How much would you pay for three-quarters of a Veyron's Engine, minus the turbos? Well, get ready to find out, because Nice Price or Crack Pipe is bringing you a W12 that even those with meager W2s can afford.
Volkswagen's were originally intended for the proletariat, it's even in is name - People's Car - and for decades the brand stayed true to its value positioning, opening the Autobahn, and roads worldwide, to those of limited means. Like the Ford Model T before it, the Volkswagen was intended as transportation for the working man, However about two decades ago, one man started working to change all that.
Ferdinand Piëch, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, was chairman of Volkswagen from 1993 until 2002. Prior to his stint atop VW, he was instrumental in the development of the Audi Quattro, the Mercedes Benz five-cylinder diesel, and the cool disdainful glare. After his days eating in corporate cafeterias where they cut the crusts off your sandwiches, Volkswagen's fare must have seemed beneath his status, as Piëch set forth a plan to move the company up the ladder rungs, Audi be damned.
The pinnacle of this effort was the massive sedan known as the Phaeton, of which today's candidate is an uber-rare 2004 W12 example. The original VW Type 1 tipped the scales at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,600-lbs. The Phaeton, in AWD, W12, LWB guise, can be found in another, much more exclusive neighborhood, one where the addresses go all the way up to 5,399-lbs, or 21,596 Royales with cheese.
Cheese however, is not to be found in this car. Butter you will find- as in buttery-soft leather, which covers the seats that are designed for broad, German asses. This Premium Package-equipped black beauty also sports nearly every possible technological marvel that VW's engineers could throw at it. That includes a 4-zone automatic climate control set up that changes the cabin temperature without blasting gale-force winds out of the vents, sort of like a guy on a crowded elevator trying to squeeze out an SBD without being noticed. Sneaky. The center console is awash with switches and the seats alone have more buttons than that first Type 1 did in its entirety. How's that for progress?
That interior has held up well considering it's had to put up with 88,000 miles of use. Who knows if the back seats have even had any use, and it's a shame if they haven't, as there's NBA-class leg room back there, along little wedges for your feet that look like they should be made out of cheese, but sadly aren't.
The exterior looks good, the black paint not having lost its luster. That being said, one of the reasons these cars didn't make a dent in the luxo-barge market was because the styling, which - while very subdued and elegant - looks like nothing so much as a big Passat. A really big Passat. And that's were the problems start.
Like the Passat, the Phaeton was made available with a number of engines, from the overburdened 3.2-litre six, to this car's 6-litre W12. Not really a W, in that it doesn't have three distinct banks of cylinders, the engine is really a mating of a pair of VW's narrow angle V6s. You can also find the motor - as well as much of the 4motion permanent all wheel drive system under the sister brand's Bentley Continental GT. Here in the Phaeton, the W12 makes an impressive 420-bhp, good enough to move the titanic-like car to 100kph in 6.1 seconds. That power oozes through a 5-speed ZF automatic, and for those of you lamenting the lack of a manual, this ain't the car for that, or you, for that matter.
VW's challenge wasn't engineering a world-class car, although these cars prove that they were up to the task. The challenge that faced the company was making the buying public, who weren't the proletariat, think that a car branded with a massive VW on nose and ass was worth $100,000. That's right, a six-figure people's car, and one built in a special factory in Dresden that cost the company a fortune and couldn't produce any other model.
It's hard to say just how much VW lost on every Phaeton they sold, and they didn't sell too many of them to begin with. In 2004, when this car was born, the company only managed to move a little over 1,400 in the States. Out of that, probably only 10% were the LWB W12 models. You might chalk that up to the lackluster badge, or the fact that VW's dealers didn't speak the über-buyer's language, but one thing you can't blame it on was the car, which was and is a spectacular ride. And, like all German 12-cylinder sedans, this Phaeton has seen a depreciation drop as precipitous as has BP's stock. While it originally wore a window sticker suggesting black tie only, its present asking price intimates that your jeans and Ozzy T-shirt will suffice. Coming in at a proletariat-friendly $20,650, this Phaeton is now priced lower than where Piëch wanted the company's Jetta to start.
But what do you think of that price? Sure, your options for a twelve cylinder sedan are pretty much limited to the comparatively common BMW 760iL, the equally so Benz S600, or some creaking old Jag made out of lumber and Union apathy. Not only that but the prices on each of those has also gone down faster than a prom date on Jäger.
So, would you consider dropping $20,650 for an Elitäre-wagen? Or, does that price make this a people's car for people who aren't you?
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