|Grand Prix - Volkswagen Phaeton
And speaking of cost, we've known people
with acres of VWs which are worth less than this
12-cylinder luxo-bahnrenner: $105,705 for VW's rolling
apartment, though if you keep the options down, you'd
keep the price below six figures. You just know you'd be
the only one on your block with one...
Much has been opined about the
wisdom of Volkswagen's move upmarket. That discussion
should forever be put behind us, because the Phaeton is
deserving of its place alongside the world's finest
luxury performance sedans--and even if it weren't, VW
has few other directions in which to expand. Criticisms
of the big sedan's dynamic qualities were few during our
test, but each one, fairly or not, was tainted by the
Phaeton's price. The 12-cylinder-powered version we used
for the Grand Prix competition stickered for $105,705,
but those six figures do include more than $11,000 in
extra charges. Even if you do some subtraction--exclude
$4,000 for the Apassionata blue paint, $1,750 for the
air conditioned/massaging seats, $500 each for
electronic parking assist and eucalyptus(!) interior
wood, and $700 for keyless access (there's nothing to be
done about the $3,000 gas guzzler tax), the $94,600 MSRP
is still breathtaking for a company whose roots, though
left behind long ago, are still an influence on its
growth. The last aircooled Beetle finally emerged from
the factory in Mexico, so let's agree it's time for the
world to join VW in focusing on what really counts--the
need to break out of its restrictive reputation as the
"people's" car company.
One way to assume an air of exclusivity is
to build a car that very few people can own. Those very
few buyers, however, are extremely demanding and have
great cars to choose from, so merely becoming a player
is no guarantee the ball will ever get passed to you.
With experience from the Audi division's current reach
into the luxury arena, VW isn't exactly a neophyte, but
its badge is definitely more appealing to the nouveau
riche, who show more flexibility in the brands they buy
than the older, more traditional buyer of such
Lack of wonderful content is not
this car's problem. For the Phaeton to have won our
Grand Prix, it would need tweaks to the running gear and
suspension, which still doesn't quite match the
combination of ride and handling of the competition.
This isn't a tough job to pull off, so we expect
subsequent generations of VW's luxury lines to challenge
for best in the world.
Very stable at speed, but suspension could be tightened
a notch. Feels like you're piloting a Donzi offshore
"I look like a valet in
"Put 20s on it and lower it an
inch or two."
"Eerie lack of road noise and light
steering at speed compromises driver confidence."
"Excessive brake dive, but overall
traction is spectacular. Fast as hell."
"I dig the cabin layout, but a few
switches look a bit cheap in a car of this stature. And
the steering wheel has all the style of a mailbox...come
on, guys, you can do better."
"A wonderful first attempt at the
luxury market. Forget the badges on the car; it belongs
in the same class as the big boys from Munich, Stuttgart