Vehicle Review - 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jan 20, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Playing With The Big Dogs: VW's Phaeton May Be The Best Big German Sedan For The Money

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    By ROGER HART
    (08:30 Jan. 26, 2004)

    FEW CARS HAVE COME to market in recent years that have stirred more debate than Volkswagen's Phaeton. Long known as the maker of the people's car, VW has gone seriously upmarket with the Phaeton, targeting well-established luxury sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series, not to mention the A8 L from VW sister brand Audi.

    Phaeton comes to the fight well prepared. The sedan is outfitted in what is arguably the nicest interior available, with beautiful wood and leather throughout. The interior is inviting, with the quality of the materials and precision operation of the switchgear begging you to reach out and touch them.

    Like all vehicles in this class, Phaeton comes equipped with a multitude of electronic doodads one expects, including a high-end, 270-watt stereo system, integrated navigation system, and on-screen confirmation of the HVAC and suspension settings. We like the sound system, although no matter how many CDs we can stuff into a changer (Phaeton's is mounted in the glovebox), we still want a single-disc in-dash unit, and a car attempting to play in this rarefied air should come equipped with satellite radio. However, we do like how the radio gives you a list of stations it can receive, with new ones popping up on the screen as you cruise along the highway.

    The radio and navigation controls are much easier to use than BMW's infamous iDrive, but the system is still complicated. Using the buttons on the dash and around the screen is intuitive, although a large button for managing much of the system is difficult to grip, and with gloves on, impossible to use. Luckily a steering wheel-mounted thumb wheel mimics the controls, so we used it instead. To get completely comfortable with the system took us a couple of days behind the wheel, not to mention a chunk of time one evening reading the owner's manual to sort out all the controls. We expect dealers will spend a bit of time with new owners going over this information, but we'd keep the manual close by.

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    Our test car was equipped with a 4.2-liter, 335-hp, 317-lb-ft V8, the same engine in the A8 L, and we found it a delight (a W12 engine is optional), with a wonderful exhaust growl, something you don't expect in a luxury car. Coming standard with 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive with Torsen center differential, the car weighs in at a hefty 5399 pounds, but the V8 is more than up to the task. Even with five adults aboard, we didn't lack for power, and driving through a five-inch snowfall, we appreciated not only the awd, but also the vehicle's substantial heft. And while we played around a bit with the suspension settings that change the shock damping and ride height (two ride heights and four shock settings are available), we found the comfort setting most to our liking, with the sport setting a bit too firm for the frost-heaved Detroit highways. The air suspension automatically lowers at speeds above 86 mph, but in the wintry mix of weather dumped in the Detroit area around the holidays, we didn't have the opportunity to exploit this feature.

    Our biggest complaint with Phaeton is the six-speed automatic transmission. In stop-and-go traffic, the tranny is always searching between gears, dropping down a gear with just a bit of throttle input and shifting up one or two gears as you ease off the throttle. If you need to get back into the throttle quickly, say to take advantage of an opening in traffic, the tranny hesitates while it figures out what gear you need. The car is equipped with an auto-manual, but in a luxury car, the automatic should be better.

    Our other complaint is with the steering. While certainly no sports car, Phaeton can be driven spiritedly, but the steering is too light, with a vague on-center feel and slow turn-in that is wishy-washy. Not qualities you relish when pushing the limits, nor a feel that is up to the rest of the vehicle.

    Despite that, many on our staff argue Phaeton is the best German sedan available for the price, with VW over-delivering and under-pricing to attract customers. For a comparably equipped S-Class, the sticker would be near $90,000.

    If our wallets were fat enough to drive a German luxury car, would we venture into a VW dealership? We'd argue it's worth the trip.

    2004 VOLKSWAGEN PHAETON
    ON SALE: Now
    BASE PRICE: $65,215
    POWERTRAIN: 4.2-liter, 335-hp, 317-lb-ft V8; awd, six-speed automatic
    CURB WEIGHT: 5399 pounds
    0-60 MPH: 6.7 seconds


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    GRITZINGER: This is one expensive, overdone and way overweight Volkswagen. If that's what you're looking for, buy in and along with it you get almost G35-good styling (at least from the rear) in a really huge sedan. The back-seat footwells alone could handle three sets of ski boots-on each side. This is a limo.

    Given all that, if what you're looking for is a competent, sporty driver in a full-size luxury sedan, this isn't your best choice. This car is more than half a ton heavier than a 2004 Jaguar XJ8, which costs less, drives smoother, is more refined and, well, it's a Jag-you-ah. The Jag is supposed to be a luxury, high-end car; it doesn't have to put on airs (or the electronic equivalent) to get there. On two occasions, each time driving a different Phaeton, I've had the climate control electronics go ziggy, resulting in seriously fogged windows. If I want Brit-type electronics problems, I can just buy a Brit car, thank you very much.

    I'll say it again: Phaeton is luxurious, heavy, huge and overdone. And it's a Volkswagen. Confused? You're not the only one.

    LUU: I second Bob's assessment. I couldn't see myself passing up the cheaper but dynamically better XJ8. I'll give the Phaeton the styling, because it's smooth and proportional, and with better wheels would be downright handsome. The interior looks the part, but doesn't have the airtight feel I expected as I started playing around with the controls. It rolls through the corners, steering feedback is average, and power delivery is just enough to move its 5000-plus pounds, though it sounds pretty good. Would I buy one? No, because when you're playing in this class, curb appeal and ambience behind the wheel are what make these luxury liners so appealing. Volkswagen has easily done that, but then what sense is there in having an Audi with the same price?

    DATE IN FLEET: Dec. 29
    AS-TESTED PRICE: $74,365

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  2. iZero

    iZero Guest

    It's going to be a colossal flop.
     
  3. Sideways

    Sideways Do I look like I give a damn?

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    It already is....
     
  4. Rev Happy

    Rev Happy Active Member

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  5. AlphaIntegra

    AlphaIntegra Guest

    lol trash
     
  6. mucky

    mucky .

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    Example of bad brand management right here folks!
     
  7. Kevin

    Kevin New Member

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    i saw it at the auto show and was VERY impressed
     
  8. iZero

    iZero Guest

    Then again, this is the same company that sells $27,000 Jettas.
     
  9. Jericho

    Jericho Active Member

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  10. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    That's a huge bitch :o
     
  11. Sideways

    Sideways Do I look like I give a damn?

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    and $40,000 Passats
     
  12. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I wonder how many rattles and electrical problems it'll develop in the first 10k miles? :o
     
  14. BenFer

    BenFer I've seen bigger OT Supporter

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    i dont think it will be a flop. think it will actually sell. the toureg is doing damn well and this is the same target audience
     
  15. iZero

    iZero Guest

    I just tried to price one out, and check this:

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    That's right, maroon will cost you two grand. :rofl:
     
  16. iZero

    iZero Guest

    Oh boy, if you want Chestnut wood instead of Eucalyptus, that's $300.
     
  17. iZero

    iZero Guest

    Two of the interior colors (blue and a differnet black) will cost you $500 more.
     
  18. fallenbox

    fallenbox Guest

    wow that is fucking overpriced..... gee....... lexus, vw........... benz, vw........ bmw, vw....... I think I'll take the vw :rofl:
     
  19. fallenbox

    fallenbox Guest

    that's because SUVS are popular regardless...
     
  20. iZero

    iZero Guest

    The Audi A8 costs just about the same and looks far better. It's also made of aluminum so it weighs less (a huge 1,000 lbs. less) and still has similar power (330 horsepower). You've still got the same AWD system and a real V8 instead of the W8 contraption.
     
  21. mucky

    mucky .

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    VW's taking a page out of GM's style of brand management. Make your own brands compete with each other at the high end of the spectrum. :eek3:
     
  22. iZero

    iZero Guest

    Not only that, but there is a W12 version of the Phaeton and there is a new V12 A8 coming out as well.
     
  23. M4A1

    M4A1 :)

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    AHAHahahahaha. Nice try VW.
     
  24. JizJizJiz

    JizJizJiz I love hot girls.

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    I'll get one in 3 or 4 years :hs:.
     
  25. mucky

    mucky .

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    The depreciation on this thing will depreciate like a mutha'fukka.
     

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