Volkswagen Eos offers sunroof and six-speed autobox

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Taking advantage of the excellent weather we’ve been having this year, I decided to take a Volkswagen Eos out on an extended road trip earlier this summer. Sunshine and a lively convertible—what could go wrong?

The lowdown

Engine: Two-litre turbocharged, intercooled four-cylinder

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel drive

Horsepower: 200 horsepower at 5,100 rpm

Torque: 207 foot-pounds at 1,700 to 5,000 rpm

Base Price: $39,075; as tested: $47,700

Fuel Economy: 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres city, 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres highway, premium fuel

Alternatives: Ford Mustang Convertible, Chevy Camaro Convertible, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Chrysler 200 Convertible, Volvo C70

Positives: Fun to drive when everything works, good on gas

Negatives: Power top obviously not reliable, balky automatic transmission

Plenty, as it turned out. For starters, the power top didn’t work. The very thing that distinguishes this car and makes it interesting was nonfunctional in my tester. When I pulled up on the centre-console-mounted lever, as one is supposed to, the convertible top would get about halfway back and then start making funny noises, refusing to travel past the rear seat. Sometimes it wouldn’t even do that and just refused to budge. I later found out from VW that the linkage had somehow gotten bent and that threw everything out of whack, to the point where it couldn’t be repaired. That car will be receiving a brand-new power top shipped over from Germany.

A VW spokesperson also mentioned that the power top could have gone kaput if someone had tried to open it either while moving or while stopped on a hill. Maybe it was the guy who drove the car before me, I can’t say, but either way, no top for you.

After looking forward to a little alfresco driving and having the wind in my hair (well, on my forehead, anyway), I was condemned to spend my time encased in bodywork, with just a power sunroof for open-air ventilation. Incidentally, this latter feature makes the Eos unique in the industry. I can’t think of another convertible in this price range that has a power sunroof built into its top, and it’s kind of cool.

But I wanted a convertible, dammit, not a sunroof. So, Strike 1.

Strike 2 came from an automatic transmission that was balky, slow to respond, and unpredictable. In this case, it was VW’s six-speed direct-shift gearbox (DSG) with Tiptronic manual-shift feature. When I tested a VW Passat CC equipped with the same transmission, I encountered the same issue. Note to VW: there is something wrong with this gearbox. For example, when you back up—out of a parking spot, for example—and then shift back into gear, the car kind of balks and collects itself before lurching forward. It also takes its time accelerating off the line, and the 200 horsepower on tap just doesn’t feel like there’s that much oomph under the hood. In short, a very disappointing drive train.

Strike 3 could be attributed to VW’s accursed self-locking doors, but this feature can be disabled, and I’ve already complained about it so often with other VW products that even I’m tired of hearing myself whine about it.

There is no Strike 4, but if there were, an insipid body style would be right up there, as would the need to put premium-grade gas into this car. Natural Resources Canada rates the Eos at 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres in town and 6.7 on the highway, but even so, at $1.50 a litre for this stuff, it gets expensive.

For the record, the VW Eos is powered by a two-litre, four-cylinder engine that is turbocharged and intercooled—essentially the same unit found in the GTi. The DSG six-speed autobox is the only choice, which is kind of a shame, as a manual transmission would be a nice fit here.

The Eos will legitimately seat four adults. This is a definite plus, as there aren’t many converts out there that will accommodate four people, and those that do tend to be larger vehicles—the Mustang, for example. I can’t talk about the power top because it didn’t work, but the sunroof is of a decent size and seemed to function well enough.

Two versions of the Eos are available: Comfortline and Highline. I drove the latter, and standard equipment includes cruise control, a climate-control system, heated front seats, a wind blocker, leather interior, keyless entry, and uprated sport suspension. This last feature is appropriate for this car and gives the Eos decent handling. Brakes are four-wheel discs all around, with electronic assist and distribution features, and like most VWs, the Eos does have a nice sense of balance. My car also had the technology package, which added $2,925 to the sticker price and included a touchscreen navigation system, Sirius satellite radio, and an upgraded sound system.

Not too much in the way of cargo space, however. The rear trunk needs to accommodate the power top (when it works), and you’ll be lucky to get a briefcase or a small soft bag in there. VW says there is almost 300 litres of space in the trunk and they may be right, but it’s scattered all over the place, taking the form of nooks and crannies as opposed to a single large space. If you’re a golfer, you’ll be carrying your clubs in the back seat. My tester was also a 2012 version, but the 2013 models are out, and, aside from a price adjustment, there are virtually no differences between the two.

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