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Landing somewhere between the budget rent-a-car cruiser convertibles, like the Chrysler 200 and the Volkswagen New Beetle, and drop-top sports cars like the Mazda Miata or Audi TT, is the 2011 Volkswagen Eos. While in appearance it's strictly a cruiser, a much more flamboyant personality lurks within—and, in our opinion, the Eos is one of the best-designed (and oft-omitted by shoppers) convertibles on the market.
The Eos is so often omitted because it's bland. You can see hints of Volkswagen's Golf-based Cabriolet from years ago, as well as hints of the sophisticated (Europe-only) Scirocco on which it's based, but the Eos can look a little ungainly from some angles, especially the way its proportions fit together with the top up. However, it's a subject of contention here, and at least one of our editors really likes the styling, calling it neat and straightforward—and fitting well fith both the top up or down, which is a task. Inside it's a different story; its interior feels a step above most other Volkswagen models, with a streamlined look and upgraded materials. It's hardly sexy, but it's nicely detailed with just a bit of brightwork, but not too much, and a neat, simple look that's slightly more rakish than in the Golf and GTI.
All 2011 Volkswagen Eos convertibles come with the same engine: a 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. With either the six-speed manual or dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission, the front-wheel-drive Eos has strong acceleration and good responsiveness, thanks to its flexible engine, which makes plenty of torque across the rev-range. While the Eos might look like a relaxed cruiser-convertible, it handles better than the image suggests—firm enough to power through tricky corners, planted in higher-speed sweepers, and remarkably secure-feeling for a front-driver. Dynamically it's no sports car, but with quick steering, strong, reassuring brakes, and the responsive DSG transmission, it feels very eager.
If you're in the front seat, the 2011 Volkswagen Eos is a very comfortable place; the seating and driving position is just a little more laid-back than in Volkswagen's other cars, and the seats themselves feel a bit better-bolstered than in its lower-priced models like the Golf. The back seat, while more spacious than that of many other convertible models, is still basically a 2+2; there's very little legroom for those in back, and adults, if they can wedge in, will only want to be back there for a gentle cruise out to ice cream and back.
When compared hardtop convertible layouts—from rivals like the Volvo X70 and Chrysler Sebring—it doesn't get any better than this. In less than 25 seconds, a total of eight electric motors work in conjunction to unlatch the roof from the windshield header and flip and fold it under the metal trunk lid. The convertible roof also has a setting that opens the front section only like a sunroof. And with the top stowed away, cargo capacity remains a decent (for the class) 6.6 cubic feet, which is enough for an overhead-bin-sized suitcase.
The 2011 Volkswagen Eos comes in Komfort and Lux models, with some high-end options like a sport package, Dynaudio surround system, and hard-drive-based navigation with music storage all available on the Lux.