The Volkswagen Phaeton serves as the flagship of the Volkswagen line-up, competing with other high-end flagship sedans such as the BMW 7-Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It takes its name from Phaëton, the son of Helios in Greek mythology.
The Phaeton was the brainchild of VW chairman Ferdinand Piëch, who perceived the addition of such a flagship as a means to burnish the VW brand. In doing so, the Phaeton is swimming against the logic of having a ’mainstream’ brand (VW/Nissan /Toyota /Ford /Chevrolet /Honda ) and a luxury brand (Audi/Infiniti /Lexus /Lincoln /Cadillac /Acura) that share components under the skin, but don’t directly compete. In that respect, it is very simlar to (but not as prestigious and exclusive as) the Toyota Century.
The Phaeton’s platform is shared with the Audi A8, Bentley Continental GT, and Bentley Continental Flying Spur. These similarities become apparent when looking at the Phaeton’s leather lined interior which shares certain design elements with its luxury and ultra-luxury cousins.
As of 2005, the Phaeton has the longest wheelbase in the Passenger Volkswagen model line. In Dresden, Germany, the car is hand-assembled in a distinctive factory with a glass exterior, the Gläserne Manufaktur.
There are around 100 patents integrated into the new Phaeton. In fact, the only feature you’ll recognise is the Volkswagen logo.One such patent is for the 4-Zone Climatic Air Conditioner, which allows a separate temperature for each quarter of the vehicle, and is draft-free.
However, Volkswagen not only developed a remarkable vehicle with the Phaeton. It also created unique manufacturing and customer service concepts in parallel. Product, manufacturing and service form the components of Volkswagen’s luxury class trilogy. Phaeton customers are acquiring a high-class sedan built in one of the most innovative and rigorous production facilities in the world. This is the Gläsernen manufacturing plant in Dresden, Germany. The trilogy is completed by the Phaeton’s comprehensive service concept.
The Phaeton has not sold well since entering the United States in 2004. 1,433 Phaetons were sold in 2004 after Volkswagen responded to initial sales by offering a US$10,000 buyer incentive. Just 820 were sold in the United States in all of 2005, leading the company to announce that sales in the American market would end after the 2006 model year.
Volkswagen had discontinued the Phaeton in the North American markets due to insufficient sales and constant service issues.
Other reasons for the Phaeton’s demise in these markets was the hefty price tag, which was in part due to currency fluctuations. This put it in competition with luxury sedans that were already well established in the American market, such as the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
How could Volkswagen have made such a mistake? Some say nobody wants a fancy Volkswagen, but the company’s luxurious Touareg sport utility vehicle has been a success. The other popular theory is, "Why buy a $70,000 Volkswagen when you can buy a car from the company’s upscale Audi subsidiary?"
The problem is not the quality of the Phaeton — it’s the quality of the VW badge. And it’s the mediocre reputation Volkswagen dealers have, especially when compared with the better reputation of Audi dealers, who are located right across the showroom floors. But perhaps more than any other factor, the Phaeton’s sticker price is driving people away.
Unfortunately most people will look to buy the similarly priced S500 instead of a vehicle with the VW badge on it. And that is too bad because the Phaeton really is the better car.
Timelessly elegant design results in a stylish presentation; highest manufacturing quality demonstrates attention to detail
If you liked the beautiful and understated looks of the previous generation A8, the Phaeton is the car for you. It has a better finish than a Merc, is less complicated than a 7-series and will waft-and-glide you better than a Lexus. It is a step up from all those cars and a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from the ultra fantastic Rolls-Royce.
At 5.06 meters long, 1.9 meters wide and 1.45 meters high the new Phaeton (weight of V6 model with manual transmission: 1,995 kilograms) is among the largest sedans of the luxury class. The vehicle, in which all steel body parts are fully galvanized, has a wheelbase of 2.88 meters.
The Phaeton’s silhouette is distinctive and elegant with long smooth swept-back surfaces and a powerful appearance with its roof located far forward. From the side too its appearance is characterized in front by Xenon headlamps that are drawn deep into the fender. The independent design of the third side window and the coupe-like C column that extends to the rear of the vehicle generates another typical design element.
From the front, the muscularly designed body shoulders (outer cambers below the window/roof area), the arrow-like, contoured engine hood that extends far downward, the chrome grille integrated into the hood, and once again the expressive headlamps, all meld into a front-end design that is full of character. In particular, the deeply recessed headlamps and linearity of the flashers extending across the entire width of the headlamp create a key visual design element. The flashers themselves are novel in their complex construction that is 480 millimeter long but only 21 millimeter high.
The large outside mirrors fit harmoniously and dynamically into this image; integrated in them are LED flasher lamps and automatic convenience lamps (Coming and Leaving Home function for safe footing when entering and exiting). Extended convenience lighting (plus low-beam lamps and tail lights) can be activated by remote control.
A very powerful appearance is also evident from the rear of the vehicle with body shoulders that give the vehicle a wide appearance from this perspective. The taillights also offer a high degree of vehicle recognition at night thanks to the structurally integrated, extremely bright and reliable LED tail lights.
Much of the Phaeton, produced at the Gläsernen manufacturing plant in Dresden, Germany is built manually, and its exceptionally high level of workmanship is impressive. One area where this finds expression is in the tight gap dimensions and loving attention to details such as form-integrated door hands and tasteful use of chrome trim.
Clear formal language and lavish materials convey a unique feeling of spaciousness.The Phaeton’s level of comfort sets new standards in the premium luxury sedan market.
Step inside and immediately look at the interior as it is meant to be seen... the best in its class. It’s quality is reminiscent of the more blindingly expensive Bentley, Maybach and Rolls Royce.
The look and feel of the wood, gear lever, and features rival all those including the S-class, BM and Audi as their switchgear feels light and cheap in comparison. Of the big three above only the Phaeton has the more intuitive navigation system.
All the buttons are positioned in practical places and within a minute or two one may easily find all relevant information. Furthermore the massage feature allows one to remain in even greater comfort on any long-distance trips.
From the masterfully processed leather and finest fabrics to the carefully selected wood applications and chrome-plated metals – the interior of the Phaeton exudes a unique atmosphere of timeless elegance and balanced aesthetics. Moreover, the Phaeton offers an above-average amount of interior space. The so-called comfort factor, a spatial parameter defined for vehicle passengers both front and back, shoulder width in front and legroom in back, is “best-in-class”.
Newly designed air-conditioning system to be the first and only free of draughts
The controls for one of the best air-conditioning systems in the world - the new 4-zone Climatronic - are via a separate key panel. Along with the driver and front passenger, the rear-seat passengers can also individually adjust the temperature for the left and right seats from the comfort of the rear thanks to the standard-fit Climatronic. Another decisive plus factor for this automatic air-conditioning system is to date unique amongst the international competition: the cooling or warming air is directed draught-free via automatically closing and opening emitters (with indirect ventilation via fine wood faceplates ) into the passenger compartment. In addition, an efficient function for controlling the air humidity has been integrated which automatically prevents windows from steaming up.
Center console and infotainment
The dominant element in the cockpit is the large vertical centre console. The infotainment centre is centrally located here with a 7-inch colour display in 16:9 format. This monitor is a multitalent. Generally speaking, it can be used to control close to all settings via eight large multifunctional keys (soft keys), six additional basic function keys and a central turn/press button - comfort, audio, TV, navigation, on-board computer and telephone.
To ensure tat the menu guidance, however, is not overloaded, there is another tool bar below the infotainment centre for the separate control of the audio system. In general, all basic functions of the Phaeton are activated by the rapid press of a button and not via a complicated menu. This also includes the manual setting for the four-wheel air suspension. Only the individual fine tuning, for certain sound parameters on the audio system, for example, are carried out via a logically designed menu structure.
In addition, the saloon can be further upgraded. This includes special equipment such as navigation systems, telephone fixture, TV, the automatic distance regulator ADR, various leather seat packages, heated steering wheel, the lock and start system Keyless Access or the largest solar sunroof in the competition. Finally, the customer can choose extras from the Phaeton customisation programme such as further types of fine wood with integrated marquetry.
Exceptional space and standard-fit electrical seat adjustment
The Phaeton offers above-average spacing. The so-called comfort dimensions (interior passenger space), rear knee space and the front shoulder space are all best in class.
As with every detail, the seating on the Phaeton has also been completely redesigned. The front seats have a 12-way electrical adjustment system as standard. Standard on the Phaeton W12 and an option in the Phaeton V6 is an 18-way system plus memory, climatisation and massage function. At the same time, two differently designed seating configurations can also be selected for the rear. In the particularly exclusive level Volkswagen offers the Phaeton with two separate seats at the rear that are varied via a 10-way system (including Memorylogic and Easy-Entry system).
Phaeton versions with extended wheelbase offer rear passengers an additional twelve centimeters of legroom. With supplemental features such as roll-up sun shades for the rear side windows and rear window, and rear controls for the four-zone climate control system, the Phaeton can satisfy all of the requirements of a luxurious chauffeured limousine.
In November 2002 the Phaeton was the first automobile in the world to be awarded the “AGR” seal of approval for its front and rear seats from the independent organization “Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.” [Nonprofit action committee for healthy backs]. The professional committee of experts thereby showed its recognition for the excellent ergonomic properties of the Phaeton’s seating. Because of its strict testing criteria and a jury that includes a number of medical experts, the AGR seal of approval enjoys a generally high level of recognition. In the view of the professional committee, Volkswagen has developed a vehicle “that offers all passengers proper back support for traveling” with the Phaeton.
Five engines, two transmissions,
In Europe the engines offered on the Phaeton include three gas fuel and two diesel variants. Performance ranges from 165 kW / 225 PS to 331 kW / 450 PS. The torque range is extraordinary: 315 to 750 Newton meters. The gasoline engine lineup includes the 3.2 Liter V6, the 4.2-Liter-V8 and the 6.0 Liter W12. The diesel engines offered are a 3.0 Liter V6 TDI with standard diesel particulate filter and the already legendary 5.0 Liter V10 TDI. With the exception of the V6 TDI version, all Phaeton variants are available with an extended wheelbase.
The extensive standard equipment that comes with each Phaeton includes engineering highlights such as 4-corner air suspension with continuous speed-dependent damping control and permanent all-wheel drive (4MOTION). Volkswagen offers the Phaeton in a base version that seats five and a four-seat version with two individual seats in the back. The Phaeton indulges its passengers among other things with its draft-free Climatronic 4-zone climate control air conditioning and an exclusive audio and infotainment system.
Despite its 5998cc capacity, the 450PS W12 is just over 50cm long, and around 70cm high and wide. These compact dimensions benefit both space and refinement. The engine unit is exceptionally rigid, with vibration and noise reduced as much as possible. It has torsion-proof aluminium crankcase with wear-proof cylinder walls, while its lightweight construction is indicated by the magnesium valve cover and double-flow magnesium intake manifold.
The W12 engine is characterised by an especially effective and complex lubrication and cooling system . Volkswagen designed an innovative coolant circulation method and since the generator fan wheel is no longer needed, the engine compartment is even more refined.
The powerful 6 litre W12 engine propels the car to 62 mph in 6.1 seconds and, where the law permits, reaches 150 mph (limited). And yet it remains silky smooth because our engineers have found new ways to minimize even the slightest vibration.
Overview of petrol engines
3.2 V6 with 177 kW / 241 PS: the finely-tuned 241 PS 6-cylinder engine with 4-valve technology develops a maximum torque of 315 Newton meters at a low 2,400 rpm. With its standard 6-speed automatic transmission the Phaeton 3.2 V6 reaches a top speed of 239 km/h. From a stop the vehicle reaches 100 km/h after 9.4 seconds. Its average fuel consumption is 12.1 liters/100 km.
4.2 V8 with 246 kW / 335 PS: the powerful aluminum 8-cylinder engine has five valves per cylinder. Its torque reaches its highest value of 430 Newton meters at 3,500 RPM. The vehicle’s top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. The Phaeton 4.2 V8 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in a fast 6.9 seconds and consumes an average of 12.9 liters/100 km.
6.0 W12 with 331 kW / 450 PS: The top model of the Phaeton series offers a top-of-the-line aluminum W12 engine. The 4-valve engine continuously delivers its maximum torque of 560 Newton meters between 2,750 and 5,200 rpm. It only takes 6.1 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, and its top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. On average the Phaeton W12 consumes 14.5 liters/100 km.
Overview of diesel engines
The new common rail system and piezo technology combine to make it possible to achieve significantly smaller and more precise injection quantities. The advantage is that noise levels, consumption and emissions are all reduced substantially. This limousine is thus one of the few in its class to meet the EU-4 standard. The Phaeton V6 TDI 3.0 also comes as standard with a diesel particle filter (DPF). This six-cylinder engine, designed and built within the Volkswagen Group, develops 165 kW / 225 h.p. and produces its maximum torque of 450 newton metres almost from a standing start (from 1400 rpm upwards).
The standard version of the Phaeton V6 TDI 3.0, with all-wheel drive and 6-speed automatic (Tiptronic) gearbox, achieves a top speed of 234 km/h and takes only 8.8 seconds to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h. On the other side of the coin its average fuel consumption is 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres and its level of engine noise is pleasant at every speed. This newest version of the Phaeton, which features 4-corner air suspension even in its standard form, thus positions itself as the perfect vehicle for gliding over great distances and as the stress-free zone between appointments on a busy day.
Dual-technology route: The 2967-cc V6 TDI 3.0 engine in the Phaeton has written a new chapter in the history of the common rail, one of the most progressive technologies in the world. Volkswagen AG is pursuing here a dual-technology route: whilst common rail direct injection is being used in the 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder TDI field, in the 3, 4, 5 and 6-cylinder fields the Group is using the extremely efficient pump-nozzle engines. These are two different technologies for meeting slightly different requirements, but they have one common goal: the highest possible torque with the lowest possible consumption.
Compact, light, convenient: With a length of only 440 mm the V6 TDI engine in the Phaeton is extremely compact. The 24 valves of this 6-cylinder engine are actuated by low-friction roller finger followers with hydraulic valve-play compensation, a technique that, like the piezo technology, contributes to holding down consumption and exhaust emissions. The engine’s acoustics and quiet-running characteristics are also outstanding and are certainly comparable to those of a 6-cylinder petrol engine.
Best-selling engine: The new four-valve TDI engine will take its place as the Phaeton engine with the biggest sales volume. The top model of this make is available as a diesel alternative in the V10 TDI engine version with 230 kW / 313 h.p.
5.0 V10 TDI with 230 kW / 313 PS: unique in its engineered layout, the V10 TDI in the Phaeton demonstrates extraordinary powertrain capabilities. The TDI sedan is capable of generating a torque of 750 Newton meters and has a top speed of 250 km/h (electronically limited). It accelerates to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds. The average fuel consumption turns out to be very favorable at 11.4 liters / 100 km.
Safety and Options
Passive and active safety of the highest leve
Cleverly engineered safety systems support the driver
The use of 16 different metals and plastics as well as a computer-optimized frame structure give the Phaeton’s body a high degree of stability and crash integrity. Optimal passenger protection is offered by its airbags: two frontal, four side and two head curtain airbags. The active head restraints on the front seats reduce the space between the headrest and the head in the event of a rear collision, thereby reducing the risk of whiplash trauma significantly. Isofix eyelets at the outer rear seats provide for secure mounting of two matching child seats.
Chassis features of the all-wheel drive Phaeton include Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), ABS with brake assistance, electronic brake force distribution (EBV) and ASR traction control. As an option the sedan can be equipped with automatic distance control (ADR).
Phaeton keeps its distance automatically: the innovative Automatic Distance Regulation (ADR) system uses radar to detect vehicles ahead
Speed and distance controlled with the left thumb
Optional ADR adds an automatic braking and accelerating function to the standard cruise control
ADR makes the journey far more relaxed: the driver senses directly that the car is performing various dynamic driving processes
The Volkswagen Phaeton is one of the most innovative luxury saloon cars available anywhere in the world. Technical highlights such as its 4-zone Climatronic air conditioning, air suspension with controlled damping and the progressive Automatic Distance Regulation (ADR) system, an optional extra, set the standards in this automobile-market segment. This applies to ADR in particular: it transforms the previous style of travel into a new dimension of relaxed convenience. More than was ever possible until now, the driver can sense how the car is performing various dynamic processes on its own initiative.
The automatic distance regulating system uses radar, and takes over precisely where the conventional cruise control (GRA, standard on the Phaeton) calls for the driver to take action: when the car has to be braked or accelerated. If a Phaeton equipped with ADR approaches the vehicle ahead too closely because this is being braked or simply driven more slowly, Volkswagen ’s new luxury saloon model reduces its own speed automatically by the necessary amount. The driver sees a signal on the central information display between the speedometer and the revolution counter as an indication that this regulating process is in progress. If the preceding vehicle then speeds up again or the Phaeton’s driver changes to an empty traffic lane, the system accelerates the car automatically back up to the previously selected cruising speed.
The Phaeton series of accessoires:
The predominantly handmade accessoires in the Phaeton series feature superior materials and sophisticated design, and their high quality superbly reflects the excellence of the top-of-the-range limousine manufactured at the renowned Glass Factory in Dresden.
Par-excellence example of leather craftsmanship from Karl Seeger: Crafted from leather of the very highest quality, the document case was designed exclusively for the Phaeton series. Matched to the case down to every last detail are the business and credit card holder, matching wallet and a custom-made leather keyholder.
Karl Seeger ladies’ handbag, Armin Johl ladies’ foulard: Specially designed with ladies in mind, Karl Seeger has designed an exceptionally beautiful handbag, complete with mobile phone pouch bag and detachable keyholder. Stylishly combined: Like the leather items referred to above, the ladies’ foulard - a silk stole measuring 50 x 200 cm - from Armin Johl was designed to match the Seeger handbag.
Handmade travelling companion from Schedoni: The Germant Bag from Schedoni is a select element of a second self-contained series in the Phaeton Collection. This particularly well thought-out garment bag features metal fittings that were designed to drawings from Volkswagen designers. Founded in Modena in 1880 and family-owned, Schedoni has also contributed to the Phaeton Collection with a cabin case and a beauty case in matching design and leather.
Humidor, cutter and lighter: The Phaeton Collection will also please cigar enthusiasts with a superb humidor crafted from cedar and mahogany with a beautiful black piano lacquer finish. Perfect complements to the humidor are a lighter with precision mechanism and a matching cigar cutter, both with a finish of up to ten layers of Chinese lacquer.
Model cars: Even in small-scale model form, the Phaeton is a joy to behold. Available in three sizes from Wiking (1:87), Mini champs (1:43) and AutoArt (1:18), these models all offer a wealth of detail that makes them miniature works of art, and the precision with which they are manufactured mirrors that of the "real" Phaeton". It goes without saying that Volkswagen’s range of accessoires also includes models of the "big" Golf as well, even in a remote-controlled version. So that’s it, you’re all ready for Christmas. If you’re a Phaeton driver or intend to be.
Volkswagen plans to present a new model of its Phaeton luxury car in 2009,but until the new generation,Volkswagen is planning to introduce a slight facelift for next year. The facelift is just to tie in with the rest of the VW family , until its complete replacement comes.
The changes to the current car will be mainly cosmetic, with a redesigned front grille and new bumpers, plus a more pedestrian friendly reshaped bonnet.
The all-new sedan is expected to be more coupe-like than today’s Phaeton and is said to be repositioned half a class below the Audi A8 but still well ahead of the Passat.
Also new will be curved-light headlight system and a DVD navigation system replacing the outdated CD technology.
Earlier reports suggested that Volkswagen may be canceling the range-topping Phaeton sedan. Some opined that it’d be right to do so – the big saloon was never the runaway global success Volkswagen had hoped for.