2005 Volkswagen Phaeton W12

Let me start by saying this: Are you really going to drop $15,000 on an about-to-be 15 year old needlessly complicated Volkswagen? Then you must be looking at a R32, because they’re simply no way you’re contemplating this car.

Volkswagen piggybacked on the success of its B5, C5 and D2 platforms with a decidedly upscale move in the late 1990s. The headlines seem preposterous, but then so was the result; Volkswagen Siamesed two 2.8 liter VR6s together on a common crank, then stuck them in the middle of an all-wheel drive supercar. Still utilizing the Syncro moniker, all four wheels were driven by the 414 horsepower W12 and with a body from Giugiaro’s ItalDesign, it looked poised to take on just about anything. Volkswagen wasn’t done, as they punched out the motor to 6.0 liters and raised the specific output to a shocking 591 horsepower. It was renamed the W12 Nardo, and it then went to its eponymous track and produced staggering results. It’s easy to overlook the achievement now, but in 2002 VW managed to lap a W12 Nardo at 200.6 mph…for 24 hours. That’s right, in 24 hours a Volkswagen became the fastest car in history over that distance, covering an amazing 4,815 miles. That’s one fifth of the world’s circumference, if you’re counting.

What VW did next was perhaps even more shocking. The world was used to upscale market brands of popular marques; after all, what were Lexus, Infinity, Acura…heck, you could even lump Audi into that group. But Piëch gambled that you’d pass over all those brands and…BMW…and Mercedes-Benz…to plunk down over $100,000 on a W12 Phaeton. Few did. Specifically, only 482 did, and it seems like more than half of those are black. Here’s one that’s not, for a change. And, it’s no reserve!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Volkswagen Phaeton on eBay

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Budget Bentley: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12

Walk into a Volkswagen dealership in the early 2000s, and it was clear that the brand had taken the people’s car upmarket. The Mk.4 Golf/Jetta looked decidedly more modern than the Mk.3 holdovers from 1998. The 2001 introduction of the B5.5 Passat splashed chrome, leather and wood all over the mid-range sedans and wagons and offered exotic-sounding performance from the wild optional W8. But it was this car that really signaled VW was operating on a different plane; not only did they bring over the D1 platform Phaeton, but with it they brought the monstrous 6.0 W12.

While to many the Phaeton looked like a reskin of the D3 Audi A8 and indeed the two did share some componentry, the D1 platform was actually shared with VAG’s other subsidiary Bentley. Both the Continental GT and later Flying Spur shared the infrastructure, meaning the Phaeton enjoyed extreme levels of refinement, ride quality and fit/finish that weren’t typically associated with “the people’s car”. While all the luxury added up to north of 5,000 lbs without passengers and it lacked the twin turbochargers the Bentley boys got, the Phaeton W12 was still the fastest car in the VW showroom in 2004. With 420 horsepower driving all four wheels, the Phaeton was capable of effortless and nearly silent 5.5 second 0-60 runs and could break 200 mph unrestricted.

While it sounds great, there were two drawbacks. One was that to nearly everyone your Phaeton looked just like my Passat. And while a loaded W8 4 Motion Variant Passat was really, really expensive, you and your significant other could drive out of your local dealer with not one, but TWO fully loaded Passats for the price of just one W12 Phaeton. It’s no surprise that the U.S. market wasn’t ready for a $90,000 Volkswagen, and a scant 482 were sold here before the model was yanked. But today, that means you can get these market-busting models for pennies on the dollar:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12 on eBay

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1939 Horch 930V Phaeton

Okay, I’ll admit that we don’t spend a lot of time on pre-War German cars. The why is quite simple; outside of an occasional Mercedes-Benz model, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars exported to the United States. Heck, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars, period.

Contrary to popular belief, German wasn’t a nation of drivers until well after World War II. It was something that Mercedes-Benz and upstart conglomerate Auto Union lamented to a certain then-new German Chancellor by the name of Adolf Hitler. Hitler agreed; he wanted and needed the automobile industry in Germany to prosper to help resurrect the economy. But he also needed German car firms to take to new markets. The results you likely know; Hitler spurred the industry through lowering of automobile taxes, and more notable, the encouragement and funding of international-level automobile racing. It’s one of the few times in history that a government has undertaken full sponsorship of a race effort, and without a doubt it was the most successful and evocative. Should you care to on this blustery and very cold late December evening (at least here in New England, where temperatures are struggling to reach double digits), you can read all about it in my dissertation:

Motorsports Monday Special: Racing to Sell – The ‘Silberpfeil’: Part 6

The result of all of that racing and support of the automobile industry was that both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union prospered – for a while. The unfortunate side-effect of the buildup for the Spanish Civil War and World War II, along with re-arming several areas of taken from Germany through the Versailles Treaty was that by the late 1930s, automobile production had ceased to accelerate because of artificial shortages of items like metal and rubber. Couple that with the fact that most Germans, though much better off in aggregate following the NSDAP takeover in 1933 than they had been during the Great Depression from 1929-1932, still weren’t very rich. So although both Auto Union and Daimler-Benz produced ultra-luxury models like the Mercedes-Benz 540 series and the Horch 853, few outside of high-ranking party officials could afford them. And even then, they were often gifts to gain favor with the notoriously corrupt government.

Today, some 80 years on from that time period, these incredible machines have gained a new appreciation in the market place. Long second fiddle to the pre-War stand-bys – Rolls Royce, Packard, Bentley, and Duesenberg, the rare models from Mercedes-Benz have come to surpass the value of nearly all pre-War cars outside of some real exotics, and Horch models, too, have come to be much more highly valued:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1939 Horch 930V on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Phaeton

The Phaeton is a very perplexing car. It was established as a plan to produce a no-expense spared, world-beating luxury car – and, in many ways at the time, it was world beating. It offered similar luxury and performance to the established German standards – Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class and BMW’s 7-series, but also challenged stable-mate Audi’s A8. Yet it was available on a more Volkswagen budget – at least, in theory. That’s because if you walked into a Volkswagen dealer in the mid 2000s and wanted a basically optioned model, you’d be out about $75,000. For reference, that’s about three times what my expensive-for-the-category Passat cost in 2002. And the big problem with that was how the Phaeton looked, because a bulk of the population wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart.

But that wasn’t the point about the Phaeton. Nor was it that you could get the lighter, aluminum version of what appeared to be the same car from more upscale Audi that would arguably attract much more attention for not much more money. And it was this exact confusion that befuddled the market; why would you ever pay $75,000 for a Volkswagen? The trick came in realizing what you were getting, which actually shared little architecture with the Audi corporate partner. Park a Phaeton next to an A8 and you’d swear they were just about the same car with light badging changes, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Although the model shared components with the D3 A8, it also shared much more architecture with other side of VAG’s portfolio – the Bentley Flying Spur and Continental. This meant a steel chassis rather than the aluminum space frame, and that meant more weight – a lot more weight. To mitigate this, Volkswagen upped the power slightly over the A8’s V8 to 335 and dropped its axle ratio to 3.65:1. The result was that the BGH equipped 4.2 liter V8 Phaeton could run with the A8 in a straight line – just. To outdo the Audi, then, Volkswagen had to up the luxury quotient in the Phaeton, and they did. Inside of these cars is a simply amazing place to be, with double-laminated glass, hectares of wood and enough leather to make a Village People audience envious. There were heated, cooled and massaging seats, navigation systems, 420 watt stereos and disappearing cabin vents. Shut the door and they’re quiet – eerily, disturbingly quiet, in a “Uh-oh, what broke?” kind of way if you’re used to the People’s Car. Remove the VW badge from the steering wheel, and you could easily be fooled into thinking you were in a Rolls Royce from the period.

But not everyone was convinced, and as a result they sold slowly in the United States. Volkswagen offered boutique colors and wheels to help set the Phaeton apart from the rest of the VW run, but it was only really in Germany that the appeal of the understated Wundercar ever sold in number. Only a few thousand were brought into the United States, this 2004 being one of the claimed 1,433 to make it the first year:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton on eBay

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Honorable Mention Roundup

The “Honorable Mention” post from last week seemed to be a popular choice, so I’m back this week with another selection of cars we didn’t get a chance to get to. We’ve got one from each major manufacturer this time around which makes for an interesting and diverse group. Which is the one that deserved a better look this time around?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Audi Quattro on eBay

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2005 Volkswagen Phaeton v. 2004 Audi A8L

At first glance, you’d be excused thinking that the Volkswagen Phaeton and Audi A8 were the same car underneath. Especially when it came to the D3 chassis, the Audi and Volkswagen shared many styling cues, as well as engines and transmissions. However, the Volkswagen is actually quite different underneath – instead of the typical platform sharing that occurred between Volkswagen and Audi, VAG instead turned towards their upscale brands for the Phaeton. That’s right, underneath the Phaeton is a budget Bentley. You can tell the difference when you step inside, too – back when these were new, a Phaeton showed up at a Winter Driving School I was instructing at. I hopped in the passenger side and shut the door; the sound was a unique sound of sealing the rest of the world out. All of the sudden I swear I could hear my heart beating. It was eerily quiet, as if I had entered a sound booth. It was also eerily competent on the snow and ice in spite of the over 5,000 lb. curb weight. That’s a few hundred pounds north of the Audi A8 even in “L” guise, and it wouldn’t surprise me if 300 lbs of that difference is noise deadening. A generation on, you’re now able to get into a Phaeton or its cousin the Audi A8L for about the same price. Which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Volkswagen Phaeton on eBay

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Baby It’s Cold Outside – 10K Friday AWD-Off

Maybe you’re lucky, and it’s sunny and warm where you’re reading this. Or, perhaps you’re stuck under a rock – or in the case of Buffalo, several feet of snow. But like it or not, winter is upon us a bit early this year, and if you are in Buffalo you probably need some sort of snow-cat to get to the local store. Hopefully, that’s not the case for most of you but I wondered what sort of all-wheel drive car you could get on a $10,000 budget. As it turns out, you might be able to get a little more than you expected – so here’s a few offerings from the different manufacturers, starting with the folks that started it all:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi A4 3.0 quattro on eBay

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Fantastic Phaetons – 2004 and 2006 Volkswagen Phateon W12s

The Volkswagen Phaeton has been, since introduction, quite an intriguing car. Generally passed off by those out of the know as a rebadged A8, every time I see one I’m blown away that Volkswagen pulled the project off. Despite what the American enthusiasts think, the exclusive executive sedan has been very popular in Europe and specifically Germany – where it’s much more in vogue to fly a little lower on the radar. Fly low the Phaeteon does; for many, at first glance it doesn’t look much different than the B5.5 Passat, and many of the styling cues were incorporated into the B6 Passat sedan. Couple that with a general resemblance to the D2 Audi A8, and not many notice this serene Volkswagen shuttling its passengers in near silence. I say near silence, since the only noise you hear inside is the slightly slower beating of your heart and heavy breaths as you soak in the luxury. They’re disturbingly quiet inside, thanks in no small part to extra thick glass and soundproofing. Every conceivable option available in the Volkswagen catalog was thrown at these cars, including the top-spec W12 motor. Shared with the Audi A8, Bentley Continental GT and Flying Spur, the W12 is a monster of power – easily capable of propelling the very important people riding along with you quite close to 200 m.p.h. when deregulated. This is especially shocking given the Phaeteon’s weight – a staggering 500 lbs heavier than the Audi A8 you’d presume was the same car, the Volkswagen was simply in another weight class and quite different than the D2/3 chassis. Yet, despite the exotic Bentley stablemates that share many components and the D1 platform, today you can pick up one of these expensive cars that were a bit of a sales flop at a substantial discount:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Volkswagen Phaeton W12 on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12

Years ago, the thought of a twelve cylinder Volkswagen would have been unthinkable. What was devised as the “People’s Car” during World War II has now turned into a dominant force in the global car market, controlling a number of different brands spanning almost every market segment. The Phaeton was the car that took the battle to the luxury car segment directly to the competition’s doorstep, mainly Mercedes-Benz, BMW and even in-house brand Audi. While it is still on sale in Europe, few noticed on these shores and the car disappeared from the lineup after three model years. Now these large sedans represent a bargain if you are, of course, brave enough to battle the potential pitfalls and repairs that comes along with such a complex machine.

While most Phaetons had the 4.2 liter V8 under the hood, this W12 for sale in Missouri is the pinnacle of the flagship line for Volkswagen, with an engine similar to the one found under the hood of certain Bentley models.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12 on AutoTrader

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V8 Week: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton

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The Volkswagen Phaeton may have been too far of a reach for the brand to sell well in the US, but the car itself was a serious accomplishment. The W12 is a monster while the 335-hp V8 is more than capable for a large and luxurious all-wheel drive sedan. It may look like an overgrown Passat and have the achilles heel of overcomplication, but some Audi wheels can address the prior and finding low-mileage examples like this one can at least delay the latter. Meanwhile, you’re going to be cradled in an epic luxury sedan that you bought for the price of a base-model Golf.

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Year: 2004
Model: Phaeton
Engine: 4.2L V8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Mileage: 65,846 mi
Price: $17,888 Buy It Now

Click for more details: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton for sale on eBay

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Up for sale is a 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton. This Phaeton is one of Germany’s FINEST ON EVERY LEVEL. This is Volkswagen’s most LUXURIOUS cars ever! This beauty has a CLASSY BLACK EXTERIOR with a COMPLIMENTARY TAN INTERIOR!!!

The 2004 Phaeton has a 335-HP V8 Engine that will put you in your seat. It has a ROCK-SOLID BUILD and has an EXTREMELY ROOMY INTERIOR.

This Phaeton has a Certified Carfax & Guaranteed Autocheck!!!

Options & Features:

Navigation
Parking Sensors
Soft-Close Doors
Power Front Seats
Memory Front Seats
Power Lumbar Support
Power Rear Sunshade
Rear Side Sunshades
Wood Trim
Power Moonroof
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control
Heated Front Seats
Air Suspension
Power Tilt Steering Column
Steering Wheel Audio Controls

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It may not be the fastest or flashiest, but some pragmatic German car fan is going to snap this up for pennies on the dollar and feel awesome rolling around with as many features as an S-class or 7-series. As a long-term proposition, the maintenance issues are known but Phaeton prices can’t really go much lower, can they?

-NR