At the Transparent Factory in Dresden Volkswagen produces one of the finest automobiles in the world: the Volkswagen Phaeton. The limousine's quality and comfort (four-wheel drive and air suspension as standard) set a unique benchmark. Volkswagen, the most successful carmaker in Europe and China, has now made the VW Phaeton even more perfect. The company's new flagship was unveiled for the first time at Auto China 2010 in Beijing.
Its contours are defined by the Volkswagen design DNA developed by Walter de Silva, the group's Italian chief designer. Around the completely new front section in particular the design team has further refined the model's very own stylistic aplomb. In the process the timelessly elegant Volkswagen Phaeton has gained a broader and more powerful appearance. The new model is also characterised by modifications to its rear section and silhouette.
At the same time, new technical features have been added. These include Dynamic Light Assist (camera-based dynamic main beam regulation) and a navigation system that, if desired, can integrate online data from Google into the map display. In addition to this, the Volkswagen Phaeton's optional front camera enables it to 'see' road signs, with speed limit signs visualised on the instrument panel and centre console's touchscreen. The system will also be able to recognise and depict 'no overtaking' signs - the first in the world to do so!
The VW Phaeton's interior ranks as one of the most elegant, high quality and comfortable in the entire premium class. The 4-zone air-conditioning system, for example, that works totally free of any draughts, and the award-winning ergonomic 18-way seats are unsurpassed. All of the Volkswagen Phaeton interior's functions are also intuitive to use. In addition to the version with three rear seats (5-seater), the limousine can be optionally ordered with two electrically adjustable individual seats (4-seater). Furthermore a version of the Volkswagen Phaeton is also available that is twelve centimetres longer. Meanwhile, the limousine can be almost infinitely personalised with a wide range of leather, alcantara and wood trim, plus optional equipment such as a fridge or multimedia systems from Volkswagen Exclusive. This also applies to the completely redesigned multifunction steering wheel. It can be ordered either in leather or in a wood/leather combination matching the relevant wood trim features.
Depending on wheelbase, the 2011 model VW Phaeton is between 5.06 and 5.18 metres long. As mentioned above, a completely new front section has been developed for this flagship of the Volkswagen brand. In keeping with the current Volkswagen design DNA, its form is dominated by horizontal lines. Unlike all other Volkswagens created to date on the basis of this new DNA, the Volkswagen Phaeton does not have a shiny black radiator grille cover, but instead a completely new chrome element. Along with the likewise restyled headlights, this radiator trim is a major influence in the new Phaeton's design and underlines its uncompromisingly independent character. In detail the new grille is more upright, while its stricter lines and impressive alternation of materials between polished and matt chrome make it even more striking. The horizontal linking of grille and headlights follows the Volkswagen design criteria and impressively emphasises the vehicle's width. As a sign of its class specific to this model the Volkswagen Phaeton also features three-dimensional moulding of the grille and bonnet, with precise edges that carry the grille's heightened expression of quality on into the sculptured contours of the vehicle body. Once again in the centre of the grille is the classic VW badge, which now - despite integrating the ACC (automatic distance control) system's radar sensors - has a new-look surface design.
To the left and right of the grille are new Bi-Xenon headlamps, which are standard across the range. Integrated within them are cornering and adaptive lights. Not just in visual terms, but from a technical perspective too, this is a whole new generation of headlamps. Firstly, the indicator and adaptive cornering lights are highly visible and stylistically striking LEDs. Secondly, as with the new Touareg, the VW Phaeton will also be available with optional Dynamic Light Assist. Using a camera integrated into the rear-view mirror, this complex technology 'detects' other road users and regulates illumination of the carriageway accordingly (see separate section on Dynamic Light Assist).
The bumper has also been redesigned in keeping with the radiator grille and headlamps. Here too horizontal lines form the guiding principles of the new design. Even the fog lamps have been designed as narrow, horizontal LED strips. Last but not least, the bottom final section of the bumper is now also colour-coordinated with the car body. Compared to the previous model the new generation Phaeton thus looks even sportier and more imposing on the road.
Also modified, the back of the car underlines this impression. The design team decided here not to change the classic, clear and powerful basic style that this area has always had, but instead to develop new LED rear light clusters. Each cluster features dotted lights and an M-shaped LED strip. The result is an unmistakable, elegant look both in daylight and at night. Also new is the VW badge - now likewise in 3D format - on the boot lid.
As at the front, the rear bumper has also been redesigned. It now has a new, three-piece chrome bar and the section of the bumper trim near the road is now also colour-coordinated with the car body. The same goes for the bottom section of the side skirts. Also noticeable in silhouette view are modified side trim strips, narrower LED indicators in the wing mirrors and new 18-inch ('Experience') alloy wheels.
Powertrain options in the Phaeton remain unchanged. The lone diesel choice is a 240-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, while the gas-powered camp gets the choice between a 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6, a 335-hp, 4.2-liter V-8, or a 450-hp, 6.0-liter W-12. Interestingly, the Phaeton does not see the updated, 500-hp, 6.3-liter W-12 from the new Audi A8. While the updates include no mention of the Phaeton returning to the U.S., we have heard from several high-placed executives that a comeback is being considered, likely after the next generation arrives in a few years.
As with all Volkswagen vehicles, concern for safety is uppermost in Phaeton. As standard safety equipment, both the V8 and W12 models have eight airbags, including Volkswagen’s Side Curtain Protection®; a four-wheel Anti- lock Braking System with emergency brake assist; electronic park assist; an advanced Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP®); and a tire pressure monitoring system.