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2004 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Review

VW Phaeton

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

USED CAR PRICE : $5000-$25,000 A Bargain For A Uber Luxury Car

By Bob Gordon, Co-Publisher
The Auto Channel

Auto Central: 4/9/2004; I have test driven lots of cars during my review research over the years…most of the cars I drive do not elicit even a second look from the folks around town…but this time it was different.

Driving a new VW Phaeton brought me the kind of attention that only a trophy wife can generate from a bunch of car guys who have seen it all.

During my week with the Phaeton the car served me well, as I drove the back roads of Kentucky on my favorite test drive routes…up and around…in and out of the hollers…from bumpy county roads to high speed interstates…from the gym to the supermarket and from the gas station to the car wash and back to the gas station…we have them all here in beautiful central Kentucky.

The most interesting places that I took my Phaeton(alas for only a week)was to car dealers around town. My daughter Carre is looking for a new car, and as a good daughter of a car guy (and a journalist in her own right or should I say “own write”) she thought that I should act as the Phaeton's chauffer while we made a day of looking at and driving the cars she hasn’t yet driven but was considering for purchase, hoping to see which ones could generate a spark of love.

But an interesting and strange thing happened everytime we drove onto a dealer’s lot and parked the Phaeton in a customers only spot…out they came…one by one and soon two by two…kinda like the ghouls in the movie “Night of the Living Dead” (sorry for that, but the image worked for me) …these car guys moved ever closer and closer to the Phaeton, eyes glazed over, drawn to this behemoth that was becoming their(and everyone else's)center of attention …but soon real smiles appeared on their “Next Up” masked faces...their eyes truly sparkled and tires were kicked and the questions began.

The questions I heard the most during my week long test of the 2004 VW Phaeton were…What is it?; A $75,000 VW?; Can I sit in it?; How much horsepower does it have and is it enough? How does it drive? How do the Plasma screen controls work? Is it sold in Louisville? All good questions that deserved good answers.

Throughout the week the VW Phaeton generated more questions than any other car I tested…and throughout the week I continued to discover answers. Although a week is more than adequete for most cars, I feel that one week with this car is not enough time to learn all of the driving and accessory nuances that you “just” come across as you use the car as transportation in everyday life.

Some of the neat things I learned: the Phaeton has a self charging mini halogen flashlight in place of a cigarette lighter; the automatic trunk not only opened and closed at the touch of a button but the lock latch actually folded up into its own space as the trunk reached its zenith, so you wouldn’t bang your head into the latch; speaking of the trunk…WOW, the Phaeton has a trunk to beat all trunks…Tony Soprano and the boys could fill it with three large bodies and still have room left over for shovels, plastic wrap, and some warm merchandise that happened to “fall offa da truck“; the back seat was so large and well appointed that even an NBA center would feel comfortable and pampered back there…plus the seat’s adjustments rivaled a Sharper Image recliner; speaking of recliners and Sharper Image, all the seats on the car I drove had A/C vents, lumbar supports and a built-in massager…you just never want to leave the Phaeton…I was hoping for a back scratcher control and a WC but never found them.

Ok back to the most asked questions:

What is it?

It is a heck of a car that rivals any on the road…a beautiful venue that provides a more than comfortable ride, a car that at the touch of a button can be made more relevant for any driving condition: 4 Motion AWD, Electronic Damping Controls; Auto Leveling Air Suspension; Electronic Stabilization Program including ABS/ASR/EDL with brake assist…plus Engine Braking Controls; Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Servetronic Power Steering. The Phaeton has Air Bags Everywhere, Tire Pressure Monitor; Rain Sensors and Heated Windshield Washer Nozzles; Sun Shades on the windows and on and on and on and on and on and on…you can see the details below.

A $75,000 VW?

And well worth it …its German ride and handling is the equal to cars costing twice as much as it does. and the fit and finish are spectacular…with blond Sonnen Beige leather and Chestnut Wood Trim in all the right places the Phaeton was right at home in my family’s estate carriage house (oh yeah. VW says it looses 15% of its owners to luxury brands each year so it needed a step up for VW fans

Can I sit in it?

No sir, no sitting…only looking…you car selling peasants …”It’s good to be king“

How much horsepower? Is it enough

The Phaeton’s 4.2 liter 40 valve engine is rated at 335 horsepower…with fuel consumption estimated to be 15 in the city and 22 on the highway…does is it have enough horsepower?...I must confess that I think the Phaeton at 335 horsepower was underpowered…and I guess VW agrees with me as they are making a W12 version of the car available in 2005, I can’t wait to get my hands on that baby…another tidbit of information that I furrowed out, is that the Phaeton’s first cousin the Audi A8 has basically the same specs, but its 4.2 liter 40 valve engine is rated at 330 HP and is built in Germany while the Phaeton’s engine is built in Hungry…who says you only get the same old same old in our reviews?

The Phaeton even caused a chat room stir among VW aficionados here in Louisville with their online chatter focused on the fact that my Lune Blue car was spotted driving around town…I guess it’s the first one to visit the Bluegrass…and even with a $75,000 MSRP I am sure it won’t be the last.

SPECS As Promised:


Engine and Transmission
Engine 4.2L V8
Horsepower 335
Torque 317
Valves Per Cylinder 5
Displacement (CI) 252
Displacement (CC) 4172
Bore 3.33
Stroke 3.66
Compression Ratio 11.0
Turbocharged No
Supercharged No
Power To Weight Ratio 15.5
Automatic Transmission Standard
Adaptive Automatic Transmission Standard
Interactive Transmission Standard
Transmission Speeds 6
Driveline All Wheel Drive
Final Drive Ratio 3.65
Battery Saver/Rundown Protection Standard
Delayed Power Retention System Standard
Fuel Capacity (Gal) 23.8
EPA Fuel Economy (City) 15
EPA Fuel Economy (Highway) 22
Combined Fuel Economy 18
Cruising Range 428

Braking, Traction and Driveline

All Wheel Drive Standard
4 Wheel ABS Brakes Standard
Electronic Brake Assistance Standard
Locking Differential Standard
Traction Control Standard
Vehicle Stability Control System Standard


Power Steering Standard
Variable Assisted Steering Standard
Adaptive Variable Suspension Standard
Stabilizer Bar Standard
Automatic Load-Leveling Standard
Front Suspension Independent
Rear Suspension Independent


Head Room, Front Row (Inches) 37.2
Head Room, Second Row (Inches) 38.1
Leg Room, Front Row (Inches) 41.7
Leg Room, Second Row (Inches) 43.1
Shoulder Room, Front Row (Inches) 59.6
Shoulder Room, Second Row (Inches) 57.8
EPA Passenger Volume (Cubic Feet) 108.0
EPA Cargo Volume (Cubic Feet) 13.0

Entertainment, Communication and Navigation

Radio Standard
CD Player Standard
CD Changer Standard
Number Of Speakers 10
Subwoofer Standard
Radio Anti-Theft Standard
Diversity Radio Antenna Standard
In Glass Radio Antenna Standard
E-Mail Access Standard
Internet Access Standard
Telephone Standard
Hands Free Or Voice Activated Telephone Standard
Telephone Antenna Standard
Navigational Aid Standard
Vehicle Location System Standard
Telematics Systems Standard
Front Power Outlet Standard
Rear Seat Or Cargo Area Power Outlet Standard

Climate Control

Automatic Climate Control Standard
Separate Driver/Front Passenger Climate Controls Standard
Rear Seat Climate Controls Optional

Windows and Sunroof

Power Windows Standard
Power Window Lockout/Override Standard
Tinted Glass Standard
Rear Window Defogger Standard
Sunroof/Moonroof Standard
Power Sunroof/Moonroof Standard


Standard Seating 5
Front Bucket Seat Standard
Driver Multi-Adjustable Power Seat Standard
Passenger Multi-Adjustable Power Seat Standard
Front Heated Seat Standard
Front Cooled Seat Standard
Front Power Lumbar Support Standard
Front Adjustable Seat Height Standard
Front Fold-Down Armrest Standard
Front Power Headrest Standard
Second Row Bench Seat Standard
Second Row Bucket Seat Optional
Second Row Multi-Adjustable Power Seat Optional
Second Row Power Lumbar Support Optional
Second Row Fold-Down Armrest Standard
Second Row Power Headrest Optional
Leather Seat Standard

Steering and Interior Trim

Tilt Steering Column Standard
Telescopic Steering Column Standard
Memory Steering Column Standard
Automatic Tilt Away Steering Column Standard
Heated Steering Wheel Optional
Leather Steering Wheel Standard
Genuine Wood Trim Standard
Front Floor Mats Standard
Second Row Floor Mats Standard

Safety and Security

Crash Test Rating (Driver/Passenger) NL/NL
Driver Airbag Standard
Front Passenger Airbag Standard
Front Side Airbag Standard
Second Row Side Airbag Standard
Side Head Curtain Airbags Standard
Front Seat Belt Height Adjuster Standard
Front Seat Belt Pretensioner Standard
Trunk Anti-Trap Device Standard
Side Guard Door Beams Standard
Electronic Parking Aid Optional
Vehicle Anti-Theft Standard
Vehicle Theft Tracking/Notification Standard
Interior Automatic Day/Night Or Electrochromic Mirror Standard
Power Door Locks Standard
Selective Locking/Unlocking Standard
Child Safety Door Locks Standard
Keyless Entry (Remote Lock/Unlock) Standard
Multi-Function Remote Standard
Panic Button Or Alarm Standard
Universal Garage Door Opener Standard
Remote Decklid or Tailgate Release Standard
Remote Fuel Door Release Standard

Instrumentation and Lighting

Tachometer Standard
Clock Standard
Compass Standard
Outside Temperature Gauge Standard
Inside Temperature Gauge Standard
Cruise Control Standard
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls Standard
Trip Computer Standard
Tire Inflation/Pressure Monitor Standard
Illuminated Vanity Mirror Standard
Reading or Map Light Standard
Delayed Courtesy Light Standard


Seatback Storage Standard
Armrest Storage Standard
Door Mounted Storage Standard
Cupholders Standard
Cargo Area Tiedowns Standard


Height (Inches) 57.1
Length (Inches) 203.7
Width (Inches) 74.9
Wheelbase (Inches) 118.1
Front Track (Inches) 64.1
Rear Track (Inches) 63.5
Turning Circle (Left) 39.4
Turning Circle (Right) 39.4
Ground Clearance (Inches) 5

Wheels and Tires

Tire Detail SBRP235/55HR17, All-Season Tires
Alloy Wheels Standard
Full Size Spare Tire Standard

Lighting, Mirrors and Wipers

Fog Lights Standard
Automatic Headlights Standard
High Intensity Discharge Headlights Standard
Daytime Running Lights Standard
Perimeter Lighting Standard
Trunk or Interior Load Area Light Standard
Power Adjustable Exterior Mirror Standard
Memory Adjustable Exterior Mirror Standard
Heated Exterior Mirror Standard
Interval Wipers Standard
Rain Sensing Wipers Standard
Headlight Washers Standard
Heated Washer System Standard

Exterior Design

Metallic Paint Optional
Power Trunk Lid Standard
Doors 4