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With an MSRP in the mid-$30s, you might think the 2012 Volkswagen Eos a tad bit expensive. Especially when the car looks like a Jetta with a retractable hardtop. That fancy top can't really account for a $15,000 premium, can it?
The new Eos has a few tricks up its fenders to separate it from its lowly platform-mate. The cabin features soft-touch materials over the dashboard, fully powered, heated seats, and a standard navigation system in the mid-trim Lux and high-trim Executive models.
The engine is Volkswagen's direct-injection, turbocharged 2-liter, a very efficient power plant. And the transmission is the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), an automated manual with two computer-controlled clutches. This is the kind of performance gear you find in the GTI.
But the front of the Eos follows the same design as the new Jetta. The two cars are about the same length. The side panels of the Eos are featureless, while the necessary seams for the retractable hardtop make the whole canopy ugly.
The Eos' top does a complex dance to fold itself into the trunk.
Granted, that retractable top is a nice addition to the car. A switch on the console makes it fold up like origami, stacking its panels and stowing itself in the trunk. Volkswagen even managed to include a sunroof by making one of the panels out of glass. The result is a very wide view out the top over the front seats, and Volkswagen advertises the Eos as the only convertible with a sunroof.
However, like most retractable hardtops, it causes an extreme imposition on trunk space. With the roof folded down, there is room in the trunk for a small roller bag at most.
When you look at the cabin electronics, the Eos doesn't really shed the Jetta comparison. The navigation unit that comes with the Eos Lux is the same as what you can get in the Jetta.
This flash-memory-based navigation system is solid, but does not include traffic data.
The new navigation system uses maps stored in flash memory, ensuring quick response times. These maps are easily readable, with good resolution, although the navigation screen is small, and there is no traffic data.
For the infotainment system, Volkswagen uses a semicircular menu design that works very well for navigation, stereo, and the Bluetooth phone system. A push-button knob is all you need to scroll through options and make selections, but the LCD is also a touch screen, allowing for more direct interaction.
And similarly to sister brand Audi, the Eos gets a screen on the instrument cluster that shows not only trip data, but also phone, navigation, and stereo information. There is a voice command system, but it only controls the phone.
The stereo offers a good range of audio sources, from satellite radio to iPod integration to Bluetooth streaming. There is even an SD card slot in the head unit's faceplate. The onscreen interface works well when browsing an iPod library, with good response times. But there is no Pandora or other app integration.
The stereo's audio sources include satellite radio and Bluetooth audio streaming.
The unbranded eight-speaker audio system sounds very good. It won't satisfy audiophiles, but it is certainly better than the average six-speaker system. It produces a nice, balanced sound, not too heavy, with good definition. And that is good, because Volkswagen does not offer any optional upgrades for audio.
Where the Eos really differentiates itself from the Jetta is in the power train. The direct-injection turbocharged 2-liter, four-cylinder engine has seen much use among Volkswagen and Audi models. It delivers power very efficiently, turning in mid-20s fuel economy in the Eos while producing 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.
There is a slight bit of lag when hitting the gas from a stop, but the turbo quickly spools up, launching the car. But while the 2012 Eos is better balanced than the previous generation, it still easily chirps the front wheels. This behavior becomes more apparent when the top is folded up in the trunk, which further throws off the weight balance.
The Eos is equipped with Volkswagen's Direct Shift Gearbox, an automated manual with two clutches.
When negotiating turns on a mountain road, the front felt light, ready to understeer into the side of a cliff, but we never actually had the front tires completely lose grip. In more sedate driving, the Eos handles easily, a fine low-stress driver made for cruising with the top down on a sunny day.
The DSG adds the ease of automatic shifting, but as it uses clutches rather than a torque converter, it delivers hard gear shifts that help fuel economy. This transmission offers Drive, Sport, and Manual modes, but no paddle shifters, so you will have to rely on the stick to shift.
As the Eos is no sports car, the DSG is a strange choice for its transmission. Volkswagen might have looked into a seven-speed automatic or Continuously Variable Transmission to improve fuel economy in the Eos.
The front struts and multilink rear suspension give the Eos a smooth ride and help compensate for the drastic weight redistribution whenever the top is put down. The car handled sharp jolts well, but on the freeway a series of undulations gave it the feeling of a boat going over ocean swells.
At first glance, the 2012 Volkswagen Eos looks like a reasonable car, a mild two-door with the advantage of a retractable hardtop. But a look at the price tag is bound to cause jaws to drop. Volkswagen treads far from its people's-car roots with the Eos.
The car's cabin tech is good, without being ground-breaking. The Eos doesn't offer the connected-app strides made by Audi models. The navigation, phone, and music systems all feel solid. However, this technology is the same as found in the much less expensive Jetta.
The engine and transmission are tech high points for the car, using about every efficiency technology available today short of going hybrid. However, the overall engineering of the car, with its disrupted weight distribution, doesn't support this drivetrain well.
|Model||2012 Volkswagen Eos|
|Power train||Turbocharged direct-injection 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||22 mpg city/30 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||25.3 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes, with contact database|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth audio streaming, USB port, satellite radio|
|Audio system||8-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Parking sensors|
|Price as tested||$38,020|