What is it like to drive a Phaeton?
You know those movies where the main character is stoned? He's got that grin on his face. Everything slows down. His senses are both dulled and heightened? And everything is chill? That's what it feels like.
I've had this 2005 V8 Phaeton for a week now. I've put about 1,500 miles on it. A lot of long distance superhighways, mountain passes, traffic jams, errand running, parallel parking. It still doesn't have 40,000 miles yet. These are my impressions, plus a lot of trivia about the machine.
The first thing you notice is the size. It's a whale (203.7" long, or 5.17 meters). I parallel parked this in a tight spot last night, and it wasn't pretty (or quick).
It's also heavy. It weighs 5,194 pounds (2,361 kilos). And you notice that most at the pump. I got about 16 mpg in the city and 22.5 on the highway. It's quite disconcerting that after a few quick errands, 1/8 of your 23.8 gallon (90.1 liter) tank is empty. I will definitely be taking public transportation more.
On tight curves, the mass is definitely noticeable. However, you always feel in control. The steering is very light (maybe a tad too light) and it takes a lot of turns to get the wheel from lock-to-lock. So it's kinda like manning a bus, or a boat.
13.0 cubic feet of room in that cavernous trunk. Enough to stow four golf bags, or two Tata Nanos. A full sized spare is under the floor.
The VW badge is awesome. Nobody will look twice at you, except for the occasional, and befuddled, Jetta owner. So far, only one person, the guy who repaired my windshield, knew what a Phaeton was. And by the way, all the windows, and I mean all of them, are double paned.
It is very quiet inside, even at high speeds. You feel isolated. You pick up on the minutest of noises-- the fabric of your peacoat gently rubbing on the leather seat. I've also been able to hear planes flying high overhead, because there is virtually no wind noise.
To minimize wind noise, exterior panel gaps are just 3 mm wide.
All the Phaetons sold in America are the long wheelbase version. It's essentially like the Audi A8L or the Bentley Continental Flying Spur. The rear passenger compartment is massive-- almost as big as my first apartment's kitchen.
The rich walnut wood accents are everywhere.
The car comes with two carpeted footrests. All the doors are "soft close", i.e. motors shut the doors for you.
Mine is a V8 without a lot of options. It only came with 12-way heated seats. The W12 version comes with 18-way seats that have heat, air conditioning, and massage. The seats are soft and firm. There is not a lot of lateral support, but then again, I'm not going to be doing any heavy cornering.
The car comes with four zone climate control. 25 servomotors move air inside the car and are capable of creating four distinct microclimates of between 64 and 82 degrees. Oof.
The upmarket version of the Phaeton has a much more complex rear seat console. In that one, you can adjust your seat and temperature. The most complicated Phaeton contains 140 buttons for its driver and passengers.
Just look at that hinge!
Each rear door has two manual screens (one for each window). The rear windshield screen is motorized.
This is the view from noted owners such as Kim Jung-Il and the Pope.
There's also lighting under the front seats for the benefit of the rear passengers. What the actual benefit is, I don't know. Seriously, with all this equipment, the car should weigh 8,000 pounds.
These gauges all have that purple reflection. You've got oil temp, tach, engine temp, fuel, speedo, and volt.
Each front window comes with defroster vents. That button next to the vent is the on-off button. Note the wood covering what would be the front vent.
6-speed auto with Tiptronic. The car height is manually adjustable and automatically lowers itself at 60, 75, 85, and 112 mph. There are four firmness settings for the shock absorbers. The 2005 Phaeton is superior to the 2004 model in one important respect. When the air suspension on one corner of the 2004 fails, all four corners have to be replaced (at $10,000). With the 2005, you only have to address the faulty corner.
The Phaeton is VW head Ferdinand Piech's brainchild. A/C air exacerbates Piech's asthma. So unless you want a strong blast of cold or hot air, the traditional vents are covered with these wooden pieces.
As for superfluous engineering, when you are tuning the radio and you reach the end of the dial, the radio knob locks up. You have to turn the knob the opposite direction (until you reach the other end of the dial, and the knob locks again).
See those thousands of microholes between the dash and windshield? Air comes out of those holes. When you sit in the car, you feel air moving, but you don't feel anything approaching a wind.
Overhead buttons, lights, switches, and speakers.
Right below the headlight is the door for the headlight washer nozzle. When activated, the nozzles operate one side at a time, so as to not compromise visibility. All of the washer fluids are heated, of course.
The 4.2 liter, 40 valve V8 is good for 317 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm and 335 hp at 6,500 rpm. 0 to 60 can be achieved in a not-too-quick 6.7 seconds. American models are limited to 130 mph top speed.
The brakes are strong but pedal feel is a bit spongy. According to a Phaeton book the previous owner gave me, the brakes come with the following systems: ABS, ASR, EBA, EBD, EDL, ESP, HBA.
The 4Motion all-wheel drive system generally distributes power 50-50. But it can direct up to 66% of the power to the front or the rear.
A couple of things about the wipers. 1) When in wash mode, the wipers will sweep three times, pause for a few seconds, and then do one final sweep to pick up any leftover fluids. 2) When the wipers come to rest, the wipers adjust their resting angles every other time so that the blades do not wear out prematurely.
What else can I say? To describe every single feature and impression would take up hundreds of pages. I am very happy with the purchase. The transferrable extended warranty/service contract does not expire until the summer of 2013. The car has been well taken care of and doesn't appear to have any major issues. I'll be posting updates in the future.
I'll close this with the following note:
"Two hydraulically dampened engine mounts reduce the transmission of engine vibration to the passenger compartment. At idle, a pneumatically actuated solenoid allows engine vacuum to pull a positioning spring in the engine mount down, allowing the easier transfer of a glycol mixture through the mount, which softens the mount and reduces the transmission of engine vibration. At a speed of about 3 mph, the engine-control unit cuts off current to the solenoid valve, closing the hydraulic connecting channel between the two chambers. Now, the exchange of hydraulic fluid is through a smaller spiral-shaped channel, thus making the engine mounts firmer."