Used 2006 Volkswagen Phaeton Review

The 2006 Volkswagen Phaeton is a well-executed example of VW's ability to construct a proper luxury sedan. Too bad no one's buying it.




what's new

The VW Phaeton's W12 engine gets a bump in horsepower this year. It now produces 444 horsepower, a 24-hp rise from last year. Other minor changes include Bluetooth connectivity (delayed introduction) and power height adjustment for all outboard headrests.

vehicle overview

Proudly wearing the VW badge, the Volkswagen Phaeton is the German automaker's flagship sedan, first introduced in Europe in 2003. The Phaeton is assembled at Volkswagen's "transparent" factory located in Dresden, Germany, which opened its doors in 2002. Instead of being a dark and dirty manufacturing plant, the transparent factory is built largely of glass windows and walls with wood floors, without a smoke stack in sight. The very nontraditional atmosphere seems only fitting for this very nontraditional Volkswagen car.

The Phaeton rides on a 118-inch wheelbase, which gives the flagship sedan plenty of legroom for both front and rear passengers. At nearly 204 inches long and 57 inches tall, the VW Phaeton is nearly identical to the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 745Li in length and height. VW's luxury sedan has full-time all-wheel drive, an abundance of safety features, plus numerous unique creature comforts, including a four-zone climate control system with humidity sensors and separate temperature controls and an onboard computer system that can be operated from the rear seat.

There's no doubt that the Volkswagen Phaeton is a full-size luxury sedan of the highest caliber. Like every other premium luxo-cruiser on the market, it delivers heaping amounts of power, faultless construction and enough luxury amenities to keep four passengers content even on the longest of trips. There's a reason it costs as much as it does, and those with the means to buy it aren't likely to be disappointed.

But the question remains: Why buy the Phaeton and its Volkswagen baggage when you could get one of its equally competent and more prestigious rivals for roughly the same price? Rational reasons are few and far between. The Phaeton doesn't offer anything that the others don't and its slightly lower price has little relevance for this class of car. Since its launch in the fall of 2003, the Phaeton has by all accounts been a sales flop. Then there's the question of its future. In the likely event that VW decides not to build a second-generation Phaeton, owners of this Volkswagen car will be left holding the keys to a very expensive experiment. If that's a risk you're willing to take, the 2006 Volkswagen Phaeton will most likely reward you with many years of faithful service. If it's not, buy one of its equally qualified rivals instead.

trim levels & features

The full-size Volkswagen Phaeton luxury sedan is offered in one long-wheelbase body style with a choice of a V8 or W12 engine. Equipment levels vary depending on which engine is chosen, but all Phaetons come standard with a four-zone automatic climate control system, high-intensity discharge headlamps, heated windshield washer nozzles, entry-exit lights at all doors, an oversize sunroof and a 10-speaker premium sound system with a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer. Choose the V8 Phaeton and 17-inch alloy wheels will adorn the exterior, while interior features include 12-way power front seats with memory, heaters and four-way power-adjustable lumbar support; eucalyptus wood trim; a hand-stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel; a full set of self-dimming mirrors with memory; stainless steel pedals; a full set of rear sunshades; and a trunk pass-through with ski bag. The 12-cylinder Phaeton adds 18-inch alloy wheels, walnut wood trim, an upgraded 12-speaker sound system with digital sound processing and additional window tinting. The W12 also benefits from 18-way power-adjustable front seats that are heated and ventilated and have a 10-minute massage function. The rear seats are heated, too.

performance & mpg

The VW Phaeton is available with two engine options: a 4.2-liter V8 that delivers 335 horsepower or a 6.0-liter W12 that makes an impressive 444 hp. The V8 engine comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability, while the W12 receives a five-speed automatic that also offers manual shifting. Both cars are electronically limited to a top speed of 135 mph. All-wheel drive is standard on all Phaetons.

safety

The Volkswagen Phaeton has a total of eight airbags, including full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with emergency brake assist, stability control and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Electronic park assist is optional.

driving

Fine-tuning the ride for the 2006 Volkswagen Phaeton is an air suspension that includes continuous damping control, which allows the vehicle to automatically adapt to the road surfaces and driving conditions without the driver's input. The competent suspension, along with the standard all-wheel-drive system and eager engine, makes for an entertaining ride, but the car's excessive weight keeps it from delivering the athletic feel of its competitors.

interior

Inside the VW Phaeton, the luxurious cabin is trimmed in wood ranging from chestnut to eucalyptus, Italian leather, and chrome and brushed metal. Buyers can choose between a four-seat or five-seat configuration, with a wood-trimmed console resting between the rear seats on the four-passenger setup. An integrated vehicle management system uses a 7-inch color screen that incorporates the navigation system, onboard trip computer, stereo system and climate control system. It sounds complicated, but the Phaeton's controls are actually much more straightforward than those of other high-dollar luxury sedans.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.