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2004 VW Phaeton

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San Francisco: Sometimes I think the whole world is going crazy. This is one of those times. More and more people move to California, while those already here bemoan the fact that they cannot afford to live here. Millions of people buy gas guzzling SUVs, pickups, and cars while the price of fuel leaps past two bucks a gallon and then openly complain that gas is too expensive. And a Volkswagen now bumps up against the $100,000 mark!

Does this make sense to anyone? Volkswagen, by its very name, the people's car, has designs on the rich and famous? Suddenly the most absurd becomes sane. Why would Volkswagen do this? Why would they openly compete with their corporate brethren, Audi? Marketing? Maybe there just were not enough VW owners moving up to Audi, moving instead to a different brand? By creating an upscale VW, the faithful do not have to leave the fold when they strike it rich?

I know, I said I would not write negative articles but it is just getting to be too much. Isn't a $100,000 people's car close to the ultimate oxymoron?

OK, having vented, I will now say the Phaeton is a nice car. I did not drive the top of the line, W12 (6.0-liter, W12-cylinder engine), $94,600 Phaeton. No, I drove the 4.2-liter V8, $64,600 ($74,365 with options and destination) Phaeton. It was a very nice, extremely competent car.

The V8, essentially the Audi 4.2-liter V8 rated at five more horsepower, driving through a 6-speed automatic transmission and 4MotionTM all-wheel drive, moved the Phaeton quite nicely. I can only imagine the extra 85 hp of the W12. VW says the V8 gets the 5,194 lb. Phaeton to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and it tops out at 130. The W12, weighing an additional 205 lbs., gets to 60 in 5.9 seconds.

The transmission, the only one available, is a technical marvel. The idea behind a six-speed automatic is to keep the engine in its optimum operating rpm range. It works great in theory and it worked great at full throttle.

At partial throttle though the transmission was pretty busy up-shifting, then down-shifting, and up-shifting again, all depending on the incline of the road, and throttle application.

The Phaeton was designed to compete with the best European luxury cars. It does. There is a feel of quality throughout and the attention to detail is phenomenal. Take the trunk hinges, which look like they belong in a museum. They are cast aluminum, beautifully machined and polished. The trunk opens and closes automatically with the touch of a button. Nothing new with that, but I have never seen an automatic trunk that works so silently, or one where I had no idea where the motor was hidden.

The Phaeton almost seems like it is intended to be chauffeur driven. The back seat has so much legroom, even with the front seat fully rear I could sit in the back and not touch the front seats. A great place to sit and read the Wall Street Journal while your driver negotiates through the perils of the morning.

In a tradition that annoys me, VW continues to make it so that I have to read the owner's manual to understand the controls. Even then, things kept happening that I did not know why. One night, out of the blue, the lighted cruise control buttons (on the steering wheel) went dead. I could not figure out what had happened. The next day while browsing the owner's manual I noticed a small button on the side of the steering wheel's center. I must have brushed it and turned the lights off. I like controls that are intuitive.

When I am driving, I do not want to take my eyes off the road to see where this or that is, I want to reach out and find it at my fingertips. Like many men, I do not want to have to read some voluminous owner's manual just to find out how to open the fuel filler door! I have seen paperback novels shorter than the manual of the Phaeton.

The fuel consumption of the Phaeton is not too bad, all things considered. The V8 is rated at 15-city and 22-highway; the W12 at 12-city and 19-highway. Premium is recommended for both engines.

I really do not know what to say about the Phaeton. It is a good car but I just cannot come to grips with such a pricey VW. I do not understand the rationale for it. Is it for VW buyers with too much money? Or people with money who want to give the impression they are of the people? How will it play with the rich and famous? Will they brag about driving a VW, a $94,000+ one at that? I have an upscale, name-brand conscious friend who said it all with "I don't care what it costs, it's still a Volkswagen!" So tell me, has the whole world gone crazy or what? By Bruce Hotchkiss AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Phaeton is the rich man's V-dub
Topic:  The 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton
Word Count:   898
Photo Caption:  The 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton
Photo Credits: Volkswagen Internet Media
Series #:   2004 - 15

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2004 VW Phaeton

Download the original image file here:  2004 VW Phaeton 14k

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