Volkswagen Phaeton Research

The Car Connection Volkswagen Phaeton Overview

The Volkswagen Phaeton is a full-size luxury sedan sold by VW in the U.S. only from the 2004 through 2006 model years. It was a large and luxurious four-door sedan that shared some underpinnings with the Audi A8 and Bentley Continental models of the same years.

But the Phaeton's unlikely presence in VW showrooms with a price two or three times that of the average Jetta or Golf puzzled the buyers of more mass-market models and failed to attract those shopping for an alternative to conspicuous luxury. It was widely viewed as a sales disaster for the brand, and while the Phaeton has remained on sale in Europe, it's effectively an orphan in the U.S. Used models sell today for only a fraction of their original prices.

From the outside, the Phaeton was a conservatively styled upright luxury sedan roughly the size of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Remove the round VW logos, and no one would have known what it was--but put them back on, or put the car in the Volkswagen showrooms it was sold from, and it suddenly looks a bit large a large Volkswagen Jetta. Which is hardly a good omen for a car costing $60,000 to almost $100,000.

Interior trim featured eucalyptus wood for the V-8 model and walnut for the W-12, stainless steel pedals, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Phaeton seated five passengers comfortably, or four luxuriously, and the rear-seat armrest folded down to give access from the trunk to the interior for long items--complete with built-in ski bag.

The VW Phaeton came with standard all-wheel drive and a choice of two engines: a 335-horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, or a massive 420-hp 6.0-liter W-12--boosted to 444 hp for 2006--that powered the car through a beefier five-speed automatic. Top speed was limited to 135 mph, and fuel economy for the V-8 Phaeton was rated at 16 mpg (14 mpg city, 21 mpg highway), while the far thirstier W-12 came in at 13 mpg combined (11 mpg city, 17 mpg highway).

As a full-on luxury car, all Phaetons were fitted with a panoramic sunroof, four-zone automatic climate control, a premium audio system featuring a six-CD changer in the glovebox and 10 speakers, 12-way heated front power seats with adjustable lumbar supports, self-dimming mirrors, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, and rarities like entry-exit lights at all four doors, a full set of interior sunshades, and heated nozzles for the windshield washers.

The lower-level V-8 model featured 17-inch alloy wheels, while the more powerful W-12 rode on 18-inch alloys. Other upgrades for the high-end model included a more powerful 12-speaker sound system, heated seats for all passengers, and heated and ventilated front seats that adjusted in 18 different ways and offered a massage function.

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