[comment] ui_template: Yes ui_template_name: CARREVIEWSLEFTTOP [/comment] VOLKSWAGEN PHAETON REVIEW


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April 2005
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2005 Volkswagen Phaeton V8

The Good: Large presence. Solid build quality. Luxurious quiet Rolls-Royce style ride. Four wheel drive. Superb wood grain inside. Leather quality is very high. Every part feels and looks like top quality coachwork. Great price if you buy at year-end discounts.

The Bad: No a luxury car brand name or image. Needs more road feel to be a bit more exciting to drive. Needs a DVD based navigation system, Bi-Xenon adaptive lights, electroluminescent gauges, backup camera, and the entire Audi A8 MMI system.   Rear seats have short lower cushion.

The Phaeton is Volkswagen's largest sedan, built to compete with the finest in the automotive industry.  Watch Volkswagen videos and you will learn that VW did not aim at Mercedes or BMW but at the best in the world, Rolls Royce.  For the past year, sales of the Phaeton have been slow, but nothing out of the ordinary when compared to a Audi A8.  The Phaeton is not selling as fast as a Lexus LS or a BMW 7 or Mercedes S Class, mainly due to the fact that a super large VW symbol is placed on a car that costs more than $51,000.  Yes we said $51,000, due to the fact that year-end incentives were $15,000 on the Phaeton last fall.  Imagine the look on your face if you paid close to sticker price in the first few months the car was sold, only to find your neighbor buying the same car for a staggering $15,000 less.  We think this was a real mistake, which will have ripple effects on the resale value of the car in years to come.  In the meantime, if you want a Phaeton with a Bently logo, you can have one for about $160,000. 

The Phaeton's presence is unmistakable; it is tall, wide, and very long.  Compared to the competition, the Lexus LS is lower to the ground and smaller in length.  The Mercedes S-Class looks just as long but does not seem as wide or tall.  The BMW 7 series probably feels just as big as the Phaeton in length and cabin height, but still sits lower to the ground. The Audi A8 is much more of a sleek sports car, as it sits very low, has a thin cabin, but is just as long in it's L version.  Sure this car is not as noticeable on the road as a S class or BMW 7, but in the right color it can be just as striking. 

The driving characteristics of the Phaeton are world class.  The vehicle feels wide and long but also is quite solid and nimble.  An adjustable air suspension allows you to change from an ultra plush yet stable ride to a very firm sports car ride.  In the firm setting, the Phaeton feels very stiff and is easy to move around.  Steering response is very accurate but road feel is lacking, we would like to see more feedback.  It is also extremely quiet inside with very low noise levels.  The largest amount of noise comes from the tires and road, which you can only notice when the 270-watt stereo system is turned off.  The Phaeton feels smooth and solid, with no noises or looseness found anywhere.  Overall the feeling is most comparable to a Rolls Royce Phantom.

Generating 335 horsepower and 317 lbs-ft of torque and matched to a six-speed transmission with the VW 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, the large V8 engine feels just phenomenal.  The Phaeton feels like it can keep pushing forward at any speed continuously with amazing smoothness.  The V8 engine also features a muscular exhaust growl at startup.  Cruising at any speed, the Phaeton hides the feeling of movement amazingly well; going triple digits on the highway is much like going 55 mph in other cars.  The engine gives this car a very light feeling, much lighter than you would expect.  Zero to sixty times are about 7.2 seconds.  Our mixed driving gave us an average 17 miles per gallon of fuel economy.  Top speed is limited to 130mph, which is a flaw where other German counterparts are limited to 155mph and top speed is 186mph.  Take the new Maserati Quattroporte which is not limited at all.  No one wants to be in a car on the highway being passed by another large luxo-cruiser when you have spent big bucks yourself. 

The interior is super luxurious, featuring large bolstered seats and gleaming wood all around.  All seats are a bit firm for our backs, but VW says that doctors have raved about the seats on the Phaeton.  On long trips they can get tiring, something we cannot say in a Mercedes S430.  The driver's seat is the most adjustable with a power thigh support.  Both front seats are very large with deep padding, much like in a Rolls Royce.  All four seats feature a power massage function that extends a bump in the seat back and moves it up and down for a few minutes.  Rear seats do require longer lower cushions, as they leave much to be desired for a relaxing ride, we were sitting much to straight for long trips.  Better seats can be had with a four-seater package which sends fully adjustable seats to the rear with a large center console.  Leather on the door panels and on the seats is of high quality and is very supple.

Most cars we have tested usually have many faults, with low quality parts and a lightweight feeling to everything. With the Phaeton, we cannot complain about much.  The car feels superbly built, right down to the smallest parts.  Every switch feels great.  The wood is surprisingly beautiful in a matching grain that is highly detailed.  The front air vents are covered by automatically moving wood covers so most of the time air is indirectly fed into the cabin.  The small slit of wood near the front windshield reminded us of the attention to detail Volkswagen has placed in this car.  Even the sunshade for the sunroof is electronic and moves in a solid fashion. 

Dual ashtrays up front feature a aluminum flap that opens up so you do not accidentally burn the expensive wood with your cigar.  It would be good if these trays were felt-lined for holding change as well in our non-smoking age.  Cup holders in our V8 model are now wood trimmed instead of last year's plastic models.  We liked the electronic headrests on all four seats, which did a nice job of taking away from a part that can feel cheap on many cars.  Chrome is used extensively throughout the cabin as well with all parts feeling very solid and heavy.  The doors close with a heavy thunk, making this car feel tank like each time you enter and exit.  We got raving comments about the trunk's aluminum hinges as well as its 17 cubic feet of protrusion free space.  There is nothing to disappoint us at all on the Phaeton. 

Most controls are laid out all within easy reach of the driver.  Climate controls are up high above the information display.  The Phaeton features four zone climate controls for each passenger seat.  The system worked flawlessly and kept us very comfortable in the auto setting.  Only once were we driving behind a fuming car and here we noticed that the system did not automatically switch to air-recirculate mode.  The intelligent climate control system opens up front facing air vents when driving into the sun.  All four seats feature heaters and fans for cooling.  While most adjustments are made easily, making specific adjustments like fan speed and direction of air does take time through the infotainment screen. 

The information screen is mainly used for navigation and stereo functions, with less used features being the trim computer displays and vehicle settings menus.  The electronic central control dial is a bit stiff and hard to grasp and turn easily, but it is a smart button not allowing any further movement if the menu system does not advance forward. The navigation system is of a older CD based variety, which does not show street names on the map itself.  Guidance is also done by a voice that we found irritating at times.  We think VW has to update the navigation system in order to be on the level of its competitors. 

Below this section are settings for the stereo system and CD changer.  They are placed very low and though easy to use while driving, they are hard to see if you are in park gear.  Our tester featured bumper sensors to aid in parking this behemoth, however the front right display bar is placed close to the A-pillar far away from driver view. 

All windows are double paned glass for keeping noise levels low.  All windows are also single touch up and down. The electronic trunk opener button and the gas tank flap button were located very far from reach of the driver to the left of the driver.  We also would rather have the seat controls in a position where they are easily visible rather than on the bottoms of the seats. 

In the rear compartment legroom is super spacious.  Footrests are included for a more comfortable ride.  We did not find any mirrors for the required cleaning up before getting out of the vehicle when attending parties.  Interior lighting is also low compared to the Audi A8 which had a beautiful interior lighting scheme.  We also wished for an electroluminescent instrument cluster in a car of this price range.  The cluster looked dull during the day, something unexpected.  High beams are also not xenon beams, another feature that should be updated with dynamic bi-xenon lights. 

            Most options in the phaeton are limited to a few packages.  There is not much to add to the base car in V8 form.  VW's website, vw.com, is also quite good at showing you all the options on this vehicle, even if it is done with a quirky music scheme.  We think that advertising showing the stability, technology, and luxury of this car will do wonders for its selling ability.  VW ads currently don't show this car in a luxurious manner; their only add being quite strange, more of a kid playing with a toy rather than a adult enjoying a luxury car.  If VW is to lure the higher class luxury buyer, they should make sure they don't feel weird or strange when picking the Phaeton.  Going out of your way to be different is one thing but when your car is not selling, you need to at least speak to the traditional Luxury car buyer in words he understands. 

Getting to the final price, last year we went hunting for a Phaeton at year-end and found some amazing deals from August all the way to December.  Many dealers had vehicles offering Invoice price and then $15,000 off!  This makes the Phaeton one of the best buys in the car market.  You cannot find such a beautifully made car, one that is so capable, and feels so good at a price of around $50,000, and that for a brand new car!  It was a real bargain and one that I am sure many customers were happy about finding.  This super deal made us and many people wonder was the Phaeton worth the $70,000 asking price?  Well that is only in the eye of the beholder, you can find some S500 models selling for $12,000 off sticker price as well.  Making all these high-end luxury cars a whole lot cheaper just by finding and looking for a great deal. 

To download a pdf file of specifications click here.


Base Pricing 61,423 66,950
PCX   Comfort and Cold Weather Package- Includes 18-way power adjustable driver seat, 16-way power adjustable passenger seat, Sensitive leather upgrade, heated steering wheel, rear outboard seats with heating, A/C ventilation and massage features, electrically adjusted lumbar support and head restraints and rear Climatronic climate control with display 4,287 4,800
PT8   Technology Package -Includes Electronic Parking Assistance and power closing trunk lid. 1,027 1,150
Upgrade 270 Watt Sound System 893 1,000
4F6   Keyless Access 447 500
9ZH   Cellular Phone Preparation 343 385
V4S   4-Seater Package - 4-Seater Package Includes 18-way power adjustable driver seat, 16-way power adjustable passenger seat, Sensitive leather upgrade, heated steering wheel, 10-way power adjustable rear outboard seats with heating, A/C ventilation and massage features, memory, electrically adjusted lumbar support and head restraints, wood and leather trimmed rear center console with Climatronic climate control display and rear mounted controls for front passenger seat. 6,833 7,650



  2005 Volkswagen Phaeton
V8 4dr Sedan (4.2L 8cyl 6A)
2005 Audi A8
L quattro AWD 4dr Sedan (4.2L 8cyl 6A)
2005 BMW 7 Series
745Li 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl 6A)
2005 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
S430 4MATIC AWD 4dr Sedan (4.3L 8cyl 5A)
2005 Lexus LS 430
4dr Sedan (4.3L 8cyl 6A)
MSRP $66,950 $69,900 $73,900 $75,300 $56,225
Invoice $61,423 $65,352 $67,430 $70,029 $48,915
Basic 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi.
Drivetrain 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 6 yr. / 70000 mi.
Valvetrain 40 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
40 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
32 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
24 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
32 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
Horsepower 335 hp @ 6500 rpm 335 hp @ 6500 rpm 325 hp @ 6100 rpm 275 hp @ 5750 rpm 290 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque 317 ft-lbs. @ 3500 rpm 317 ft-lbs. @ 3500 rpm 330 ft-lbs. @ 3600 rpm 295 ft-lbs. @ 3000 rpm 320 ft-lbs. @ 3400 rpm
Driven Wheels all wheel drive all wheel drive rear wheel drive all wheel drive rear wheel drive
Tires P255/45HR18
all season
all season
all season
all season
Air Filtration interior air filtration interior active charcoal air filter interior active charcoal air filter interior active charcoal air filter interior active charcoal air filter
Side Air Bag dual front and dual rear dual front and dual rear dual front dual front and dual rear dual front
Xenon Headlights Standard Standard Standard Optional Standard
Navigation System CD navigation system DVD navigation system CD navigation system DVD navigation system DVD navigation system w/voice activation - Optional
Handling Phaeton A8 7 Series S-Class LS 430
Turning Circle 39.4 ft. 41.7 ft. 41.3 ft. 40 ft. 35.8 ft.
Max. Cargo Capacity 13 cu. ft. 15 cu. ft. 18 cu. ft. 15 cu. ft. 20 cu. ft.
City 16 mpg. 18 mpg. 18 mpg. 17 mpg. 18 mpg.
Highway 22 mpg. 24 mpg. 26 mpg. 22 mpg. 25 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity 23.8 gal. 23.8 gal. 23.3 gal. 23.2 gal. 22.2 gal.
Length 203.7 in. 204 in. 203.5 in. 203.1 in. 197.4 in.
Width 74.9 in. 74.6 in. 74.9 in. 73 in. 72 in.
Height 57.1 in. 57.3 in. 58.7 in. 57.2 in. 58.7 in.
Weight 5194 lbs. 4399 lbs. 4464 lbs. 4390 lbs. 3990 lbs.
Wheel Base 118.1 in. 121 in. 123.2 in. 121.5 in. 115.2 in.
Front Headroom 37.2 in. 37.4 in. 39.2 in. 37.6 in. 38.1 in.
Rear Headroom 38.1 in. 38.3 in. 38.5 in. 38.4 in. 37.9 in.
Front Shoulder Room 59.6 in. 59.1 in. 59.3 in. 59.2 in. 58.3 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 57.8 in. 57.5 in. 58.9 in. 58.3 in. 58.2 in.
Front Leg Room 41.7 in. 41.3 in. 41.3 in. 41.3 in. 44 in.
Rear Leg Room 43.1 in. 42.3 in. 43.4 in. 40.3 in. 37.6 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 13 cu.ft. 14.6 cu.ft. 18 cu.ft. 15.4 cu.ft. 20.2 cu.ft.


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