyable on the steeply-convoluted roads up Mt. Hood. There was no shortage of power, especially at the 6000-foot highest point of the road, thanks to the turbo, and the car was very well-balanced. The DSG is a wonder. Used in many other VW cars, and also by corporate cousin Audi, it uses electronic and hydraulic shift control and twin motorcycle-type multiplate wet clutches to shift very quickly, by either computer or driver control. It's fast, and very smooth, in either mode, and works better and more efficiently than any regular torque-converter automatic.

After a short break in Hood River, it was time to head back to Portland by way of the north, Washington state, side of the Columbia. I programmed the base hotel address into the navigation system with which the stick-shift Eos we were in was equipped - a relatively quick and painless process - dropped the top once again, and off we went. The manual transmission is 180 pounds lighter than the DSG, so offers a bit more performance if less convenience. Shift action is very smooth and positive, and the engine's torque band is so wide that any one of three gears will do most of the time. Shifting is more a case of desire than need.

Bonus points for the nav system. I wear polarized sunglasses when I drive in sunny weather, and those can make an LCD screen disappear. The one in the Eos didn't, but, as in other VWs, upcoming route directions are also shown in the display between the tach and the speedometer, a much easier-to-see and less-distracting location. The distance to the next maneuver, and the turn direction, are displayed. It worked perfectly, in accord with the official route directions, and allowed my navigator to take an afternoon nap.

In summary, Volkswagen has entered a new market with its Eos convertible coupe. It combines the fun-in-the-sun convertible experience with a snug metal hardtop - and a sunroof, so you can pick your sky experience at the touch of a button. Its as sporty to look at as it is to drive, and it's great fun to drive. According to Volkswagen, the Eos is already the number one convertible in Europe, and it should do very well here.