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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By Jim Flammang
September 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview Volkswagens new luxury Phaeton sedan has been available in Europe since the spring of 2002 and is expected to go on sale in the United States in late 2003. Two engines will be available in U.S. models: a 335-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 that teams with six-speed Tiptronic transmission and a 6.0-liter W-12 engine that sends 420 hp to a five-speed Tiptronic unit. The engine choices differ in Europe.
A four-corner air suspension, a four-zone Climatronic system and 4Motion all-wheel drive are standard. Eight airbags are installed. A six-CD changer is mounted in the glove box of V-8-equipped models, while versions with the W-12 power plant get a high-end 12-speaker audio system. telematics and a navigation system are standard. A power sunshade for the rear window and manual side sunshades are installed.
Promoted by the German automaker as an upper-class car in a modern dimension, the Phaeton made its world debut at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show. Even though sister company Audi has a full line of vehicles on the market, Volkswagen steered clear of the luxury end of the spectrum prior to the Phaetons debut. The Phaeton is produced at a new factory in Dresden, Germany.
According to the German automaker, the appearance of the Phaeton continues the clear and precise Volkswagen design line. Arrow-shaped contours on the hood blend with a low-swept chromed grille and striking headlights to yield whats called a confident front design. The automaker claims that the LED taillight clusters are instantly recognizable, even at night.
Through the selection of materials and the way they are worked, the textures and the accentuated design, we have achieved a new balance between progressive and luxurious flair, said Hartmut Warkuss, head designer at Volkswagen AG. Riding a 118-inch wheelbase, the Phaeton is approximately 199 inches long overall and 75 inches tall. Its basic body panels are made of galvanized steel, and the doors, trunk lid and hood are composed of aluminum.
Among the Phaetons special features is a four-system pneumatic (air-operated) suspension that operates seamlessly among four levels of firmness. Volkswagens 4Motion all-wheel drive will be standard on selected models. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights incorporate a new washer system. A coming home function uses the headlights, taillights and two additional lights in the outside mirrors to illuminate the surrounding area around the car.
Designers say the Phaetons interior is technologically advanced but not cluttered with controls. The automaker claims that its four-zone Climatronic air conditioning system is absolutely free of drafts. The system supplies airflow indirectly to defined zones within the interior via vents that open and close automatically. An infotainment center with a 7-inch display screen can function with a CD changer, navigation system, TV, onboard computer, telephone and the air conditioning system.
Under the Hood
Volkswagen plans to offer as many as five different engines for European consumption. But in the United States, Phaetons are likely to be offered with either a 335-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 that mates with a six-speed Tiptronic transmission or a 6.0-liter W-12 engine that sends 420 hp to a five-speed Tiptronic unit.
The Phaeton is equipped with side curtain-type airbags and side-impact airbags for the front and rear seats.