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An Entirely New Wunderwagen
2004 Volkswagen Phaeton
By Alain Gayot

In short: Smooth as silk: inside, out and all around.

Ready for a new car? Here's a really new set of wheels, both for you and the manufacturer. VW joins the ranks of the sport luxury sedan market with this big, ultra comfortable, very cool and totally new automobile. We had the chance to ride in silk for a week and drove a car that answered all of our demands. There is also a brutal W12, if you want to shave off a couple of seconds to the next stop light and pump more gas.

Why this new car? Test drive it and you will agree that technology never ceases to progress, and that all of a sudden you love progress. You could buy a Golf, a New Beetle and a Jetta, and still have some spare change to go to the movies, for the price of just one of these new goddesses. Will it be successful? Skeptics wonder how the car of the people can now be the car of the very rich people. The answer is: upward mobility.

Speaking of mobility: with all the new drivetrain stuff with the auto leveling air suspension and safety devices on board, this ship gets you sailing smoothly with elegance and a lot of space. For sure, a lot of the ideas and components are shared with other cousins in the line-up at Audi. But still, it takes some guts to launch such an automobile. It’s almost as if the German manufacturer should have dropped the VW name and gone simply with the Phaeton name, not unlike Mercedes-Benz did with the Maybach.

There are family looks that you will recognize from the Passat and Touareg’s front end and an overall well-designed and practical interior, but in this case it's über luxurious. Each of the four passengers get their own climate zone and massaging seats. Burled wood covers hide vents, should you not need them. There is so much legroom in the back that you will struggle with the concept of getting a driver...and there is huge trunk so you may take it all with you.

Details of comfort and luxury include: navigation system with visual and audible commands, rain sensor and heated windshield washer nozzles, leather wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, 18-way power adjustable driver seat and 16-way power adjustable front passenger seat, power height adjustable, telescoping steering column with memory and easy entry/exit function, multi-function trip and onboard computers with instrument panel integrated 5" color display. The Technology Package includes: Electronic Parking Assistance and Power Opening/Closing Truck.
Take a road trip anywhere and a long one; it might just be the best trip you ever had.

Read a review of the Volkswagen Phaeton W12

Warranty/Service: Volkswagen New Vehicle Limited Warranty: Four-years/50,000 miles; Powertrain Limited Warranty: five years/60,000 miles; Limited Warranty against Corrosion Perforation: 12 years/unlimited mileage.

Price As Tested: $72,515

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

Engine: 4.2-liter V8
Horsepower: 335 bhp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Curb weight: 5,194 lbs
Wheelbase: 118.1 in
203.7/74.9/57.1 in
Turning circle: 39.4 ft

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS and electronic brake assist
independent front and rear, automatic load leveling air suspension
all-wheel drive, traction control, vehicle stability control, locking differential

Safety: front air bags, front and rear side abdomen air bags, front and rear side curtain head air bags, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitor

0-60 mph: 6.6 seconds
Top Speed: 135 mph (governed)

EPA City: 15 mpg
EPA Highway: 22 mpg

Read our review of the Volkswagen Phaeton V12

Volkswagen's glass factory built entirely new for the Phaeton

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Photography: Walter Mladina

(Updated: 07/28/08 HC)