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Tag: Phaeton

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 Pich 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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