Following its debut in Europe, Volkswagen's luxury Phaeton sedan reached the U.S. for the 2004 model year. Two engines are available in U.S. models: a 4.2-liter V-8 or a 6.0-liter W-12.
A four-corner air suspension, a four-zone Climatronic climate-control system and 4Motion all-wheel drive are standard. Eight airbags are installed. A six-CD changer is located in the glove box, and W-12-powered Phaetons get a high-end 12-speaker audio system as standard equipment. A navigation system is standard on all Phaetons, and manual rear side sunshades complement a power sunshade in the rear window.
A new grille was installed on 2005 models, and V-8-powered sedans gained standard "soft close" doors. For 2006, the W-12 engine now produces 444 horsepower, which is 24 hp more than in 2005 models.
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.
The German automaker says the Phaeton's appearance "continues the clear and precise Volkswagen design line." Arrow-shaped contours on the hood blend with a low-swept chrome-plated grille and rectangular headlight assemblies. 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 has four levels of firmness. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights incorporate a washer system.
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. Trunk space totals 13 cubic feet.
Four- and five-occupant Phaetons are offered. An infotainment center with a 7-inch display screen works with the CD changer, navigation system, onboard computer, telephone and air conditioning system.
Under the Hood
Phaetons hold either a 335-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 that drives a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission or a 6.0-liter W-12 that generates 444 hp and 406 pounds-feet of torque. The W-12 teams with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic.
All Phaetons are equipped with side curtain-type airbags and side-impact airbags for the front and rear seats. Antilock brakes, traction control, active front head restraints and Volkswagen's Electronic Stabilization Program are standard.
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 with either engine, and the Phaeton handles capably.