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Buy It Now! Phaeton To Drive Off Into Sunset After 2006
2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8
Road Test And Photography By

2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Road Test
Volkswagen's flagship Phaeton luxury car. Click on images for larger views.


Highs: More luxury than most living rooms, competitive V8, adjustable air suspension, handsome style

Lows: High price, over-assisted steering, no high-beam xenon, low fun-to-drive

The Phaeton showcases everything Volkswagen knows up to this point.

With elegant wood, sumptuous leather and electronics galore, it is a large ultra-luxury car that can run with the best of them. In fact, the Phaeton beat out the mighty Mercedes S class in a Car And Driver comparison test.

Yet while cruising fast and effortlessly along some of North America's finest highways, we find it difficult to believe this car wears the VW badge. Perhaps this is unfair to Volkswagen, but perhaps not — changing public perception usually doesn't happen over night.

The Phaeton starts at $67,370 US for the V8 (our test car) and $97,270 for the top-end W12.

Items such as a heated steering wheel, electronic parking assistance, keyless access and power trunk lid are options. In our opinion, nearly everything should be standard — VW is a newcomer to this segment and needs to give customers a strong reason to consider a high-priced VW. So why not be a value leader, as the automaker is with other models.

All considered, options can bring the price tags up to a whopping $79,320 (V8) and $104,760 (W12).

However, the standard features are nothing to sneeze at. Like a four-corner air suspension that can be raised and lowered, loosened and stiffened at the touch of a button, resulting in a remarkable difference in handling. To get the most fun out of this big heavy sedan, we kept the suspension at its lowest and sportiest settings, making body lean in corners reasonable.

2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Road Test
To call the Phaeton a luxury limousine is not an exaggeration.

Also standard are four-zone climate control, a custom 10-speaker stereo system, navigation system, LED taillights and tire-pressure monitor. We are surprised that bi-xenon headlights are not standard — only xenon on the low beams. Even the lowly Jetta and Passat are available with bi-xenons, the latter with a cornering function.

On the road this big VW shows off its Autobahn-bred family lineage with reflexes that are tauter than the competition. The Phaeton goes fast easily and double-pane windows keep speed noise out of the cabin.

Riding and driving in the Phaeton is like spending time in your living room — perhaps even more comfortable and luxurious. The interior is gorgeously crafted of quality wood, leather and soft plastic. The dash wood conceals vents that opens only when summoned, a neat feature. Otherwise fresh air is diffused gently through the top of the dash and not directly on the face, drying out the eyes and contributing to fatigue. This diffuser is available on many new VWs.

Miss your La-Z-Boy? It's here — complete with massage function and foot rests for rear passengers.

2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Road Test

The Phaeton's V8 churns out a healthy and competitive 335 horsepower, good for a zero-to-60 time of 6.5 seconds. This is the same engine as the Audi A8 but called upon to motivate 500 extra pounds. The Audi is made of aluminum, making it lighter and thus more athletic.


Vehicle Type Large,
Price Range* $67,370 to $79,320 (US),
$99,925 to $125,165 (CDN)

Engine V8, 4.2-liter, 40-valve
Horsepower 335 at 6,500 RPM
Torque 317 pound-feet at
3,500 RPM
Curb Weight 5,194 pounds
Weight Per Horsepower 15.5 pounds
Transmission Six-speed automatic
with manumatic shifting
0-to-60 MPH 6.5 seconds
EPA Mileage 16 MPG (city),
23 MPG (highway)
14 MPG (city),
21 MPG (highway)
*Prices are for the model trim tested and include VW's destination fee.
A six-speed Tiptronic transmission is standard and 4Motion all-wheel drive ensures no power is wasted. We drove the Phaeton on slick ice and through five inches of snow and it performed admirably, especially given its low-profile 18-inch tires. It garnered more than a couple surprised looks from other motorists left spinning their wheels.

One caveat and our only real criticism of the Phaeton: the steering is too light, over-assisted and doesn't firm up with cornering forces. This requires keen attention so as not to overshoot a corner or lane change.

If you do mess up, a plethora of electronic handling and traction aids have got your back: ABS, ASR, EDL, EBC, EBD, and ESP with HBA. Since most Phaeton buyers have likely earned initials behind their names, VW includes many of its own.

For the fun-to-drive factor, the Phaeton ranks with the Touareg SUV. These vehicles are purpose-built with fun coming second. We're not eager to jump back in the saddle and take the long way home as we are with other Volkswagens, especially with a thirsty V8 that drinks premium fuel.

More like a truck than a Volkswagen, certainly not becoming of a luxury car, the parking brake engages by stepping on a large lever. Release it by pulling a separate equally large lever. The Phaeton's brake is mechanical but should be electronic like the Passat's, which is
2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Road Test
activated by a simple button.

Subtle elegance is how we describe the exterior style. The Phaeton is handsome and easy to look at, unlike BMW's busy 7 Series. Design cues are clean with enough detail to make things interesting, a bold road presence with a hint of aggression from the frowned headlights.

The new Passat, a large car in its own rite available with a powerful V6 and lots of features, considerably narrows the gap between it and the Phaeton. VW agrees its other models can sufficiently satisfy customers' needs and will pull the Phaeton from North America. Sales in 2005 are down by over 50 percent and after 2006 the Phaeton will drive off into the sunset.

The Phaeton will soon become a rare classic and a real marvel to behold on the roads.

For vast spaciousness and top-end luxury accoutrements, the Phaeton is the ultimate Volkswagen.

Also see:
Phaeton Photos

2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Road Test  2006 Volkswagen Phaeton V8 Road Test
The Phaeton's four-corner air suspension can be raised and lowered,
loosened and stiffened at the touch of a button.

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