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By Jim Flammang
April 13, 2005
Vehicle Overview Following its debut in Europe, Volkswagen's luxury Phaeton sedan reached the United States for the 2004 model year. Two engines are available in U.S. models: a 4.2-liter V-8 and a 6.0-liter W-12.
A four-corner air suspension, a four-zone Climatronic ventilation system and 4Motion all-wheel drive are standard. Eight airbags are installed. A six-CD changer is mounted in the glove box, and W-12-powered Phaetons get a high-end 12-speaker audio system as standard equipment. Telematics and a navigation system are also standard. Manual side sunshades complement a power sunshade in the rear window. A new grille is installed on 2005 models, and V-8-powered sedans have standard "soft close" doors.
With the Phaeton in its lineup, Volkswagen has a full-fledged luxury car offering, thereby encroaching on sister company Audi's territory. Prior to its debut, Volkswagen steered relatively clear of the luxury vehicle market. Phaetons are manufactured in Dresden, Germany.
Exterior The appearance of the Phaeton "continues the clear and precise Volkswagen design line," according to the German automaker. Arrow-shaped contours on the hood blend with a low-swept chrome-plated grille and striking headlights. LED taillights are installed.
Riding a 118.1-inch wheelbase, the Phaeton is 203.7 inches long overall and nearly 75 inches tall. Its basic body panels are made of galvanized steel, but the doors, trunk lid and hood are aluminum.
Special features include an air suspension that operates seamlessly among four levels of firmness. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights incorporate a washer system.
Interior Designers say the Phaeton's interior is technologically advanced but not cluttered with controls. The automaker claims that its four-zone Climatronic air conditioning system is 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 works with the CD changer, navigation system, TV, onboard computer, telephone and air conditioning system.
Under the Hood U.S.-bound Phaetons hold either a 335-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 that mates with a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission featuring a manual-shift provision or a 420-hp, 6.0-liter W-12 that teams with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic.
Safety All Phaeton models are equipped with side curtain-type airbags and side-impact airbags for the front and rear seats.
Driving Impressions The Phaeton's price falls into high-end luxury car territory, but Volkswagen's flagship sedan comes with an impressive selection of luxury amenities. The driving experience is indisputably at a premium level in terms of ride quality and plush, spacious comfort. Performance excels as well, and the Phaeton handles capably.