By on April 22, 2010

Volkswagen confirmed today that reports of a facelifted Phaeton are true. Tomorrow and on Saturday, the press can admire the car at the Beijing Autoshow. From April 27 to May 2, the remaining 1.3b Chinese will be able to get a first look, and decide whether the car fits in their purchasing plans.

Eight years after the Phaeton was launched in Germany with great fanfare, and four years after it was pulled from the US market due to being a resounding sales flop, a face-lift has been long overdue. “Usually, one would expect a whole new generation after eight years in production,” complained Germany’s Focus Magazine. Not a whole lot has changed at the outside. But the on-board electronic weaponry has been escalated to a level that soon will put JSTARS to shame.

The Phaeton received a nose job (praised in the press release as a “completely new front section” that  “further refined the model’s very own stylistic aplomb.”)  The Phaeton also received a fanny-tuck (a.k.a. “modifications to its rear section.”) The rest must rely on the Phaeton’s “timeless elegance.”

When the Phaeton was launched, it was chockablock full of electronics. In Wolfsburg, they called it a “Technologieträger” (technology carrier.) It had a dizzying array of 56 computers, interconnected by 3 separate CAN buses. We quipped at the time in internal literature that the car “has more computers and is better networked than a small company.”

Technology marches on, and the facelifted Phaeton received a healthy dosage, further to flummox the average repair person, and to add new acronyms to the Wolfsburgian language. The 2011 Phaeton will  come with Dynamic Light Assist (camera-based dynamic main beam regulation.) It’s navigation system can integrate online data from Google into the map display Data will be loaded on a 30 Gig hard drive over the Internet via mobile telephone “and a proxy server specially set up for the purpose.”

The Google feature most likely will not be overly stressed in Beijing, given the state of Google’s affairs in China. The proxy gives VW the opportunity to side-step any possible Google-blocking in China. Tunneling via proxy through the Chinese firewall is a popular sport in China. The Phaeton would be the first car to be equipped with that sneaky feature. Google will deliver point of interest data such as “tourist sights, businesses, sports venues, and doctors’ surgeries.” The latter feature was most likely added to get back into the good graces of Jack Baruth, one of VW’s former U.S. volume customers (he had two Phaetons.)

VW  Buyers with a nanny-fetish can check off the an optional front camera that enables the Phaeton  “to ‘see’ road signs, with speed limit signs visualised on the instrument panel and centre console’s touchscreen. Very hepful: The system also recognizes the nasty little footnotes under posted speed limits (such as ‘10pm – 6am’ or ‘When wet’). FYI, in Germany, “When wet” (“Bei Nässe”) refers to the road surface, not to the state of your copilot.

The system will also be able to “recognize and depict ‘no overtaking’ signs – the first in the world to do so!” No word on automatically lowering the speed, or prohibiting Baruthian drivers from flaunting the law. “Side assist” will turn into a nattering backseat-driver if you change lanes with someone in your dead spot, or without using the blinker. As a further nod to Jack Baruth, all electronic nannies can be muzzled by resolutely pressing a button in the “center of the indicator stalk for more than a second.”

Still handmade at the “Transparent Factory” in Dresden, the Phaeton will be available as normal and long, a nod to Chinese clientele of that segment that leaves the ordeals of driving to a driver. The long version adds 12 centimeters. In the engine department, the choice is between gasoline and diesel, hybrid lovers may not apply. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Phaeton will not shed its brutish W12 twelve-pot gasoline engine that delivers 450hp. More sedate V8 (335hp) and V6 (280 hp) engines are available. Oil-burner aficionados will receive “an extremely frugal and smooth-running V6 TDI.” According to VW, in Europe this is the most frequently selected engine for this car. The turbocharged common rail direct injection engine delivers 240 hp and accelerates the Phaeton V6 from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8.6 seconds. Top speed with this example of frugality (8.5 liters per 100 km) will be 237 km/h. With the W12, you can easily exceed 300 km/h, if you know someone at the factory, or a clever technician, who erases the 250 km/h speed limiter from the on-board computer.

China is critical to the Phaeton’s survival. Last year, “Chinese deliveries of the Phaeton rose 40 percent to a record 1,400 cars. Volkswagen aims to increase that figure to at least 2,000 vehicles this year, a 43 percent gain, to make China the model’s biggest market,” says China Daily. Volkswagen sold 4,500 Phaetons worldwide last year.

In China, about 825,000  citizens had a net worth of 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) or more last year, and the average tycoon can live in harmony with the working masses by choosing a Phaeton: “Look, I drive a Volkswagen, just like you. It’s the people’s car!”

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

24 Comments on “Facelifted Phaeton Emerges In Beijing, Armed To The Teeth...”


  • avatar
    rpol35

    Now, instead of looking like an expensive VW, it looks like (at least from the side) an expensive Malibu.

  • avatar

    Bottom Line is price. With the CC out there and the audi A6, there’s no reason to spring so much for this.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Unless you want the best car money can buy and don’t care about labels. You can get a car every bit as refined, luxurious and sophisticated as the Phaeton’s nearly mechanically identical cousin (the Bentley Continental) for 1/2 the cost.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Buyers of a CC or A6 are not going to cross-shop a Phaeton. VW (and Hyundai)’s problem is whether their flagships are even going to be considered when shopped against an A8, 7, XJ, LS, or S.

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      I cross shopped and bought a Genesis, but only because it was a better value AND reliable. VW, and the German’s don’t have a great reputation with their electronics reliability and the Phaeton is chuck full of all kinds of wizardry that will potentially fail in very expensive ways.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      WaftableTorque, Hyundai is OK because it doesn’t have a luxury branch. But why would VW produce such a super expensive Passat is beyond me.

      If I want value and subtlety, I would go for the Genesis. If I have to have a German car, I would go for the 545.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Surely you mean ‘Phaecelifted’?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Technology marches on, and the facelifted Phaeton received a healthy dosage, further to flummox the average repair person

    Service technicians are either going to have to cope with increased computerization.

    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: in older cars, this kind of thing would have required a wiring harness as thick as my leg and would have been a nightmare to troubleshoot (**cough**Lucas**cough**). Remember when we used to have to do tune-ups every few thousand miles? Remember what an absolute sonofabitch carburetors were? Mechanical fuel injection?

    VW’s problem is keeping this reasonably open and sane. If I recall, just plugging a scanner could very easy alter the running paramters of certain VW models, and that these systems were not designed for easy diagnosis in the first place.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha!

      You just dated yourself, old warhorse. That was the old tester, AD 1970 – 1980. It was so bad that the tech scribbled handwritten changes on the printout. The later ones (5051/5052) derive their information via the CAN bus (mostly) and do not change the state of the system under test. However, the flummoxing of repair persons continues.

      When the Phaeton came out, they were so overwhelmed that yours truly had to invent something that was somewhat grandiosely called “Herstellergestützte Reparatur” (“Manufacturer-aided repair.”) We simply connected the diagnostic PC of the flummoxed repair droid to the PC of an engineer in Wolfsburg (remote desktop to the rescue) and the engineer could say: “Maybe you want to change injector 4.”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You know what’s depressing? Being called “dated” before you turn 35.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Join the club.

      However, I prefer the more charitable term “wise beyond your years”.

    • 0 avatar
      newcarscostalot

      Your not old, your well aged like stinky cheese.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Or for about the same money you can buy an A8 with similar technolgy and 800 fewer pounds to haul around. That’s what really killed the Phaeton in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Ah, but the A8 doesn’t ride like a Phaeton, isn’t quiet like a Phaeton, isn’t comfy like a Phaeton. When I just had *one* Phaeton, I had a D2 A8 as well. The fix for that situation was to have two Phaetons and no A8s.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Jack, if you bought those cars on a TTAC-writer’s salary alone, I’m in the wrong business!

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      The A8 doesn’t rust like a Phaeton either. Which of course may not be an issue depending on location. I’m still driving a D2 with close to 200k miles. In the rust-belt. And it looks perfect, a few scratches etc notwithstanding.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    56 computers is just dumb. Can you imagine if your desktop machine was actually composed of 50 computers networked together. It is a reliability nightmare. Why not one or two computers?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      One, your desktop computer is several computers networked together (graphics card, network controller, I/O controllers, etc. Even modern, digital LCDs are distinct computers themselves) over one or more common buses.

      At least in this case it’s a much more robust bus.

      Two, if you cut down the number of computers you increase the complexity of the wiring harness and introduce a whole world of hurt from crosstalk/fade/noise. Having each computer talk to another over a simpler, redundant digital bus is much better.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      But why would VW produce such a super expensive Passat is beyond me.

      I wonder if it makes more sense in Europe. If you were the CEO of a prosperous Mittlestrand company in Germany, and you were in the market for a big, super comfortable, fast, autobahn cruiser, it might make more sense politically to go with a VW Phaeton vs. a S550, 7 series or certainly a Bentley. When the union reps glare at your new car you can say “Hey, it’s just a VW.”

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    What astounds me is that the car manufacturers with the worst reputation for electronic reliability are the most adventurous ones, always bringing ever more useless gadgets to the market. I understand that they have to offer extra functionality to charge high premiums for their products. But should they first try to fix their current problems before plugging in any more new electronics? To me as potential a customer who heard numerous stories of various electronic gremlins afflicting VAG cars why would I even consider a potential super-gremlin? At 4K sales a year and with technicians on standby in Wolfsburg this whole project must burn through cash like wildfires through California bush.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    What astounds me is the idea that a manufacturer seems to have no qualms building a car that reduces the driver’s choices so thoroughly. How can you drive a car that is engineered to be your road nanny? How about just changing the name to Big Brothermobile?

    When is VW going to build into it’s cars an ability for the vehicle to give quick little electric shocks to it’s occupants when it senses that they don’t respect laws and authority? If you do something it isn’t programmed to accept, will it lock you in and call the Polizei? Or will it just automatically send you traffic tickets?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      VanillaDude

      So, you’d prefer 4 brake pedals (one for each wheel) to stability control so you can manually control the differentail braking? Yeh, that would work.

  • avatar
    tech98

    When I hear the phrases on-board electronic weaponry and VW in the same context, I immediately picture multiple hideously-expensive visits to the dealer. No thanks.

    I don’t know who VW’s electronic suppliers are, but they need to dump them and hook up with whoever Honda or Hyundai are using.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    I just don’t get the Phaeton. I spent a weekend with a V8 powered one, and outside of some lovely detailing (the trunk hinges for instance), it was a total snooze of a car. Passat by Buick, the Camry of the expensive sedan world. I would have preferred almost any other big luxury car on the market.

    Maybe if it had been the W12…


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States