‘A 4-wheeled carriage with or without a top and drawn by horses’- Dictionaries describe the word ‘Phaeton’ this way. The carriage with us had the subtle difference of being drawn by almost 330 horses at a time, was made in a transparent factory somewhere in Germany and had a VW label on it. Yes, it is a 2012 Phaeton, the flagship model from Volkswagen.
The Phaeton has a plain-Jane look to it and as far as I am concerned, it is one the best aspects of this car. A car of this class needs a certain degree of subtleness to it. It is more of a class and grandeur than bling and sporty. No aggressive angles, no swooping curves; this is a game of drawing straight lines in a very aesthetic manner. I would definitely be pleased if I arrived in this car for the next Oscar awards.
After taking a detailed look at the car, you can see that there is not much that differentiates this car from the 2004 model. For the 2012 model, you get a set of LED daytime running lights and fog lights. A revised front bumper is also seen on the car which has further enhanced the low and classy stance. Also seen are the new side trims with narrow-lined LED side indicators. You also get a revised rear bumper and smoked rear lights with LED lights that are familiar to the new VW line-up. The VW Phaeton is not an enthusiast’s car which implies that it is not made for those thrilling lap times or handling extravaganza. Rather, its duty is to carry its passengers in the best of comfort and luxury.
Keeping this in mind, my review will be in two sections: ‘The Chauffeur’ and ‘The Passenger’. Our test car had the awesome V8 engine accompanied with all the rumble and grumble. I love V8s.
Once you are near the car, it senses the key in your pocket and unlocks itself. Swing open the big wide door and you are welcomed by the sweet smell of quality leather and the reflection off the chrome parts. Seat yourself inside, crank the engine and enjoy the sweet rumble of the V8 settling into an idle. The 18-way adjustable seat gives you endless options to get into that personal comfort zone and the panoramic moon-roof helps you adjust the lighting within your cabin for a good driving ambience. The switches for the roof adjustments are positioned just near the rear-view mirror and I felt that the quality of these switches were not too impressive for a car of this stature. Slot the gear into ‘D’ and you are ready to roll. Acceleration is smooth and even throughout which results in a calm and composed feel within the car even though I had a monster 4.2L V8 in the hood. The steering is much more involving and expects us to provide inputs at all times. This is a welcome change as opposed to the modern day big cars that sometimes have too much assist which can lead to a lack of feel to the driver.
This steering also reminds us of the 2 tonne weight that it is hurling about. There is a ‘sport’ mode available which surprisingly does not render too much stiffness to the suspension of the vehicle as compared to its competitors. You also have the paddle shift option which lacked that immediate response. One point worth mentioning here would be the active ride height adjustment which is displayed beautifully in the 8-inch touch screen in the centre-fascia. The car features ACC (adaptive cruise control), Front Assist (surroundings monitoring system) and Side Assist (lane changing assist) for that added safety. A completely new feature in the Phaeton would be the Dynamic beam assist which keeps the main bi-xenon lights continuously on and masks it off only at places where the system senses that it can cause potential discomfort to drivers in the opposite lane.
So, you are cruising at a comfortable speed, the seats are good, the ambience is great and what more than treating your ears to some of your favourite tracks. The DYN audio system on the car is a pleasure to your senses, but struggles to perform well at high volume levels. Another new system on the 2012 Phaeton is the draft-free independent climate zone feature for each and every passenger on the vehicle. Further, the navigation system works fairly well with an interface that resembles the Google maps application. After having a look at all these features I decided to switch my position with my friend who was having a pretty nice time in the rear of the car. Trying to stop the car, I got a feeling that the brakes were not so sharp, a lack of bite maybe. It felt as if the brakes had been tuned to provide a slow and cushioned feel, and that did cause some scary emergency moments.
Having been in a big Audi not so long ago, I had some expectation of what was waiting for me when I jumped into the rear seat. But voila! I was surprised. Every part in there seemed like it had a separate set of engineers working on it. You could see the quality, smell it and touch it. Though I did not taste it! This particular car had the two-seater option in the rear cabin which meant that there was this central console which gave me controls to almost everything in the car except for the driving bits. The 18-way seats made sure that I felt at home and the massage feature ensured that I reached my destination all rejuvenated! Leather and wood trim was splashed generously all around the cabin which rendered a ‘yes... it is good’ feeling. One feature that I would like to be changed in the next Phaeton would be the rear side-window blinds. Dear VW, please do make them automatic. Am I a spoiled child? No, but this is a flag-ship model so I can ask for it. The quality feel even extended to the boot which was big enough to swallow huge luggage cases… then loaded onto my private jet and I could fly away!
On the overall, it’s a pretty decent car but not as spectacular as a march and band recital. This car will suit people who love to have a space of their own while making a statement. And yes, be ready to be ogled at by people who have the expression on their faces saying, ‘Gosh! I never knew that VW built such big cars.’