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2007 Volkswagen EOS

VOLKSWAGEN

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Apparently, buyers seeking an open-air driving experience these days are just as interested in a top that's made out of metal or fibreglass as one made from cloth.

Mazda now has a power hardtop MX-5, Volvo introduced its C70 a couple of years ago, Mercedes has had a hardtop SLK roadster for several years now and Volkswagen entered the power hardtop derby in 2007 with its Eos. As long as it goes up or down at the flip of a switch, a lot of drivers don't seem to care if they have a hard or soft top covering their heads.

Described as a "Toronto-to-Tampa" kind of convertible, the Eos was designed to handle cold weather as well as hot. Deploying in about 25 seconds, the Eos's hardtop is snug fitting, user friendly and more or less airtight.

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It's also intriguing to watch in action. With a series of cables, levers, hinges, springs and flaps, the whole thing is controlled by a centre console switch. There are actually two settings: one for the entire top and one for the front half, which slides back to reveal a large sunroof. The top also comes with a heated glass rear window.

According to Volkswagen, the Eos was named after the Greek goddess of the dawn and is manufactured in Portugal. Although VW has been making four-seater convertibles since 1949, the Eos was the company's first attempt at a retractable hardtop, and it was designed and built by German contractor Webasto.

The hardtop itself folds almost entirely into the trunk and behind the rear seats. There's a smidgeon of trunk storage space with the top folded down, but not much - 186 litres, which means you can slide a soft bag, briefcase or laptop underneath the stowed top, but that's about it.

There's also room in the back seat for two adults, as long as they're not too large. Foretelling, perhaps, the future, VW's long association with convertible manufacturer Karmann was not utilized with the Eos (Karmann has recently filed for bankruptcy protection in Europe).

Power was provided by VW's turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four cylinder. This was essentially the same powerplant used in the GTI, and developed 200 horsepower at 5,100 rpm.

Two transmissions were offered: a six-speed manual and a six-speed Direct Shift (DSG) automatic. Like the GTI, you could also order steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles with the DSG, and this drivetrain could send the Eos from zero to 100 kilometres an hour in just over six seconds, with an electronically governed top speed of 210 km/h.

For its just-under-$37,000 base price, the Eos came well trimmed. Standard equipment included a climate-control system, cruise control, heated front seats, one-touch power windows, 17-inch wheels and tires, and heated windshield.

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Options included leather interior, 18-inch wheels and tires, stiffer suspension settings, back-up warning system and a rear-seat wind blocker, among other things.

The Eos was clearly a hit with Canadians. So much so that there was a supply problem right out of the gate. The first shipment to Canada was gone almost as soon as the vehicle was launched, in the early fall of 2006.

There are no safety recalls from Transport Canada to report, nor from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but NHTSA does have some 16 technical service bulletins, covering everything from a possibly incorrect fuel gauge, to loose exhaust system heat shields, to a speedometer that may display a greater speed than the vehicle is actually travelling.

Half of these bulletins are in the form of advisories to service personnel, but they should all be covered by warranty.

Aside from climate-control glitches, mysterious body squeaks and rattles, and power equipment issues, the 2007 Eos gets mostly good marks from Consumer Reports magazine in all areas. Nonetheless, this organization gives the '07 Eos its worst used-car prediction rating. Things do get a little better for the 2008 edition, but still, just average, according to the magazine.

Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, seems to have problems with the Eos's various power accessories, as well as its overall initial quality. This latter rating measures owner-reported problems within the first 90 days of ownership.

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To quote the agency directly, "this score is based on problems that have caused a complete breakdown or malfunction, or where controls or features may work as designed, but are difficult to use or understand."

The first year of Eos gets failing marks here, but hasn't been on the market long enough to measure overall reliability.

Expect to pay anywhere from the high $20,000s to the mid-$30,000s for a two-year-old Eos - it appears to be holding its value well, all things considered, and the six-speed automatic is about $3,000 pricier.

globeauto@globeandmail.com

****

2007 VOLKSWAGEN EOS

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Original Base Price: $36,900; Black Book value: $32,225; Red Book value: $27,250 -$30,375

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 200 hp/207 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual/automatic

Drive: Front-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.1 city/6.8 highway (manual transmission); premium gas

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