Despite this year’s horrendous allergy season, driving around in a convertible on a nice spring or summer day is one of life’s best simple pleasures. Fortunately, numerous convertible options abound across the price spectrum and with varying degrees of practicality.
One of the most versatile is the Volkswagen Eos, which has a retractable hardtop that when up provides all the comfort and security of a hardtop, yet retracted gives you the pleasures of sun in your face and wind in your hair. Add to this a functional back seat and a reasonable price, and the Eos is a convertible you can choose with your head as well as your heart.
Named after the goddess of wind and dawn, the Eos looks good top up or down, but don’t expect the styling to grab you. It does, however, have a sunroof, which allows you to enjoy some sun or a little bit of fresh air when it’s too cold to put the top down completely.
The interior is nicely appointed with well-bolstered and supportive heated front seats, simple dual automatic climate control, a digital radio interface, optional navigation, and high quality interior materials and finish. The front seats slide forward to provide easy access to the rear seat, where children fit well and adults can fit comfortably for around-town trips. The trunk gets pretty small when the retractable hardtop is folded in it, but with the top up there’s a decent amount of storage capacity.
Of course as a VW, driving fun is a big part of the Eos equation. Motivated by a 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder that drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG automatic, the Eos has plenty of pep, especially in ‘sport’ mode. Gas mileage is 22 city, 29 highway with the automatic. There’s only a hint of turbo lag. Brakes are good and the steering is nice and tight. The ride is quite comfortable, with the suspension tuned more toward comfort than sport. Traction control and stability control are standard, as is an automatic rollover protection system.
According to Brad Gilbert, sales manager at Bommarito Volkswagen in Hazelwood, “The Eos is a sporty car with an extensive array of safety features that is warm and quiet with the top up and pure fun with the top down.” The Eos starts at about $33,100 with a stick, or $34,200 with automatic transmission.
Another functional convertible is the Audi A5. With handsome Teutonic styling that mimics the beautiful A5 coupe, plus an electric folding soft top, the A5 convertible is the quintessential personal luxury convertible.
It comes with a 2.0-liter, turbo four-cylinder engine good for 211 horsepower, and the power can go to the front wheels or all four wheels with Audi’s famous Quattro system. With front wheel-drive you get a continuously variable (CVT) automatic and with the all-wheel drive you get a six-speed Tiptronic automatic; unfortunately, no manual is available on the A5 convertible, although a stick is available in the coupe. For those with a greater need for speed, the S5 convertible comes with a 333 horsepower supercharged V-6. Mileage for the four-cylinder with all-wheel-drive is 20 city, 26 highway.
Power is plentiful, with nary a hint of turbo lag, but not overwhelming, and the power steering is over-boosted. The suspension is nice and tight and has a good feel to it. Brakes perform well. Though handling is good, the car is a bit heavy, making it more grand touring vehicle than sports car, which is fine.
Heated seats and a vent that blows warm air on your neck from below the headrest allow you to keep the top down even when there’s a nip in the air. And there’s not much wind turbulence with the top down. The soft leather seats are well-bolstered and comfortable, and the interior lives up to the well-deserved Audi reputation for having the best interiors on the market. Luxury and convenience features abound, including keyless entry, Sirius radio, navigation, a back-up camera with parking sensor, and a blind spot warning system that illuminates a light on the outside rearview mirror if someone is in your blind spot. Radio, ventilation and other controls are operated through a dashboard screen and remote knob between the seats—not as simple as hard buttons or a touch screen.
Rear seats are adequate for adults, and back seat passengers get their own air vents, though leg room is largely dependent on the generosity of the front seat passengers. The soft top has a large, heated glass window and an acoustic lining that helps minimize noise when the top is up. Trunk room is pretty generous with the top up and deep, though not as tall, with the top down. A nice unique feature amongt convertibles is a folding rear seat to improve cargo-carrying capacity and flexibility.
Joseph Wolk, sales manager at Bommarito Audi says, “The A5 convertible is a beautifully designed car; it inspires emotion and enthusiasm.” Prices start about $45,000 and can climb to over $60,000 if you tick enough option boxes.
*Robert W. Paster is an attorney in private practice