2008 Volkswagen Phaeton | road test

Posted on Jul 1, 2008 by

The Phaeton is
a car for people who don’t drive. ‘How does that work,’ I hear
you say. Simple really; the is a car for people
that get driven, chauffeur-style. This is VW’s answer to the top of
the range stretched sedans from the likes of BMW, Mercedes and
Jaguar, and some would say it’s a better overall package in terms
of supreme comfort and complete relaxation – the Phaeton is a luxury
cruise liner that’s wraps backseat passengers in a sumptuous
leather-heaven. But is it really as good as those other famous
European brands – manufacturers that have been making these lengthy
‘limousines’ for much, much longer than VW?

This car is clearly very
focused on those beautiful back seats, so we may as well start this
review right there. Open the weighty, solid-feeling rear door and
your nose is immediately tickled by that wonderful smell of quality
leather – there are simply acres and acres of the stuff. After you
nostrils have widened to enjoy that sweet scent of pure luxury,
you’ll immediately find your eyes widening at the sheer size of the
cavernous rear cabin.

Nestle down in those
absolutely stunning seats (some of the very best this road-tester has
even parked in) and you can only just about see the seat in front of
you, let alone touch it! Rear passenger legroom is simply second to
none, and with a full compliment of your own climate, audio and seat
adjustment controls, this rather large world of your own is a truly
peaceful and restful place to be. If arriving at your next business
meeting completely unruffled (regardless of what the Dubai traffic
throws at you!) is important to you, then so far so good, because
this rear interior really does look and feel the business.

But, the packaging is
only one half of a competent delivery, and even one of the very
finest hand-finished interiors currently available in a production
car cannot save you from a harsh ride or progress-inhibiting
performance. The ‘V8’ badge should say it all. And it does, just

We’re into the drivers
seat now, and again you just can’t help but say ‘ahhh’ as you
slide into super-soft seats, fully-adjusting yourself into the
perfect driving position with the help of lots of little electric
motors, sliders and switches. I don’t know where VW sources the
leather they use to upholster the Phaeton, but believe me, these cows
never did a hard days work in their lives!

Prodding the 4.2-litre V8
engine into life via the seductively chrome-rimmed ‘Start’
button, and aurally the initial signs are good – there’s a deep,
substantial, satisfying purr that can only come from a silky-smooth
V8 on tick over. Your ears enjoy this rich treat as you watch the
air-conditioning vents slowly reveal behind motorised wood veneer
dashboard panels. Perhaps these gizmos and gadgets are the Phaeton’s
way of taking your eye off the performance ball, because the V8 is a
bit of a let down, with maybe a little less grunt that you’d want
on the motorway.

Around town it feels
torquey enough, but should you spot a gap in that ever-present
traffic you’d better give the 6-speed transmission plenty of
warning with an immediate quick and concise kick-down, allowing you
enough time to stir up the extra horsepower that’s lurking near the
redline. Saying that, surely this car isn’t really about rocketing,
it’s about wafting. And waft it does.



The electronically
adjustable suspension not only raises the ride height from ‘sport’
into ‘comfort’, it noticeably raises the suspension suppleness
and bump-compliance too. She’ll show her extra length around
roundabouts and tight bends, so my advice is to leave the car at its
full height and softest settings and simply float your way around

Cruising is extremely
comfortable and effortless, once your desired speed has been
achieved, and with no real wind noise and only the faintest of hums
from the all-wheel-drive wheels and tyres, this is what it must feel
like to arrive on a cloud.

Don’t hustle the
Phaeton, don’t bustle it into the bends, just let it do its luxury
thing. Play your favourite tune on that very fine entertainment
system, set the cruise control and simply smile smugly to yourself as
your troubles drift away behind you. And don’t even worry if that
smile is making you look silly, because no-one will be looking at you
behind the leather and wood steering wheel of this super-saloon.

For some people that may
be a good thing, slipping through the traffic completely unnoticed,
the understated styling and well-disguised bulk never giving away
your well-healed secrets. But for others anonymity is not such a good
thing. OK, so life is sweet inside the Phaeton’s luxurious
interior, but in the UAE, one of the world’s most style-conscious
societies, and at over 320,000AED, wouldn’t your style-statement
investment be better spent on something with a better badge, more
pedigree, and ultimately more ‘look at me?’ After all, why spend
Mercedes money on a VW?

You see, the Phaeton just
lacks the sense of style and occasion of the other European and
Japanese offerings. ‘Understated’ just isn’t a word that gets
used in the same sentence as ‘car’ here in the UAE, and with the
VW’s bland styling now looking very dated compared to other cars in
its class, it’s quite easy to see why the biggest VW hasn’t
really hit the spot in terms of world-wide sales. It’s nice enough,
but not quite good enough.

And to sum-up the
Phaeton’s lack of impact, I’ll tell you a true story. I
valet-parked this bright-white press car one evening in the front of
a famous hotel, as one of my quite car-savvy friend looked-on. And
off for dinner we went. Again he waited while my car was returned and
as the LED headlights swung into view he said; ‘that’s your car
isn’t it? The Passat?’ I guess that says it all really.

Technical Specifications
2008 Volkswagen Phaeton V8
Type & Class4-Door Full-Size Luxury Sedan
Price RangeStarts from AED200,000 upto AED460,000
Engine4.2-litre V8
Power335 Bhp
Torque430 Nm
Transmission6-Speed Automatic


* Prices are indicative and may vary at the time of purchase. All prices are ex-Dubai showrooms. Please check with your local dealer for current prices and offers.


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