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!
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:
If it weren’t for its big splash in the movie Ronin, I tend to think that the first generation Audi A8 might be relegated to the dustbin of automotive history. This is quite a shame, because along with being the first Audi with an aluminum space frame, this ĂĽber saloon also debuted the W12 engine. Don’t remember the A8 6.0 W12? Well, if you were a consumer in North America, this isn’t surprising, as these uncommon, twelve cylinder D2s were produced with Europe and Japan in mind. This example for sale in Germany is one of 750 D2 A8s produced with this revolutionary engine. Is the S8 a bit too mundane for you? This executive express should scratch that rare Audi itch.
Time for another Honorable Mention Roundup of the cars we just didn’t have a chance to get to this week. We’ve got quite a few reader submissions in this edition, and by chance it ends up focusing on some super sedans which are all quite affordable in their own ways. Which is the one we should have spent more time on?
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?
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:
Years ago, the thought of a twelve cylinder Volkswagen would have been unthinkable. What was devised as the â€śPeopleâ€™s Carâ€ť 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 competitionâ€™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.
One car that seems to have gone unnoticed in the Audi lineup in the last few years has been the top dog of the A8 range, the W12. I was surprised myself to go on the Audi USA site yesterday and see that they still offer this ĂĽber saloon, as the V8 powered A8s and S8 surely get the job done in the power department. However, there is always going to be those customers who just want something over the top. In that case, this W12 for sale in California certainly fits the bill.
Engine: 6.3 liter W12
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Mileage: 18,712 mi
Price: $87,994 Buy It Now
2012 Audi A8L W12 6.3 LWB quattro
**CARFAX ONE OWNER**, Maintenance Records Available, and NON SMOKER VEHICLE! GPS Nav! All Wheel Drive! When was the last time you smiled as you turned the ignition key? Feel it again with this great 2012 Audi A8. This rare A8, with grippy AWD, will handle anything mother nature decides to throw at you during one of her bad days at work.
To be honest, I think the W12 powered A8 is one of those cars whose days are numbered. While fuel economy in big engines such as these has improved over the years, the power advantage over eight cylinder lumps isnâ€™t as great as it used to be. Also, for those wanting 12 cylinder power, Iâ€™d have to assume theyâ€™d go to even higher end marques such as Rolls Royce and VWâ€™s own Bentley, who use a variation of this engine in their lineup. This particular A8 has already lost a sizeable chunk of its original retail price and is sure to lose even more at a rapid rate, so only the well heeled who can afford massive depreciation need apply in this case. Still, itâ€™s neat to marvel at this rare Audi, all the while thinking this may soon be a shining example of what once was.