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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 20, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz


This year Volkswagen not only enters the hot-selling luxury sport utility class with the acclaimed Touareg SUV, it is entering the growing market for ultra-luxury, full-size luxury sport sedans with the all-new Phaeton. Webster's dictionary describes 'phaeton' as a horse-drawn luxury carriage for touring. The Volkswagen Phaeton is that, with up to 420 horses providing the power. The Phaeton is the most technologically advanced, dynamic, luxurious and well-thought-out Volkswagen ever built. The Phaeton is about power and luxury, but with Volkswagen's long history of giving the consumer more for the money. Compared to a comparable model from Mercedes-Benz or BMW, the Phaeton costs many thousands of dollars less, and Volkswagen is banking on that fact to move the $64,600.00+ Phaeton from VW dealer lots. The stretched Phaeton, to be sold first in the US, measures nearly five inches longer than the Phaeton model that went on sale in Europe earlier this year. The 118-inch wheelbase Phaeton has plenty of legroom and compares more than favorably in spaciousness, comfort and attention-to-luxury detail to its worthy competitors. At almost 204 inches in length and standing 57 inches tall, Phaeton is Volkswagen's biggest and most powerful car. Still, the quietly elegant and aesthetically pleasing Phaeton debuts as one of the most accessible and best-equipped German high-end luxury sedans ever. The Phaeton is assembled in Volkswagen's new state-of-the-art 'transparent' factory in Dresden, Germany.

For the US market, Phaeton offers two exceptionally powerful engine configurations. The high-torque 4.2-liter 40-valve, DOHC engine delivers 335 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 317 pounds feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. The top-of-the-line 6.0-liter W12 engine - essentially comprised of two compact V6s (a marvel of modular design) registers 420 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 406 pounds feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. The V8 comes with a standard six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that propels this lighter (5,195 pounds) Phaeton to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds. The heavier (5,400 pounds) 12-cylinder Phaeton comes with a standard five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, and propels it to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.9 seconds. The base price of the V8 Phaeton is $64,600.00 and the W12 Phaeton starts at $94,600.00. My fully loaded V8 test Phaeton was sticker priced at just $71,900.00. The W12 Phaeton fully loaded stickers around $98,600.00. Both the V8 and W12 Phaetons offer Volkswagen's exclusive 4MOTION, a permanent, all-wheel-drive system with a Torsen (torque sensing) center differential. 4MOTION four-wheel drive offers significant advantages in traction and handling when compared to rear-wheel configurations typical of this segment. Power flows from the automatic transmission's gearbox to the Torsen differential, which automatically regulates the 50/50 power distribution to front and rear axles. You never feel any of this happening when driving the gorgeous and powerful Phaeton. Quietly elegant, Phaeton offers an abundance of standard comfort and convenience features. Volkswagen designers took care to assure Phaeton's world-class interior and exterior elements convey a sense of safety and tranquility combined with technical innovation and understated elegance. Meticulous attention to detail is seen in the ample use of premium quality materials in the cabin-from chestnut wood, like my test Phaeton, to eucalyptus wood to supple Italian leather, sophisticated chrome and brushed metal, all harmoniously integrated to create incredible ambience, functionality and authenticity.

Phaeton's high-tech and confident luxury character can be seen in exterior details like its Xenon high-intensity headlamps, projector highbeam, and Daytime Running Lamps behind clear lens, a large, horizontal grille, big VW emblem, and powerful fog lamps on the lower bumper. The silhouette is long, sleek and sexy with a low front end, steeply raked windshield A-pillars, and gently sloping rear pillar to the high-backed trunk lid cover. From the rear you'll notice round, LED tail and brake lamps and two, big, chrome dual exhaust tips for the V8 model, and 4-big, chrome, quad-exhaust pipes for the W12. That is about the only difference on the outside between the V8-powered and W12-powered Phaetons. Inside, consumers can choose a four-seat or five seat Phaeton. The four-seat model comes with a wood-trimmed console between the rear seats, or a pull-down rear console on the five-seater. Either way, you are surrounded by lots of luxurious leather, wood and fine grade trim pieces. The power tilting/telescoping steering wheel feels great in your hands and contains buttons to operate the audio system, cruise-control, and multi-function display on the instrument cluster. The stainless steel faced foot pedals are also powered for the perfect seating position. The comfortable and supportive driver's seat is 18-way powered including four-way lumbar support, heating, air conditioning, and massage control. The front passenger seat offers 16-way adjustments and all the other amenities. Rear seating in all Phaetons offer heating and optional 10-way adjustment, lumbar support, ventilation and massage. These seats are standard in the W12 Phaeton and optional in the V8 powered Phaeton. The instrument cluster is straight-ahead and easy to see with a big 200 mph speedometer, 8,000 rpm tachometer, and smaller gauges for fuel, oil pressure, engine coolant temperature and volts. Bright LED readouts warn you of system or safety failure. There is also a driver information screen straight ahead that gives you information on the gear selected, outside temperature, odometer, etc.

All switches, buttons, dials and levers are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving. The center-padded console has lots of room for items and there are two small draws that pop open to hold smaller items like coins for instance. The chrome-faced shifter-gate is easy to use and has the control buttons for the power-remote controlled, folding, heated and self-dimming side mirrors, shock damper tuner for comfort or sport, and height adjustments. The center stack is easy to reach and operate. It features a seven-inch color screen that displays all the functions that you can easily bring up by simply pushing a button around or below the screen. VW's system is much easier to use than from Audi or BMW. The Phaeton features world-class Climatronic, a draft-free, four-zone climate control system with humidity sensors, pollen filter and separate temperature controls. Other standard equipment include heated washer nozzles for front windshield, a deep and a giant trunk that opens and closes at the push of a button, courtesy entry-exit lights at all doors, oversized sunroof with a deluxe power-operated shade, telematics vehicle location and driver aids from OnStar, Homelink to open your front gate, garage and turn on the lights of your home, power windows with one-touch up/down, automatic door locks, keyless remote entry, multiple power outlets, rear side window rolling sunshades are manually operated, a coating of metalized infrared foil on windows is heat-reflective and shatter-resistant, while promoting interior comfort, dual-pane side glass to keep the interior quiet, thick-pile carpeting with floor mats and a two foot rests behind the front seats, theater lighting, luggage tie-downs, a rear seat pass-through with ski bag, a premium 190-watt AM-FM stereo with nine speakers, grab handles above each door, map pockets behind each front seat, and storage pockets in each door. An integrated infotainment center with numerous personal profile settings features the seven-inch color screen that functions with the glove mounted CD changer, navigation system, onboard trip computer and air-conditioning.

Optional equipment include a heated steering wheel, electronic front and back parking aid using sensors, 12-speaker, 270-watt AM-FM audio system, and a rear illuminated vanity mirror. My V8-powered Phaeton came with all the standard and optional features that I really enjoyed to drive and use. This is how I would outfit my V8 powered Phaeton.

The Phaeton is an awesome experience to drive and enjoy the comforts offered. With either the V8 or W12 the car handles like few other luxury sport sedans. For superior ride and handling, Phaeton's air suspension system includes Continuous Damping Control, a program that automatically adapts the suspension to all driving conditions, road surfaces and vehicle speeds without the driver's input. The electronically controlled system for regulating shock absorbers uses wheel acceleration sensors to monitor road conditions as the vehicle moves. The suspension has two driver-adjustable heights and four shock-absorber settings-comfort, basic, sport 1 and sport 2. The fully independent suspension system consists of a four-link with stabilizer bar front and rear with electronically controlled front and rear air suspension with Continuous Electronic Damping Control at each wheel. The Servotronic power steering system features speed-sensitive rack & pinion for precise control, quick response to your inputs with excellent feel for the road. Keeping you on track is traction control and ESP (electronic stabilization program) that has sensors at each wheel.

The Phaeton quickly slows down with the utmost in control thanks to giant 14-inch ventilated front brake rotors clamped with four-piston calipers and 13-inch rear vented rotors clamped with dual piston caliper. Braking control is enhanced with ABS, brake assist, and dynamic rear brake proportioning. The Phaeton V8 rides on standard P325/55R17 all-season radials wrapped around 17X7.5-inch alloy wheels. You can also option for the W12's P255/45R18 all-season radial tires wrapped around 18X8.5 alloy wheels that came equipped on my V8 Phaeton. Phaeton also has world-class safety-minded construction featuring a design to provide maximum collision protection front and rear with the front structure capable of absorbing as much crash energy as possible in order to provide maximum occupant protection in combination with the Phaeton body's outstanding torsional rigidity. Other safety features include dual front and front side impact airbags, rear side impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, safety belt pretensioners and load limiters on front and rear outboard seats with emergency locking retractors for all five seating positions, low tire pressure monitoring system, crash active headrests, rain-sensor automatic wiper speed control, and a self-dimming rearview mirror.

The all-new 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton has it all - elegant yet bold and aggressive looks, a powerful V8 or W12 engine, five or six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic semi-manual shifting, all underpinned by a technologically advanced fully independent, semi-active suspension system ready to run with the fastest luxury sedans, and brake with plenty of stopping power from high three-digit speeds. Inside the Phaeton there is no equal as the voluminous interior is ready to comfort you and make your trip more enjoyable in so many different ways. If I were in the market looking to spend over $72,000.00 for my next luxury sport sedan, I would not hesitate to check out what Volkswagen has up its sleeve with the all-new Phaeton.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For John Grafman's article on the Phaeton, see Phantastic. For more information on Volkswagen products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Volkswagen Phaeton Price of vehicle: $64,600.00 for the V8, $94,600.00 for the W12 Engine type: 4.2 liter, DOHC 40-valve V8 with aluminum alloy block/heads 6.0 liter DOHC 48-valve W12 with aluminum block/heads Horsepower: V8 - 335 hp at 6,500 rpm W12 - 420 hp at 6,000 rpm Torque: V8 - 317 lb.ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm W12 - 406 lb.ft. or torque at 3,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine with 4MOTION all-wheel drive Transmission type: V8 - six-speed automatic with Tiptronic semi-manual shifting W12 - five-speed automatic with Tiptronic semi-manual shifting Front and rear suspension: Independent four-link with stabilizer bars, electronically controlled front and rear air suspension with continuous electronic damping control Wheels and tires: 17X7.5-inch alloy wheels on the V8, 18X8.5-inch alloy wheels on the W12 or optional on the V8. Brakes: Front: 14 in. vented rotors with a four-piston calipers Rear: 13 in. vented rotors with a dual-piston calipers With ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist Overall length: 203.7 in. Overall width: 74.9 in. Overall height: 57.1 in. Curb weight: V8 - 5,195 lbs. W12 - 5,400 lbs. EPA mileage: V8 - 15 mpg / city, 22 mpg / highway W12 - 12 mpg / city, 18mpg / highway

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