So, in typical me fashion...I bought another car.
Quite some time ago at work we created a "Getting to know you" book for staff, by staff and about staff. This book's goal was to tell everyone something a bit more about yourself by answering basic questions like you would find in a high school yearbook...heros, goals, factoids...the lot. One of these questions was "what is your dream car?". Of course, everyone writes down some impossibly expensive or weird car that for whatever reason they find unattainable due to financial obligations, practicality, availability or memory and then promptly forget about it.
Original Kijiji Ad Photo, Profile
A long time later when the books were finally distributed (hey, why don't you try designing and publishing a book for 500 people entirely in house in your spare time!) the first thing I did was check my particular page to make sure that all of the information was correct. I knew that there had been issues with stenography as well as type and legibility of the original forms handed in to fill out the book and I wanted to make sure that mine was accurate, or if not that I had some kind of idea as to what was wrong with it so I could explain it later. Refamiliarizing myself with my entry, I noted that everything I listed had come out correctly. Interestingly enough, I had forgotten exactly what I had put in for the "dream car" category. As someone who is just generally car crazy, my vehicle of choice may vary from minute to minute and anywhere from a new Mazda 5 to a Ford RS200, Miura, Jag D type, CLS AMG, shark-nosed Camaro...really, I'd need a barometer as an indicator to be accurate. Anyway, there in print on the page said what I had submitted:
Jaguar XJ220, Volkswagen Phaeton, Porsche 962
A curious question then popped into my head: Just how far off where these cars?
Being that I was on my lunch break, I whipped out my trusty Blackberry Storm and went to the interweb for some answers.
Jaguar XJ220...becoming more affordable...now only low 6 digit numbers for a reasonable one in working condition. Perhaps some day. Porshe 962 next...still not really in "the zone" at hundreds of thousands for a turn-key copy, tens of thousands for a kit-car version of dubious completeness and accuracy...or nearly a million for a real one. Yeah, that isn't going to be happening any time soon unless I want to work until I die and live in the thing. On to the Volkswagen Phaeton...what do you mean they're $6000???
I found several examples online in "falling apart condition" out of the USA for around $6k. Yup, $6,000 for a miled out, broken 8 year old luxury sedan. Doesn't sound impressive when you put it that way, does it?
Now, the story must be better than that, because I've taken the time to write about it.
I noticed that there was a lot of variability in pricing of the cars depending on mileage and options, so I looked into it further and found that there was a whole culture of owners online (as there seems to be with any chassis these days) that had broken down the Phaeton from the inside and put together a truly astounding amount of information about these cars. In fact, they had gone so far as to develop contacts with Volkswagen directly to the point that members of the forum were directly involved in creating the diagnostic software used to analyze the car's systems. That's quite a base of insider knowledge for any car, much less one as complicated and as rewarding as this.
Original Kijiji Ad Photo, Power Plant
Let's take a step back and remind ourselves what makes the Volkswagen Phaeton so special. Back in the late 90's/early 2000's, the head of Volkswagen (one Ferdinand Pierch) set his engineers the task of creating a car that would beat the world. It was given parameters and specifications so insanely impossible from a design standpoint that many people said that it could not be made. Keep in mind the same people told the same man the same things about the Bugatti Veyron when he proposed it too, and look how that turned out. Anyway, the basic idea was that Volkswagen needed a flagship to call its own...one to trump all others...and when you own Audi, Lamborghini, Seat, Porshe, Bugatti and Bentley...making a car to lead the pack is a tall order at best. Supposedly, Volkswagen's boss presented the engineering team with a list of 10 "demands" that the car had to perform that were so impossible half of the engineering team quit when they heard them. Only one of these gems has been told to the press to my knowledge, which I heard on BBC's Top Gear back in 2003.
It goes like this: Pierch insisted that you should be able to drive the Phaeton all day (meaning 24 straight hours) at 186mph (yes, you read that right) when it is 122 degrees farenheit outside and the air conditioning must be able to maintain a temperature IN the car of 71.6 degrees farenheit. Maintaining that speed for that time alone is insane, much less overheating it further with the A/C on. Lets not forget...Pierch further insisted at that speed the hood is not allowed to exibit any kind of shake or vibration.
Original Kijiji Ad Photo, Front Cockpit
For some reason, Volkswagen claims the rest of the challenges are "secret". The argument that others make for this lack of public declaration is that they are too technical and full of engineering speak to matter to anyone in the real world. If I told you the chassis had to have a yaw-moment-of-inertia that was over 37,000n/m, would that really mean anything to you? Probably not. The example given, by the same token, is as close to something we mortals can understand as possible...and if you are any kind of car person you instantly realize from it how insanely ridiculously hard it would be to do...much less how you could mass-produce it and somehow sell it in the shape of a useable car full of bells and whistles so quiet that you can't hear the engine at 200mph for only $100,000 new in 2002. If that makes any sense, anyway.
So, I decided that some investigation was in order and started hunting for information on the car. I learned a lot in a few minutes from www.vwvortex.com and their Phaeton owners forum. This forum seems to be the main hub for owners on the internet...well, certainly those from north america. I figured out what the options and packages were, and had a bit of a look at what a good one would go for. I thought I was prepared for what the car was capable of, and I have never been more incorrect about anything in my entire life.
As the idea grew more and more in my head in terms of its brilliance, I started shopping for one. Now, most of them where cheap and miled out. It isn't hard to find a phaeton online for $6k as I said earlier. Body parts will be missing, parts will be broken, the drivetrain will have been to the moon and back. No sense buying one that has all its dash lights on when you test drive it when you can spend more and get a good, low mileage model with all the bells and whistles working. I went shopping on the usual used car websites and as I had suspected there was one for sale in my area. It was $17k, had 200k+ kilometers on it...and when I snuck over to see it, had clearly been in two accidents and all its tires were flat. That wasn't going to work.
Original Kijiji Ad Photo, Rear Cockpit
I decided that in order to get a good one, I would have to expand my range and think outside my city. This meant opening myself up to the internet's wolves. Buying a car sight unseen is a very, very stupid thing to do...so travel may be in order.. I found a couple of cars further away...Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Winipeg, Toronto...you get the idea. It was easy to cut many of them due to visible damage, lack of options or hilariously high mileage...but a couple of them stuck out because of one little thing: warranty. Many phaetons for sale still have warranty...and the best part is that as long as the warranty hasn't expired you can buy more!...so it is a desirable bit to find still available on a used phaeton. Not wanting to buy from the USA, I did everything I could to stay in Canada and sorted it down to three or four cars in various spots across the country. Several of those were easy to rule out because, well, the people selling them were hacks who didn't return emails staring with "I'm ready to hop on a plane with a cheque if you'll answer these questions". Only two of them did.
One of them was a total con artist. He claimed his car had warranty and "every possible option" though he refused to send me the build sheet to confirm what it had, which also prevented me from doing a lean check. He offered to fly me out to buy his $19k white car, to screw another interested buyer out of the sale in my favour...nothing made sense. The car is still for sale at even more money and has "changed hands" a few times even though it is still for sale by the same person under someone elses name. Hopefully he dies a slow death thinking about how he was a dirt bag all his life. Needless to say, after all I've learned, I know his car was a base model with few options. The price was okay for what it was (it is inflated now) and it had warranty still, but the owner was impossible and a liar. Can't deal with those, now can we?
20 x 8.5" Niche Mirage's With Pirelli P-Zero Neros
The other car was for sale by owner in Montreal. We'll call the owner Marc and say that he was most helpful in the purchase of his car. He answered every question to the best of his knowledge and even called the dealer to get answers when he didn't have them. A lawyer by trade, he had to sell the car as he had recently purchased another and had run out of room for machinery at the homestead. Marc was so helpful that he even talked to people at the DMV to make sure papers were in place for me to get home if I decided that I liked what I saw. The build sheet and lean check told me everything...the black car had two owners. Marc had driven the car a paltry 6k or something since he bought it several years ago from the orignal owner and it had been in a minor fender bender that he was totally up front about from day one. I arranged with Marc to fly out to see the car in real life, as I was not about to buy a car sight unseen off the internet. I had seen many pictures of it, but it still needed to be road tested and seen in real life. No telling what it would be like through a keyboard and the small cost of a weekend by plane in eastern Canada paled in comparison to a $20k lemon where just replacing an alternator was $2k. I made arrangements, conscripted a great friend, and hopped on a plane for adventure.
Montreal was an interesting place. The cab drivers were insane and the traffic was awful. Still it was easy enough to get where we were going and soon met up with Marc and his...red car. No wait, it's gold. Now its purple...wtf? While the build sheet clearly stated the car was black and Marc had said it wasn't quite...black... but something else that had to be seen to be understood...I still wasn't quite ready for what awaited me. It seems that the information online is a little lacking for the Volkswagen "Luxury Black Heliochrome" paint. Let me put an end to that now and state that it is exactly like BASF Chameleon in every way, but tasteful and not in your face. Marc and I shook hands and I unleashed my friend upon the car to find any flaws he could. He would...he is very, very good at what he does. I distracted Marc a bit with chit-chat and a car tour while my friend did his thing. He was quite worried that I had lost my mind and had come on the trip out of friendly dedication stating before we left that he "didn't want to go, but I know you're going to do it anyway and I won't let you go alone". Needless to say, because the car was his route home, he wanted to make sure the return trip didn't end in a cloud of steam, fireball or whimper on the side of the road.
Fairmont Sir Wilfred Laurier Hotel Room, Ottawa
I have to say, Marc was all class. On the plane, my friend and I had made a check list of every car system we knew about, and Marc not only agreed to let us test them all but went so far as to point out things we had forgotten or didn't know about. We had a nice little information exchange as there were things both of us knew that the other didn't. I was quite afraid that I had talked Marc into keeping his car at one point! But, over the span of two or so hours, we learned everything was terrific with the car...it was exactly as advertized. I gave Marc a bank draft, we went and topped up the car with petrol and hit the road for Ottawa. Marc had even programmed my key in for me and helped me record all of my personal settings for the drive home. The phaeton will allow up to three keys, each with its own associated settings. When you unlock the car with remote "X", it alters the car to those seat settings, radio preferences etc before you get in. Truly trippy to watch from outside the car.
My co-adventurer had planned about a dozen million alternative routes just in case. We didn't really have a plan persay...we knew we wanted to stay in Canada if we could as crossing borders in freshly purchased cars is usually a problem. We elected to go as far as we could as fast as we could and booked for Ottawa. Not having a plan wore on my friend as he is the methodically planned-out type. I was flying by the seat of my pants, which was annoying him. Fly to a strange city, drop large money on a car you've spent 2+ hours with, drive across the country without a plan...I totally understand what he was on about. I had an ace up my sleeve in the form of my Blackberry. I ripped it out and hit hotels.com and told it to find me a place to sleep in Ottawa, cost no object. I'm not a high roller, and I do not want to come off as a dick by writing that. I was just prepared to make sure we had fun over the next 4500km. My friend deserved to stay in luxury and have a good time and I didn't care if it broke me...it was going to happen. Hotels.com returned to me with a night's stay in the Fairmont Chateau Sir Wilfred Laurier. Seeing the word "Fairmont" was enough for me, and at $220 for the night I hit "buy" and off we went.
View From Fairmont Sir Wilfred Laurier Hotel, Ottawa
Rolling into Ottawa was impressive. There is nothing like rolling through downtown Ottawa in a car that changes colour with 20" drug dealer wheels on it in the summer. History passing the windows, minor V8 burble in the air...what a great drive! We did run into one problem where one of the tires on the car kept losing air and was blowing up the TPMS on the car causing warnings to fly...but we had packed enough simple tools to know the tire had enough pressure in it and there was nothing to worry about. We stuffed the car into the hotel's garage near some Ferrari 430's and Mercedes SL AMG's, checked in and hit the town. The hotel had double booked our room by accident (not sure how that happens) so instead of one room with a double bed we got two rooms with single beds. Out the window? Parliament Hill, The Supreme Court, The Bank of Canada and the legendary canals. We wandered up and down the street, stopping to take in a festive summer light show played out over the Parliament as tuner cars rolled by in the night behind us.
A good night's sleep and breakfast in the hotel lobby set us up for check out and a return to adventure the next day as we set off. We decided we needed to make it to Sault Ste. Marie at the least. We cruised out of Ottawa high on the night before, back past the majesty of history and out to the free roads. Now that we had time, we began to explore what we came to know as the magic of the phaeton. We set the route into the sat nav and started exploring the owners manual. It was there we discovered that the TPMS sensors could be reset from the dash, shutting down the infernal warning that kept popping up the drive before. We also discovered via the forums how to set, adjust and "fit" the car to our needs through its basic controls. Not quite as in depth as using the VagCom system to program the car, the phaeton's settings are quite in depth with things like the timing of lighting, availability of rain sensing wipers, auto-on headlights etc. all being quite easy to manipulate. It took me a bit longer to work through the fun of the gauge cluster display and steering wheel controls, but by that afternoon we realized that the car was a dream come true. It really began to shine, easily clicking off the k as we ate up Ontario.
Parliament Hill Summer Light Show, Ottawa
The route we chose was taking us around the north side of Lake Superior, which proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Rushing through Sudbury, it became apparent that no matter what you are driving, nobody in Ontario gives a fuck about you if you're on the road. The easy solution to that was to use the phaeton's insane power delivery to put us ahead of the road debris known as Ontarioans. Did you know that the phaeton has a speedo that varies in increments? It starts in 10s, then 20s then 30s off the top end. It needs these increments to keep up, from what I can tell...as the road gets faster, so did the car. Leaving it on cruise at 110 or 120kph returned about 9.5 l/100k, which was impressive for a V8 5500lb car with a fat person, a thin person, luggage and 4 spare wheels/tires in it. We learned quickly that the car could leap from the posted 90kph to 180kph in the length of a tanker truck. It got to be a bad joke that you could just put your foot down and the world's problems would go behind and to the right. At some point on day two the car became nicknamed "Dampfwalze" or "Steamroller" in german, both due to its penchant for smoothing the road and pounding through anything we put in front of it. I should say, we used the app Poynt for just about anything...food, fuel and whatever else came up. We travelled light and fast and blasted into Sault Ste. Marie around 5pm.
We hit the local McDonalds for road food and briefly discussed the next attack...do we stay here in boring-land or run for Thunder Bay? We elected to run. Hopping in the car, I fired up hotels.com and we flew...only to find that Sault Ste. Marie has no internet or cell phone service to speak of. This resulted in us getting turned around on the way out, which probably cost us an hour. All told, we'd been in the car for something like 10 hours at this point, though the actual number exscapes me. We corrected our direction, reconnected with the website and made our way out.
The Road To Thunder Bay
What a drive! As per my co-adventurer's suggestion...the best idea in the world may actually be to have a friend in Ottawa and a live in Thunder Bay. You can invite each other over for dinner a lot for an excuse to drive this road. Better still could be to have a place at each end of the road and constantly change your mind on which car to drive....having to go get the other one at the other location every weekend. I love driving the mountains between Jasper and Banff, but this was the same type of road in...Ontario!? The road that runs around Lake Superior is a terrific piece of engineering that twists and turns like a drunken snake complete with elevation changes. The trip to Thunder Bay took us well into the morning at a total of about 21 hours. We hit the hotel parking lot about 230am...the last 50-100km having been absolute murder where I considered pulling the car over and having a nap. Here the phaeton's quad-zone climate control came into its own. It let me leave my side stone cold to keep me awake while allowing my friend to have the comfort of 22c. Unfortunately, there was no real place to stay in Thunder Bay so we got stuck staying at some horrible motel type place...one of those places where they have bottle cap pullers attached to tables, walls and the bathroom sink? Needless to say, we weren't rested when we got up, never really having slept. The bathroom fixtures were coming off the walls and in one part of the hall the ceiling had caved in due to water leaking. It turned out the "free breakfast" that came with the room was some continental bullshit that was limited time only and entirely eaten by U.S. tourists before we got up at 6am! We left disgruntled, hit the local McDonalds for some breakfast cheeseburgers and stared at the car through the rain. It was now a shade of purpley-grey and still looked stunning nestled in a town too crappy to realize it had even been blessed by its prescence. The kid at the local gas station new something was up when 18 feet of Volkswagen nestled itself at the pump and settled for its fill, his eyes falling out of his head when I opened the power trunk to check for the tire gauge...but other than that, Thunder Bay was a hole. Knowing what we know now, we would have stated in Sault Ste. Marie, been rested, and blasted through to Winipeg without stopping...but that's neither here nor there.
The road to Winnipeg was largely uneventful...the car's excellence really popping against the tame traffic and roads we found on this leg of our journey. We kept 10kph above the limit as we had the entire trip, and passed cars like a whippet in a sea of basset hounds. We were so clearly above the rest of what greeted us on the road. Fearing Winnipeg, where stories of wealth gaps and gang violence pour into newspapers across the country, I hit hotels.com the third time and came up with another Fairmont...this time the Fairmont Winnipeg Hotel square in the middle of downtown. Seeing Fairmont, I felt a bit better knowing they would have a reputation to uphold and that the car would remain protected...Otherwise I would sleep in it. They assured me they would take care of the car and parked it right in front of the front doors overnight where the bell hops were stationed. We found our room, left our stuff and asked the conceirge to point us in the direction of the best nachos in town, which was apparently in the building with the bar the block behind the hotel.
Rainy Thunder Bay Parking Lot
We left in search of nachos to find a drunk still sleeping off the afternoon's fill in the hotel flower bed. Yay Winnipeg. We were acosted for change not 50 feet from there and we still hadn't left the front of what had to be the nicest hotel in the area. You're a charmer, Winnipeg. We were the only customers in the bar, despite it being in the downtown core at getting-off-work-time. The waitress knew nothing about the city, and had no education and no dreams despite her young age. It was Winnipeg, and that was all she knew...get job, find man, have kid(s), life is over. We left the bar, having had some of the worst nachos in recorded history to have nothing better to do than walk the mean streets of a forgotten city. There wasn't much going on. The streets were low in traffic and people. The town itself presents as run down and unloved...nearly Canada's version of Detroit, but without the character or story line. Not quite carpet bombed, but far from bumping and grinding. Despite wandering past the deserted City Hall, Art Gallery and Provincial Parliament buildings...there was literally NOTHING going on in this place besides the fact that Gigantour was playing at the local arena. This was where you got to see average Winnipeg...goatee, oversized skater shorts, black T-Shirt, basket ball or skater shoes with white socks, vacant expressions...
And then we discovered nobody in Winnipeg was hospitable. Having wandered well into the downtown core away from the hotel, we found ourselves several kilometers short of a washroom. So, we started asking at hotels, restaurants, businesses...nobody would let us use theirs...at all. It wasn't until we wandered into one last hotel in what was becoming a desperate situation and the last bell hop said "no sir, I can't allow that" again that I lost it and blasted him. After me snapping and he graciously giving us keys to the washroom (yes, in a hotel...just like a cheap gas station...but in a 3 star hotel in a downtown core of a major city) I got what the issue was. They don't allow people to use the washrooms as a "public" service because the locals use them to do drugs or live in them, becoming hard to deal with, wrecking the place and otherwise causing issues for visitors and staff. As he and I were having this conversation, a group of teens walked in, knocked over a planter, pulled out some joints and started smoking them in the lobby...not even guests of the hotel. The bell hop barked at them and they swore at him and left. We said our thanks and made for the hotel. Great impression Winnipeg...you're everything I've said for years. I never thought I'd say it, but it's rare when an entire city is a total dive. We stayed our night and got up to find the car was gone.
Cockpit During Flight, Lake Superior
Despite my request, the bell hops had taken the car and stored it over night in the hotel's parking garage. I had objected because it was a full block away and had nobody watching it. It seems the bell hops over ruled me and moved it because, despite their constant presence at the hotel door, they felt the car wasn't safe there. How's that for a dismal thing to say? We got out early before Winnipeg came back to life and booked for home, plowing through the prairies like nothing. On the homeward stretch the car was still a beacon of perfection, having...I think that "stunned us" is the correct expression...with its road manners. It never left us, hung us or did anything beyond exactly what it was supposed to do. We got it home, covered in bugs and road grime, in a totally uneventful return.
I left the car overnight at my friend's house. He had graciously offered, knowing that the cars at my house had to be re-arranged before I could park it there. Neither of us wanted anything to happen to it overnight and it was due to go to the dealer the next day to get an out-of-province inspection. Unfortunately, I took it to the wrong dealership. I should have taken it to South Side Volkswagen instead of the Go Auto dealer I took it to where I was totally disappointed with the service I received. The car got all new brakes and a service for a total of about $2200. The rotors are the smallest fitted to a phaeton in the world at 14.5" in diameter and 1.5 inches thick. The SMALLEST. Knowing what I know now, I could have done the brakes for half of that, but I was convinced at the time that the dealer was going to do a better job and that it was more complicated than what I could handle. I was wrong on both counts. It was easily the worst service experience I've had at a dealer for any car, though...but the car was made legal and that's all I really cared about.
Phaeton After Detailing, Profile
Since then, I have had some fun with the car. I enjoy just driving it around...in the city it drives like a Lotus Elise, despite its 5500lb curb. As my girlfriend discovered when I let her behind the wheel, it will go from 40kph to 160 in the length of an off ramp and has more speed than most sports cars, becoming hyper-legal faster than your brain can process the surprise of its power.
But enough of that, and on to the car, which I haven't really spoken about. This is a 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton, assembled in Germany at the legendary Transparent Factory. Nobody has any exact numbers, but by best count there were only about 140 sold in Canada over 3 years. It has a 4.2L V8 and the 6spd auto Tiptronic. The car has 4 piston, 14.5" front brakes and similar rears with Volkswagen 4Motion AWD and three limited slip differentials. Traction control is standard equipment along with a fully adjustable air-ride system that allows for many inches of adjustability. It is a "rare" for North America 4 Seat car, meaning it has two luxurious front seats and two luxurious rear seats, which are basically identical to the front ones. These are 18 way adjustable, heated and air conditioned seats with memory function, while the rears are 14 way adjustable heated and a/c'd. All 4 have positionable massage that is adjustable for depth and height. Everything is power...seats, steering column, vents, windows, doors, moonroof, mirrors, trunk...you name it, there's a motor. The steering wheel is heated and the column features "exit position" where when you turn the car off the seat retracts fully and the column pulls in and up to maximize space for getting out. It has 4 zone climate control that features automatic settings that maintain temperatures. As seen on Top Gear, it will also do "central" heating where it radiates rather than blows on your face. The windows can never fog up as the air in the car is run through the desicant system for the air suspension. The A/C gets so cold that the front window started to frost up during our late night blast into Thunder Bay.
Phaeton After Detailing, Rim Shot
The window glass is metallic and two pane. This hurts cell reception so there is a dedicated cell antenna on the roof. This gives the advantage of not allowing UV into the car, so the interior doesn't degrade and the heat from the sun doesn't cook your face. It is also one touch up or down, even the sunroof. Every opening has anti-pinch to prevent fingers from going missing. It has a CD changer and CD based sat nav that is adjustable and user programmable. The car keeps track of who gets in and who gets out, and only locks or unlocks those doors as is required. It increases stereo volume with interior volume and speed. It features several rear sunshades, both for the door glass, quarter glass and rear window, the last of which rises out of the rear decklid like a little solar sail. In the front, the sunvisors are telescoping, which allows coverage anywhere you need it. They also have lit mirrors with magnifier settings for doing detailed make-up work. The car has parking radar, radar cruise and can even self-park (though I do not have that option on my car). The center arm rests had the option when new of being moulded to your cell phone from the dealer, and the car can accept the cell input directly through cable rather than messing through bluetooth. The front ashtrays feature mirror plates, and there are center console cubby holes in the front and rear. The rear features its own climate control box with its own vents and settings...and the rear seat has the option on this controller of moving the front seat foward for more leg room if there is no one seated in it. It also has the optional rear foot rests. The headrests in all four seats rise to match the person seated in it, but is also user setable. If there's nobody there, it stays down for visibility.
The trunk is power-up, power down and has anti-pinch as well. The trunk features a home for a full sized spare along with a full tool tray. The phaeton designers were smart enough to include a hanger for the lid over the spare so that you can keep it up and out of the way while your hands are full of tire. There is a battery to run the electrics of the car and another, seperate system to feed the car's starting system. The upside to this is you can never run out of battery to start the car, ever. These batteries have explosive positive terminals, so that in case of accident the car will disconnect the batteries from the car to prevent them shorting out. This also stops them from lighting the car on fire in an accident. The car will go into hibernation or "sleep mode" just like a computer if you don't drive it for a couple of days, killing battery use. It also comes with a cargo net, and storage pockets. There is also a ski-pass through that allows skis to be put into the cabin through the trunk, but fully encloses them so that no debris gets into the cabin of the car. This is also home to the factory installed first aid kit. Both of these are deleted if you selected the optional refridgerator. This unit takes up about 1/5th of the trunk and is accessible through the ski chute in either seating configuration. The 5 seat fridge is smaller than the 4 seat fridge, but either way! The doors of the phaeton are "soft closing" so that when you shut them, no matter how hard, they will not slam shut, but slow down and then pull shut and latch like an Ikea cabinet. The car has interior lighting under the seats, dash and doors, as well as inside the trunk and glove box, door sills and outside on the rear view mirrors. These rear view mirrors are motorized, positionable, self-dimming and heated for winter frost buildup. The rear view mirror is self-dimming for high beams from behind and features a red map light that is always on. Also, all the dash lights can be shut down using "dark mode" so that you only have a dimly light speedo for long night drives. Both the front and back window have defrosters in them that are made of tiny little wires you can barely see with your nose up against the glass, so that they do not impare visibility. It is nice that on a cold winter day you can push a button and your front window will instantly defrost.
Phaeton Gauge Cluster Close Up
Speaking of winter, the car has temperature sensors inside and out. The steering wheel is heated. The car has a factory alarm with shock, glass, anti-tip and anti-tow sensors. Should car detect unauthorized towing, it locks its difs to the tranny, putting all four wheels in park. If you jack it up to steal the wheels, the alarm goes off. The alarm is attached to the GPS, so that if the car is stolen, the car can be located. It also has OnStar, which I do not use. The car has front and rear parking sensors with gauge displays in the dash in front and above the rear passengers in the dome light array in the rear...so when you look in your rear view to back up, the info is right where you are looking. Everything is user adjustable from the dash control array for things like volume settings, headlight timing etc. The car has two headlight sprayers that work in tandem with the windshield wipers. The car cleans the window first, and then does each headlight one at a time. That way you are never without visibility. The headlights are HID low beams with regular high beams and fog lights, though there is the option of HID high beams. The car keeps the HID high beams lit 10-20 percent all of the time so that they are instantly ready with no turn-on when you need them. It also has motorized headlight adjustment doors in the same spot, so that if you wish to adjust the headlights you can do so without removing the bumper. Don't even get me started on the keyless entry or keyless start features and their capacitative detection panels. You only need have your key in your pocket and the car can detect it through your skin, allowing you access to the car. The best part is once the car is active the key is no longer required until you get out.
Phaeton Front Suspension, Brakes, Ducts and Bags
The car has two water pumps...one to cool the car using mechanical circulation during driving, and the other electric to allow heat to be circulated into the interior during cold days when you get out of the car to run into a store...keeping the car toasty warm while you are gone, but keeping the engine off to prevent theft, save fuel and protect the environment. It also has a feature that is similar for summer use that keeps the car cool. The sun roof has solar panels that generate enough electricity to allow the car to monitor the interior temp and modulate the windows and fan accordingly to maintain a cool interior temperature while you are gone. If that isn't enough, you can drop all the windows and pop the sunroof simultaneously in the car by pressing and holding the door unlock button on the remote or turning the key to the unlock position in the door and holding it there. This will drop all the glass in the car and vent any heat remaining before you get in.
And then there's the computer. The car comes with a computer system that is user programmable through software. Various owners of the phaeton online have managed to penetrate Volkswagen group and create software that interfaces with the Volkswagen OEM systems and allow you not only to run diagnostic programs for problem solving and trouble shooting (these cars can have up to 77 individual computers in them or some crazy number like that), but allow you to fine tune or adjust the parts of the car not normally accessible to the owner. Things like ride height, while adjustable from the center console to ""high and low" settings become adjustable anywhere you like (within reason) over a large range. This allows me, for example, to change the "low" suspension setting to "slammed" while leaving the "high" setting as normal for climbing over things like speed bumps. When I parked the car for winter, I set it in "transport mode" where it lifts the car to a pre-determined factory setting for shipping the car. This locks off the suspension, so the car isn't sitting on its air bags all winter. It also prevents the sway bars and other suspension components from moving, and sets the car into a low energy sleep mode to conserve battery power. Don't confuse this with "Jack Mode", which is a suspension setting where the car lifts itself up to a tall ride height beyond what regular suspension would sit at so that you do not have to jack the car up as much to change a tire. It also tells the car that it is to ignore suspension input, so it is not constantly clawing for the ground when it can't reach it. It is kind of a strange thing to see a car pawing. I also used the computer hacking ability to deactivate the door beeper, key-in-ignition beeper and a few other things. The NAR phaetons come with a trunk deadbolt feature in place of the ROW car's rear foglight function as those taillights are not legal in North America. That went next, but it was nice of them to turn our trunks into a fortress. I dropped the Daytime Running Lights only because I thought they were silly, and adjusted a few other bits to my personal preference. And the best part is it is all undoable with a single key stroke. Any time I want to add an optional feature the car did not come with, lets say paddle shifters, it is merely a case of buying the physical component, installing it and then telling the car it is there. It handles the rest and will adjust whatever parts of the car are affected accordingly. In the case of rear foglights, once the parts are installed and the computer is instructed of the change, the rear foglight option becomes available on the relevant screens as though it had always been there.
Phaeton Luxury Black Heliochrome Magic
I think that puts it into perspective. Its not just another car. And considering that new it was $141,000 and I got it for what I did, it was the bargain of the century as far as I am concerned. And nobody ever recognizes them for anything other than a fat Passat. Such a shame. The interior is soft-german rather than your typical hard-german that is so often seen in BMWs and Audis, so it is easy to drive all day long. After 21 hours in the car to Thunder Bay I wasn't even physically tired or sore. Mentally I was pan-fried, but physcally I could have done a marathon. And then there's the wood grain. Various woods were available...this car has the base walnut, where somehow the car is entirely made from one giant panel. All the grain matches and connects as though they have carved the tree around the car. It is something to behold. I think the last thing to touch on is the factory flashlight...which is a small device that sits in the cigarette lighter location. It even looks like a lighter, but when twisted is actually a self-charging LED flashlight. Its quite bright, and very, very useful. The car itself rides so smoothly and so quietly that even when you are ON IT on it, you can't hear the motor beyond a mild burble as I had mentioned before. The best part is that the car can read the input of the road and compensate through the air suspension, firming up the oposite side through corners or in spirited driving and toning it down low speed or in traffic. It even lowers at speed to improve its aerodyamic profile and increase stability. In major centers or areas of high polution it will automatically shut the air inlets to the cabin if it detects smells or polution that may ruin your drive, stopping it from getting in the car.
Phaeton After Detailing, Profile
And the car shared bits with all of its sisters. It was such a good design that it became the base for the Audi A8...and the Bentley Continental GT...and the Porsche Panamera...
There is literally no situation where it is anything less than incredible. How they could sell so few is beyond me as it is a bargain at twice the price in my opinion. I am truly blessed to have it in my life, though I fear maintenance may ruin me. It has been manageble so far, but can seem daunting. Also, as I have learned, it can't be parked or driven anywhere without causing a bit of a scene. But then again, that's half the fun.
Phaeton Luxury Black Heliochrome Magic, Fully Polished