The cars we loved.
Lately it seems that VW is all over the place. A few of its cars define their category (or once did), while others are playing serious catch up. Not sure if it wants to be a niche player that appeals to the Apple/Starbucks set or just everyone’s affordable German car (for whatever that means). What’s certain is that VW wants to be the next Toyota (or Hyundai for that matter). The brand clearly has global aspirations, but has made some odd blunders along the way. One blunder was the expensive range topping Phaeton. After much initial fanfare, it departed from the US market in 2006 with all the stealth of a night burglar. Though the Eos is not a blunder yet, one wonders if the, upscale convertible will be able to hold on to its place on dealer’s lots in America. Although not as outrageously expensive as the Phaeton, it suffers from simply not getting enough attention.
Purpose Driven Design
The Eos may have been intended to be a low selling, small volume production car (built in Portugal), but the lack of promotion suggests that it might be a transitional model. Although it’s based on a Passat chassis, It shares few components with other VWs, but comes closest to the European Scirocco in size. The Eos was developed especially as a front wheel drive compact coupe convertible as oppose to the New Beatle Convertible which was designed first as a coupe and later had its top cut off. As such, it is unique in the marketplace. The resulting car is one of the most rigid convertibles on the market, giving the Eos hard top like handling (on paper) and the stability of a much larger car.
The expense of engineering a coupe convertible that for now, seems to be VW’s halo car in America has not paid off yet for some of the same reasons that have made the Phaeton a failure in the marketplace. The Phaethon still lives elsewhere, but has long since been forgotten in the minds of most Americans. The Eos, although still in the VW lineup may as well be forgotten. It’s certainly one of the most invisible VW since the 80’s pickup called the Caddy. VW has made no real effort to even promote the car.
Most people don’t even know it exists.
That’s a shame. It’s not that the Eos is a bad car. In fact it’s possibly the most elegant VW to float over here (or cross the Mexican border) since the Phaethon. Some of VW’s most advance engineering went into the Eos, justifying its high starting price in the low 30’s. Unfortunately, a typically load Eos approached similarly priced and more powerful Audi and BMW cars. Another factor that obscures the Eos is that it does not stand out in the marketplace, despite its trick collapsible hardtop with sunroof (the only one of its kind in the world at the moment). It’s an impressive engineering feat, when you consider that BMW’s 335i convertible with collapsible hard top does not come with this feature. That feature alone might endear the Eos to join the ranks of other high-priced swanky convertibles, except that the VW name has no luxury cachet amongst the target market for such a car. It might have done better as an Audi. US News & World Report recently pegged the Eos at 16 in a ranking of 24 luxury cars. Not something VW would want to put in its ads.
With two engines offered at its debut. Base models used a slightly under powered 2.0 four cylinder TDI engine that made 150hp. The other; a 3.2L VR6 made an impressive 246hp. When mated with the 6 speed DSG transmission the VR6 gave the heavy Eos a sporting nature. Later versions of the car would come in fewer trim levels and only with the 3.2L VR6. European buyers had a choice of everything ranging from small fours to a more powerful VR6.
Sporty But No Scirocco
Performance was never a problem, although not a class leader, the Eos managed a respectable 0 to 60 time of 7.8 seconds at a top speed of 150mph. Not what you’d expect from almost 250hp. A Chrysler Sebring offers similar performance for thousands less. Truth is no one bought an Eos for its performance anyway. This car was the opposite of VW’s new Scirocco in many ways.
All of this would be fine except for the price. 2011 models started around 33k with only one engine choice, a version of the VR6 that has less power than in some other VW’s. The model choices have been simplified also with Komfort and Lux versions. A 2012 Lux model starts at 36K!
In an odd gesture of class/brand transcendence, VW America’s website features a tool to compare its cars to other makes. For the Eos, the choices are between the likes of Lamborghini, Mercedes and BMW. Maybe VW would like to think that Eos buyers cross shop between think that Lamborghini and Mercedes, but buyers in North America still see VW as an entry level step up to more common Japanese brands. Beatles, Jettas and even the new Passat overshadow the Eos.
While most other VW cars got multiple face lifts in the last 5 years, the Eos appeared the same, as if it’s design was as timeless or as iconic as the New Beatle. Only as recently as 2011 did the Eos get the new corporate face that the Jetta ushered in some time ago. The new look translates to a more aggressive Eos, possibly furthering its appeal among tuners in the US. Very few customers in the US even bothered to tune or customize their cars, while in Europe, customers had a few options. The German firm Abt offered a kit that changed the Eos overall look with a tasteful ground effects package and engine tweaks. Such a car might have sold well if it came from the factory as a sporty variant. No performance version was ever sanctioned by the factory, but there were special edition cars starting in 2009 called the White Night. The White Night had special white paint and custom black interior, 18in wheels and was only available on non V6 models.
Some talk of a VR6 based sport model was always floating around, but never materialized here due to low sales. With all the attention the new Passat and CC are getting lately, it seems unlikely that the Eos fortunes will change anytime soon. Maybe that’s just want VW wants, an exclusive low volume high dollar car that will make buyers feel better about their Jetta or Passat purchase.