The Cabrio has been redefined
When Mercedes-Benz introduced the SLK roadster with its retractable hardtop in the late 1990s, I told myself I would someday drive one.
The convertible body style has always appealed to me. Though I never had much exposure to them growing up with a plethora of mainstream sedans, I always wanted one. When Mercedes-Benz introduced the SLK roadster with its retractable hardtop in the late 1990s, I told myself I would drive one someday. That childhood wish came true when a close friend of mine bought a first-generation SLK320 last year, and I had the opportunity to get some seat time. My father, a quasi-enthusiast, has always been a sedan guy because that’s what suits his needs. A convertible with a retractable hardtop has always been a dream of his; my test week with the 2013 Volkswagen Eos allowed me to determine whether or not this “affordable” open-top machine would suit his needs.
The retractable hardtop convertible has always been a body style reserved for the upscale market. El-Cheapo convertibles such as the Toyota Solara, the Mini Cooper, and even Volkswagen’s own Beetle come with softtops. The Eos is essentially a reincarnation of the Golf Cabrio; except it packs some punch. It comes with the same drivetrain as the GTI; the trademark 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Much like in the GTI, the engine is mated to Veedub’s snappy-shifting 6-speed DSG transmission. Power delivery is smooth and linear, and the Eos definitely holds its own; passing is pleasant at any speed and the sound of this engine never gets old.
Just like in all other Volkswagen and Audi applications, the 2.0 TFSI motor requires premium fuel. I actually got incredible highway economy in both the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta GLI as well as the GTI, so I was expecting a reasonably frugal test week with the Eos. Unfortunately, I could only manage 9L/100km strictly highway, and 11L/100km in combined driving over the week. This is taking into account that I drove the Eos very, very lightly the majority of the time.
I can’t help but comment on the fact that the car’s handling felt extremely floppy whether the top was up or down. Open-air motoring is always a treat in this warm season, but my Eos didn’t like corners in the slightest. It felt unstable and bouncy in any sort of spirited driving. With the top up and in place, there were horrible rattles and jarring clunks with every bump. These noises did disappear with the top down. (Note: Update from Volkswagen Canada – Testing from their end revealed that rattles and clunks were unique to my test car; it has since been repaired)
My Eos tester was a 2013 Highline model with the Technology Package. As-tested, the car stickers for just under $50,000. In typical Volkswagen fashion, the Highline gives off the impression that it’s a luxury car. The fit and finish is spectacular, and I definitely came away with an upscale feel. There’s a lovely Dynaudio stereo with 600-watts, and a navigation system that (most of the time) gave excellent directions. The push-button start is located in a rather weird position, but the intelligent key system works seamlessly. No complaints there.
My complaint lies in the fact that this front-wheel-drive convertible that’s barely any different from a Beetle, and has no more rear seat room than anything else in its class, costs $50,000. Fifty large is a lot of money. I mean, I know everybody takes shots at the Chrysler 200 Convertible, but you can’t beat its bang for the buck. A similarly-equipped 200 convertible is in the $40,000 range, and that’s before you factor in the huge discount anyone walking into a Chrysler dealer would get.
The Eos isn’t a bad little car. In fact, for urbanites who enjoy their weekend drives into the countryside, it’s a great car. The engine is competent, the option list is plentiful, and it’s a satisfying convertible. If a retractable hardtop isn’t a priority on your convertible shopping list, you may want to consider my pick in the class. Sticking with the German theme, the Mini Cooper S Convertible (having a softtop) is just as practical, just as well-equipped, just as unreliable in the long run, and infinitely more fun to drive. The sweetener? It’s over $10,000 cheaper.
Protip to Volkswagen: Throw the powertrain from the Golf R (complete with the 6-speed manual and all-wheel-drive) into the next-generation Eos and keep the price in the same ballpark. An Eos R would definitely be on my shopping list.
2013 Volkswagen Eos Gallery