By on January 14, 2016

Der neue Volkswagen Phaeton

Supposedly, there’s a Powerball ticket somewhere in this house. It’s Wednesday night as I write this, a few hours before the drawing. By the time you read this, you will know that I did not win the Powerball, and neither did you. I feel mathematically justified in believing that not a single TTAC reader is in any danger of actually winning the Powerball. Statistically speaking, about sixty of our readers this month are probably going to die behind the wheel at some point in their lives, but none of them are going to win the Powerball. Depressing, huh? Not that any of us are prepared for the life-destroying effect of being suddenly and publicly minted as a billionaire. Just imagine all of your friends disappearing and being replaced by a million times as many people who all despise you to the core of their souls.

It’s a shame that I’m not going to win the Powerball, because I’d probably spend a million dollars or so on buying, and restoring, a fleet of Volkswagen Phaetons. Instead of being known as “the idiot who had two new Phaetons,” I would be known as “the idiot who has twenty Phaetons in tip-top shape.” I’d be most interested in W12-powered examples with the four-seater package, but I’d have at least one of every major configuration. I’d lend them out, the way Matt Farah lent me his Million Mile Lexus this past January. I’d drive them myself. And I would once again be able to enjoy that singular feature of the VW Phaeton, the one thing that it did better than any other car in the world, even ones that cost much more.

Like most cars built in the past 60 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a movable driver’s seat. Like the vast majority of the cars built in the past 30 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a center console. Now pay attention, because this is the important part. In pretty much every car I’ve driven since the day I got my license, ranging from raggedy old Escorts to brand-new Rolls-Royces, there is a small gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. If you are sitting in any of those cars and you are holding your phone, or your keys, or your wallet, or anything else that is less than an inch and a half wide, and you drop that item, it will fall between the seat and the center console. At that point, you will discover that, although the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console easily accommodates a smartphone or, say, an ex-West-Berlin-Police Walther PP pistol in caliber .32 ACP, it does not accommodate the hand of an adult male. Not without scratching and/or cutting it into ribbons.

In the VW Phaeton, however, there is a thing. It’s a velour-covered molded piece and it fills in the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. It’s made to flex a bit so even though the relationship of the seat to the console changes a bit throughout its range of travel, that piece still prevents anything from falling between the seat and the console. If you drop your phone or your keys or your Walther, it will land on that piece and there it will stay in easy reach of your hand.

A few months ago, I spent an afternoon driving the new Bentley Continental GT3, surely the most expensive and exclusive development of the VW Phaeton to ever leave Crewe or Dresden. Surely you can imagine my complete and total fucking astonishment when I dropped my phone — and it fell between the seat and the console. It was then that I realized just how special the Phaeton had been. That little trim piece was surely expensive to make and fit and keep from wearing out immediately or squeaking or whatever; so much so that it was cut out of a $300,000 Continental.

I don’t know what to call that trim piece, but let’s call it a “phone-blocker.” My sincere opinion is that every car on the market should have it. At least every car priced above the Chevy Sonic should have it. But they don’t, and I’ll tell you why: it’s the kind of thing that you only come to appreciate after a few months or years of ownership. If a salesman pointed it out to you during a walkaround, you’d laugh; if someone told you that they bought a car because of that feature, you’d laugh at them. Yet it makes a genuine difference to the ownership experience.

The phone-blocker wouldn’t sell any cars, so it doesn’t get installed on any cars. Simple as that. What killed the Phaeton was that the car was chock-full of things that make ownership hugely satisfying but which don’t sell a single car. Genuinely effective four-zone climate control. Draft-free ventilation with hidden vents. Forged Campagnolo trunk hinges. The ability, when your car is high-centered thanks to a winter-road mistake or forced passage across difficulty terrain, to reach an individual wheel down with the air shock until it can find grip and get you out of there, sort of like LA-gangster “three-wheel-motion” in reverse. You don’t really think about this stuff until you take delivery of a new Audi A8 and find that some or all of these thoughtfully-crafted features are missing.

In that regard, the Phaeton is like an under-appreciated wife who runs around behind you fixing all your mistakes. You don’t really appreciate her until years later you’re living with a Vegas stripper and the furnace stops working in the dead of winter and you realize that someone has been fixing the house for the past decade without you really having to think about it. That’s a made-up example, of course.

lanewatch2

Honda LaneWatch is another one of those great features that you can’t truly appreciate until you’ve had it for a while. At first it seems like a gimmick for people too lazy to use their necks while driving. And that’s all it is — until you’re in nightmare 80 mph Chicago bumper-to-bumper commuting traffic and you realize that you have the power to sneak into gaps that previously would have been wing-and-a-prayer territory. Then you realize that you can activate it without using the turn signal, which means that you can make the most outrageous of last-minute ducks into your desired freeway exit lane before the Yukon driver who inadvertently opened the gap can stop you.

After a while, LaneWatch becomes such second nature that it’s startling to drive a brand-new, fully-loaded Acura TLX and realize that the TLX has a traditional set of blind-spot monitors which are much less useful than the combination of LaneWatch to the right and the expanded-view mirror on the left. Presumably, this is because LaneWatch is part of the “Honda feature set” and the Audi-alike blind-spot monitoring is part of the “Acura feature set.” This is also why you can’t have a six-speed manual in the TLX, I suppose.

The good news is that the future of automotive manufacturing is likely to include many more possibilities for customization than it currently does. We can’t be too far away from the day when you can have much of your new car 3D-printed just for you at the time of purchase. When that happens, you’ll see all sorts of things like phone-blockers and LaneWatch popping up all over the place, the same way that the Linux operating system used to offer the ability to switch between about a dozen desktop environments (for the record, I used WindowMaker for a solid decade) and to customize those environments to the point of exhaustion.

Truth be told, there’s nothing stopping me from 3-D-printing my very own phone-blocker and offering the CAD file free of charge to other Accord Coupe owners. Nothing, that is, except being far too busy to do any such thing. I’d probably be willing to pay someone else to design and print one. How much? Well, let’s put it this way: more than I’m willing to spend on Powerball tickets.

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102 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: A Very Special Feature...”


  • avatar
    TypeSDriver

    Since you love that feature so much, might I suggest that you pick these up for any car that you own: http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BYH6C1E?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_2&smid=A3V4MK7OGXJBDK

    I always add numerous smaller mods to my cars (bulbs, tint, wheels, tires) and this was by far my favorite “mod” I made to my last car. I dropped my fob down there, and that was the final straw…it took me 20 minutes of moving the seat and beating my hand up to find & retrieve the damned thing! I just bought a 2016 GTI SE w/6-speed manual (God I missed driving stick!) and it’s the first thing that I bought for it.

    • 0 avatar

      Forceps. Get a set of long forceps, and this sort of thing is easy. I’ve also saved a fair number of dropped bolts and screws under the hood who fell to some visible but not touchable spot.

      I have one bent set and one straight set. I can’t tell you what they cost to get as both of mine were found over the years.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    After 15+ years of driving, I can’t remember ever dropping anything between the seat and the center console? Maybe I’m the weird one?

    I was confused why my parents’ 2016 MDX did not have Lane Watch, but a 2014 Civic LX does. I wonder how Honda made that decision.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Maybe we’re both weird, but I don’t ever recall this being a problem either. Never spent much time thinking about it.

      I do apprecaite the nuances of little things that some car engineer thought about.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I don’t know that I’ve dropped things in that space, but things HAVE fallen out of my pocket and slid down there. Mostly keys, Chap Stick, coins. I keep my phone in my left pocket.

      When you retrieve said items, your hand is bleeding and covered in seat track grease.

      If it can wait, I usually leave whatever it is there. Then I fish it out with a pencil, ruler, hanger – whatever is around.

      • 0 avatar
        MeJ

        I’ve dropped keys, my phone, French fries…All kinds of things into that damn space!
        I figure I must have around $20-30 in toonies and loonies (I’m Canadian and those are our two and one dollar coins for those who don’t know.) that I’ll never see until I decide to replace the drivers seat in my Bmw.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I drop things in that space ALL THE TIME. Usually keys, sometimes phones. I think you’re weird. :)

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    How about trying a rolled up, black hand towel placed between the seat and center console? Removable for washing, probably will allow the seat to move, if not it won’t be hard to move by hand, won’t squeak.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    My folks’ 2002 E430 4matic wagon had that little “phone catcher”. Granted the phone was a Motorola v60 (as I recall). Quite a step up from a Sable wagon and a StarTac. Long live the StarTac!

  • avatar
    ajla

    The last GS350 I was in had a “phone-blocker”.

    • 0 avatar
      MR2turbo4evr

      My dad’s ’05 LS430 also has it.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Interesting. My ’08 LS460 doesn’t have it, and I wish it did.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Geesh stop buying poor people LS versions!

          (Maybe it’s part of the Ultimate Package on LWB or something?)

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Nope… I think it’s a 430 thing.

            Before I can stop buying poor people LSes I need to stop having poor people garages. I’ve got every option on SWB and the LWB won’t fit without my moving a lot of other stuff…

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Get your boxes out, time for a new year Goodwill donation! I didn’t think you wanted the LWB anyway, generally.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I didn’t. I could make the room happen if I really wanted one. But if I’m being honest with myself a few extra rear-seat gadgets (4-zone climate control, side sunshades, rear radio controls) aren’t worth turning my 4400 lb flagship into a 4700 lb one. The heated/cooled and reclining rear seats with memory satisfy my wish for unreasonable rear-seat hedonism.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I like it just because it’s longer, and that’s why I picked the A8L also. But realistically, the number of times people sat back there in two years could be counted on two hands.

            If you’re driving yourself, it’s just more sensible to avoid the weight and inconvenience of the LWB of anything.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    as seen on tv
    http://www.buydropstop.com/

  • avatar

    Certain Sterlings and Rover 800s had steering column wipet and blinker control stalks whose symbols were illuminated by fibre-optics.

    A little way into the run they dropped the feature.

    I don’t think I’ve driven a car so-equipped since.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      My ’76 Mercedes had the center console Climate controls illuminated by a fiber optic cluster from one of the instrument panel bulbs (which meant the central brightness knob could control them directly).

      (The problem with this was that if you’re not careful and aware of that when you pull the instrument cluster, you can break the fibers and darken the climate controls, which someone had done for one half before I got the car.

      These days you don’t need any of that because LEDs are so cheap and it’s not that hard to do central brightness control.

      And there’s no broken-fiber fragility issues with copper wires…)

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        (As far as I know, that feature dated to the earliest W114/5 bodies in 1968, and I would not be surprised to have seen it on the contemporary SL and S models, either, but I’ve never pulled the console on on…)

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Oh, look at this messy W109! How do you value such a thing?
          https://www.ebth.com/items/2857903-1971-mercedes-benz-300-sel-3-5

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Judging by the lies the seller has posted , slightly over scrap value…..

            These were fine cars but once rusty and beat , they’re basically worthless sad to say =8-( .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What lies?! Normally EBTH doesn’t really evaluate the car, that’s all on you. They’re just the auctioneer.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Sorry Cory ;

            You’re right , I was just grumpy as one of my Foster boys is about to crash and burn , the lure of Hollywood’s easy rip offs getting him .

            Anyway , this is clearly a seriously rusty car and the language used is misleading at best .

            Caveat Emptor ! .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I note that the greatest feature in a top line VW is neither mechanical nor electrical. They weren’t able to innovate a way for it to fail. Yet.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    Someone came out with a patented “Drop-Stop” filler that goes between the seat and console. Set of 2 runs $20 at major retailers.

  • avatar
    ant

    How about they engineer front seats that are easily removable/exchanged, and then offer a variety of seats that fit different body types/shapes.

    Why can’t honda put sh-awd in a honda? The pilot has the same hardware that the mdx has, but it’s lamer cause why?

    Hid headlights, so people can see at night. Make it an option.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Pilot doesn’t have HiD’s available? Even currently? It has LED, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It’s so you’ll have a reason to purchase an MDX, quite frankly.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Making SH-AWD exclusive to the Acura brand helps justify the higher selling price. Not offering SH-AWD in the Pilot helps Honda offer a competitive price.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Yes, that’s what we need, brighter headlights – because there’s not enough glare yet.

      News flash – if you are driving fast enough that you can’t see adequately, using halogens, you need to slow down, not blind everyone else on the road. I can honestly say that in 40 years of driving, the number of times I wanted flame-throwing retina-destroyer lights is vanishingly small, but the number of times I wanted to pull someone over with excessively bright headlights and fix the problem with a 2 lb. ball pein hammer would count in the tens of thousands. And it’s no good telling me that your latest-fad ultra-bright surface-of-the-sun headlights won’t cause any more glare than a beeswax candle, “if they are just kept in good adjustment”. How do we keep headlights in perfect adjustment when the whole headlight assembly is a bunch of plastic parts, and two days after your state inspection you throw the whole thing off when you hammer that huge pothole?

      No, the headlights are TOO DAMN BRIGHT.

      • 0 avatar
        ant

        I’m just comparing our 12 tsx to our 14 crv. The headlights. There is a very big difference on how well they illuminate the road. I can tell a tsx coming at me from the color of the headlights, and they do not blind me. The technology is clearly superior.

        Yes, I know that sh-awd is held back to make the mdx more appealing than the pilot. Same thing on that god-awful instrument panel on the pilot.

        Thing is, these things don’t cost any different to make.

        Honda should just fold up its Acura division, and give it up if they are not going to have compelling reasons for people to spend more on an Acura.

        They could build the cars with longer lasting parts….. That would be a reason to spend more, but they don’t. They used to.

        I also have a 1988 honda accord. It’s built better than the 2012 tsx.

        The headlights have glass, not foggy prone plastic.
        The headliner is wipeable, not cheap fabric.
        The seats are made with a durable fabric, not paper thin “suede” crap.
        The trunk pull is a quality made lever, not a cheap feeling button.
        The doors have a triple seal.
        The HVAC controls are made with quality tactile controls, not dual climate control digital crap.
        The heater puts out more heat, and the AC is colder.
        The paint is in better condition on the 24-year older car.

        Fact is the bean counters run the place over at Honda. Old man Honda wouldn’t approve I think.

        • 0 avatar
          LeMansteve

          Why do you think SH-AWD costs the same to manufacture as the simpler RT-4WD? For one thing, SH-AWD has clutched torque-vectoring at the rear differential where the RT-4WD has an open rear differential.

          If you really think a 1988 Honda is “built better” than a 2012 Honda, crash them into each other and see what happens. For each of the qualities in your list, there are at least double the reasons why a 2012 car is superior to a 28-year-old car.

          At one point, Old Man Honda resisted water-cooled engines. Where would Honda be today if they insisted on making air-cooled cars?

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        hear hear to turf3. I know it is tangentially related, but it needs to be repeated constantly just how stupid the race to aftermarket light technology is destroying all that is good and just in this world.

        other headlight items that need to be constantly refrained (in addition to the aftermarket blinding technology fads):

        people that turn high-beams on during the day
        folks that turn on high-beams to compensate for a light that has blown
        folks who use fog lights when there is no fog
        whoever engineered the light aim/calibration for all Chevy/GMC trucks/SUVs released since 1985. Nothing against the owners, but whoever designed it is a DICK.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Front seats are easily removed in my experience; I’ve never seen it be something that took very long. Pull a plug or two and take out four bolts.

      It’s not like it wouldn’t be the dealer exchanging seats in that case, for pretty much all customers, so it doesn’t need to be “rear seat of a minivan” easy.

      (Because who wants to keep extra seats in the garage for other drivers? Nobody wants that, in practice, not for the price and the wasted space.

      By nobody, of course, I mean “so close to nobody as to make it irrelevant to the market”; more than zero people probably DO want that. But you need tends of thousands to make it worth selling.)

      The problem with variety is that very few people seem to care enough to pay most of a thousand dollars for a “better” seat and have a spare “standard” lying around – and neither the manufacturer nor the dealers want to do a “free trade” and end up with a bunch of extra seat inventory.

      Combine that with *probably* needing to crash test each seat (or worse, maybe each possible combination) separately, those low volumes, and the expenses of inventory and you see why not even an S class or Bentley has that kind of option.

      (They DO have a lot of adjustability, including thigh-length these days, in expensive cars…)

  • avatar
    Driver8

    It’s the husband that always kept the furnace running and the wife that left to E,P,L. You’d be lucky to find a wife who can make toast these days.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I know a thoracic surgeon who had one of these. A brilliant display of discrete luxury .I once test drove the W8 Passat..It was great looking but the transmission was a let down, leaving feeling underpowered although it wasn’t. I wonder if the Phaeton drives the same way

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Passat W8 has very little in common with the Phaeton.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Looking at that dash and door it sure looks like my B5 Passat 1.8T. Granted the materials are much better. Well I pray they are since the standard VW stuff is total crap and one of the main reasons we got rid of ours. But all the bits are in the same place and they are the same shape.

        I understand the gimmick that becomes a must-have thing. My Z has an auto dimming mirror. At first I laughed, then I got used to not be blinded by the car behind and wondered why all cars don’t have this simple feature. Same goes for the wife’s Volvo with auto wipers. The windshield gets wet and the wipers just activate themselves. After awhile you forget there is even a switch.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          The best thing I discovered about the auto-wipers on my Volvo is that the manual wiper frequency dial ALSO controls how aggressive the auto-wipers are.

          Dial it down so it doesn’t go crazy about light spray, dial it up for real rain…

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    Every Ford I’d had in the last decade had an electronic compass, yet my new BMW does not. I didn’t realize how much I had come to rely on that feature until I took the Bimmer out for some back road fun and got turned around. Luckily I’d reviewed Google earth prior to starting out and had a general idea of where all the highways went and some landmarks too.

    I let it slide though as the BMW is more fun to drive than any Ford I’ve ever had. Here’s to “not overpowered cars that put their power down using the rear wheels.”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Your new BMW does not have a nav screen with compass?

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      What BMW do you have?

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        Bare bones 320i. The only options it has are a moon roof, heated seats, and a backup camera/parking sensors.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Oh, okay. I got a 320i loaner once, but it had xDrive, a rear camera, navigation and the nicer instrument cluster…so I assume it had a compass as well. There is something to be said for a bare-bones 320i, though, because I think it’s very much in the spirit of the original BMWs.

          Interestingly, I left the dealership a really favorable review on the BMW survey—because they were great; my car itself was cursed—and I “conveniently” started getting newer X5s for loaners.

          • 0 avatar
            SaulTigh

            I chose it for it’s plain nature. I’d been reading about 3-series BMW’s for almost 30 years in auto mags and felt I needed to try one out. A magazine article I read opined that the current 320i captured the spirit of the original 2002 better than any current BMW, and then a different magazine article in which it won a “entry level luxury” comparison test sealed the deal. So far I love the car, only issue so far is that I’m a pretty big guy and my arm is right up against the driver’s door when my hand is not on the wheel, so I wish the cabin were a tad wider. Yet another motivator to lose some weight (hard given my office drone existence).

            Incidentally my dealership/leasing experience was awesome as well. BMW knows how to do it right.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I would assume that the compass mirror comes with the Premium Pkg. Gets you Homelink in the mirror as well, in most cases.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Really? I haven’t paid attention to the newer F and G-chassis BMW, but every one of the late E-chassis examples I drove (E90, E70, E60, E63/64) had an orange compass in the mirror.

  • avatar
    usonianhorizon

    “for the record, I used WindowMaker for a solid decade”

    Ex-NeXTSTEP user, Jack? FTR, I still have a NeXTstation Colour w/Motorola 68040 sitting in my basement

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Want to sell it? I collect that junk, er, stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        usonianhorizon

        Not a chance; this was my development box for hundreds of thousands of lines of Objective-C code ;). But next time I am in OH, I’ll ping you. I visited Redwood City, CA in late 1990. I had to finally give away the CRT monitor across too many moves, but have the rest of the gear.

        Now, I have a dream of something unobtainium like my aforementioned liking of TVRs, Jensens, and Bristols, with a custom information system (not infotainment!!) sporting a NeXTSTEP interface. Can’t you just imagine a vim edit session, after filling up with fuel, to update your mileage stats driven by a gawk script?

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          I can, and that’s why I’d never use such a thing… ;)

        • 0 avatar
          awagliar

          Anybody interested in a mint condition DECstation 5000? No, didn’t think so. Me either, so why I still have it becomes a very curious question.

          Would still love to get my hands on a VAX 11/780, if only to heat my basement.

          • 0 avatar
            Brian E

            I don’t think there’s anyone out there with a burning desire to run Ultrix. I don’t even have the desire to burn Ultrix (or DEC) anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ultrix is before my time, but I’m typically one who likes to collect exotic hardware. Anymore though, I just prefer to run VMs because hardware is a PITA.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    To copy Lewis Black, my next vehicle must have a professional ball washer on board:

    (There’s nothing sexual about this or 2min comedy clip, but there is one F-bomb in beginning)

    When you really want to impress:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5T8Gxk7vbec

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    I also have a former German police Walther PP. I approve.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      If you stick with your 1911 for in-car use, it probably won’t get lost between the seat and console.

      • 0 avatar
        carrya1911

        My guns usually never leave the holster…but the 1911 has a very thin profile thanks to the single stack design and while I’ve never tried it, I suspect it would actually slide between the seat and the console of many cars. Especially given the weight of the ol’ girl.

    • 0 avatar
      CliffG

      I can understand owning .32 PPK, they are pretty, even if not the most outstanding gun to actually shoot – my accuracy with it changes literally every time I go to the range – (visions of 007 picking off running bad guys at 40 meters is the movies you know). But seriously, unless you are planning on using it on people like me, old white guys with a low pain thresholds, you are just going to piss them off if you use that thing. Unless you are a spectacular shooter of course. I realize that the likelihood of actually needing it to go bang in a dire situation is extremely low, at least in the neighborhoods I frequent.

      • 0 avatar
        carrya1911

        Heh. I collect firearms as well as using them as weapons. The Walther PP and PPK are lovely handguns. They’re not comfortable to shoot with my relatively large hands.

        For use against bad people I tend to stick to 9mm and up loaded with Speer Gold Dot or Federal HST ammunition.

  • avatar
    pbr

    >> That’s a made-up example, of course.

    *snort*
    I reckon …

  • avatar
    dwford

    One feature I really appreciated back in the day was the cargo cover of my Acura RSX. Unlike most hatchbacks where you get a crappy cardboard fuzzy cover that rests on posts on either side of the hatch and goes up and down on those strings, the RSX had a fabric mesh cargo cover in a plastic frame that was solely attached to the hatchback, so it moved up and out of the way completely when you raised the hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I noticed that. Yes, that is a useful feature.

      One of my favorite features—and yes, I know it’s gimmicky and will eventually break—is the camera on my Golf SportWagen, which pops out of the logo. VW have been doing that for a while (and so have BMW, on the 6-Series), but that’s my first car with it. It keeps the camera clean. I see a lot of people pointing at it in parking lots.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      So basically, it had a window blind. Ha

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Looking at that interior shot, that must be the largest dead pedal I have ever seen.

  • avatar
    turf3

    How about a “console delete” option? The huge center console serves NO PURPOSE on a front wheel drive car. The only things under there are a wire harness (1/2″ dia.), a couple fuel lines (1/2″ dia.), and an exhaust pipe (2″ dia.) So why does the center console rise 2 feet from the floor?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      It’s “sporty” and makes it feel like a more expensive car, than one with a bench seat. Also, it holds crap like USB ports and cup holders which cool your Big Gulp.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      To be tall enough to hold your American-size soda stably. I wish I were joking. I’m not. That’s why they evolved; early cupholders were criticized for letting drinks spill too easily. Styling them to look luxurious and streamlined is an adaptation.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      +1 My 04 Deville’s center front “seat” (not at all usable as a seat) is wonderful to put bags, jackets purses etc on. It also has a lid that opens up to reveal a useful storage space underneath. The cup holders flip forward from the front of this center area and between the seatbacks there is also a separate fold down armrest that also has storage space inside. I have all the storage space that I need and still have all kinds of spread out room. I’m not aware of any current vehicle with this kind of front row configuration. Base model 1/2 ton trucks have benches but not the kind of storage options of my car.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    Stop making me want things I can’t have! :)

    Seriously though, great article. I may have to grab a Honda with lanewatch at some point. It sounds amazing. what year did that get introduced?

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “until you’re in nightmare 80 mph Chicago bumper-to-bumper commuting traffic and you realize that you have the power to sneak into gaps that previously would have been wing-and-a-prayer territory. Then you realize that you can activate it without using the turn signal, which means that you can make the most outrageous of last-minute ducks into your desired freeway exit lane before the Yukon driver who inadvertently opened the gap can stop you.”

    I know that this is only tangential to Jack’s post, but this illustrates something that I find all too common when driving: the notion that I’m an unwilling participant in a GTA type video game. If bumper-to-bumper traffic is already going 80 mph, why in the world is it necessary to sneak into gaps? Unless you’ve been oblivious to your current location (which is its own problem), why do you need to make a last-minute duck in front of a Yukon in order to make your freeway exit? The people who treat driving as a competition, especially in crowded situations at high speed, are not only dangerous but usually don’t even achieve their desired end, i.e. getting to their destination significantly ahead of everyone else.

    When I relocated to Chicagoland from MI several years back, the huge increase of additional traffic on the roads led me to practice just that kind of frantic lane-switching in an effort to GET A MOVE ON!, but I soon realized that I was getting so agitated that I worried for my health. I adopted a more Zen-like attitude and went with the general flow of the traffic I found myself in. Not only did that calm demeanor feel better, I noticed that I mostly kept up with the lane-switchers, who often got bottled up despite their best efforts, while I glided right up to them.

    Additional visibility around your car is a great feature, but only if you use it defensively, not offensively.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Great point Clutch! I haven’t driven much in Chicago, but have driven a fair amount in Detroit, Dallas, and Houston. All the big cities I guess have similar hazards on the freeway. So, for example, if you think it’s cool to sneak into a gap at 80 mph that you would not have risked using only traditional visual inspection – what are you going to do when the guy 6 feet in front of you has to lock the wheels due to the guy trying to cross the freeway on foot during rush hour? Or the concrete truck in front of him drops the last section of its delivery chute? or you all come over a hill to find a refrigerator lying in the road? Or someone traveling 25 mph in the left lane? Etc., etc., etc.

      Using “lane watch” technology to further reduce your already unrealistically small following distance is not a good plan. If you sneak in front of me doing that you’ll definitely get a flash of my high beams. Other guys, especially where I’m from, might follow you and kick your ass.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        ” If you sneak in front of me doing that you’ll definitely get a flash of my high beams. Other guys, especially where I’m from, might follow you and kick your ass.”

        Now you see, where *I* am from that’s a recipe for two in the chest and one in the head.

        It’s always best not to take traffic personally. :)

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          Given the feeling that I’m a peripheral character in someone else’s GTA session, as much as gap jumping bothers me I will rarely use my horn or flash my lights when it happens directly proximate to me. The most that I’ll do is keep the gap in front of me to a reasonable minimum to discourage adventurism.

        • 0 avatar
          turf3

          So, maybe using “lane watch” as tailgating assistance on the freeway is not the very best of all possible ideas. Or, what I and the other guy said.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        “Other guys, especially where I’m from, might follow you and kick your ass.”

        Thus, having the Walther at the ready (and not between the seat and the console) is paramount. ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I drove into Houston late in the rush hour, besides seeing 2 Ferraris, I stayed relax, kept distance from the guy in front of me and most important stayed in my lane. I know I was pissing people off behind me but they didn’t make that much more progress than me. Besides, f&%k’em.

    • 0 avatar
      fishiftstick

      Lanewatch is a phenomenal feature.

      Like you, I dislike tailgating at highway speeds. I don’t use Lanewatch much on the highway. I use it constantly driving on Toronto streets.

      A road is a pipe. The cars in back of you can’t move forward until you do. Choosing to hypermile, to drive more slowly than conditions warrant, or to leave more space than necessary, is selfish: it delays and wastes the time of everyone behind you.

      If you drive well below the speed limit on dry roads in broad daylight, or leave 25 car lengths between you and the car in front at 30 KPH, you will get cut off by yours truly.

      High-beam me all you want: besides Lanewatch, my Accord also has an auto-dimming mirror.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      If you barely have room for a car to sneak in front of you at 80 mph you’re already following way too close.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    My 2001 Lexus LS430 has the velour seat crevice blocker that you describe for your Phaeton.

  • avatar
    SCfanboy

    When I lose something between the seats I’ve had success with reaching my hand under the front seat from the back seat area. The opening is bigger and if it doesn’t fall all the way through you can usually get a finger on it and then you have gravity on your side.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    My Chevy Cruze and the other GM products out there have the (optional) ability to be remote started from a smartphone. And also to be locked or unlocked the same way. To my knowledge, GM is the only one who does this from the factory, but I might be wrong on that.

    I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole OnStar thing, especially in the age of smartphones. But returning home to below freezing weather and a car covered in snow and ice, I made sure I used this feature before I began my 7 minute trip from the terminal to the car. I left the controls in the position for defrost, but the car uses it’s own low settings and also turns on the rear defrost and side mirror heat. It was very welcome to find the car at least in a pre-defrosted state.

    I’m not a huge fan of long term idling, usually about a minute until I hear it kick out of high idle when cold. But this time, and I’m sure other times in two years, I’ll use this feature way more than the XM I’ll cancel when the trial is up.

    I had remote start installed on our Mazda 5 and it works, but the install (which I had done) isn’t the cleanest install and has malfunctioned before ( even though it’s the “factory” system). I know other aftermarket companies sell smartphone controlled remote start systems. But from the factory, on a slightly inexpensive car, it was a welcome option and I’m glad I opted for the car with this package. It nearly makes that ugly lump of plastic antenna on top of the car worth it.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Jack, there’s a guy who does with Mercedes 600 Grossers exactly what you want to do with Phaetons, and makes quite a handsome living at it. Time to start buying and selling parts and working your way up to complete cars?

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “If a salesman pointed it out to you during a walkaround, you’d laugh”

    I wouldn’t – nor should anyone who’s ever had to fish something out from that gap.

    That kind of attention to detail would speak well to the entire car; call it perhaps the Apple Effect.

    (Doesn’t mean the car is perfect, just like despite having used Macs since the late 80s not one Apple product I’ve used has ever been *perfect*, but Apple always cared about UX details nobody else seemed to even spend five seconds considering.

    That’s transitive to anything human beings interact with, and cars count.

    Apart from the direct driving controls, a lot of cars have *horrible* UX.

    That’s excusable in the bottom of the market, because it does have costs, and the ultra-cost-conscious care less about that than the pricetag.

    It’s inexcusable in a car that costs $40k, let alone a Bentley.)

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    The oft-maligned Merkur Scorpio had a lot of interesting little “surprise and delight” features. Some of the cooler ones include:

    – The cords that lifted the rear cargo cover upon opening the hatch had little retractors that reeled the cords in when you removed them from the ball-stud on the liftgate, that way they weren’t flopping around to get potentially damaged or caught on something when you removed the cargo cover.

    – The coin holder was a clever little compartment that hinged out of the dashboard and stood the coins up vertically in slots, that way you could easily grab just what you need. As a bonus, the whole affair was flocked with a “mouse fur” that kept the coins from rattling.

    – The rear seats had a power recline feature, yet still retained the ability to fold into a flat load floor for large cargo.

    – Because the electric fuel door release was exposed on the center console and easy to accidentally “bump”, it was wired to only work with the car in park and the engine off. While this would be easy today in the world of electronic modules, back in the 80’s it took a lot of wiring and relays to pull off a feat of that nature.

    – In another bid to use up the world’s supply of copper and relays to offer features that could be accomplished with a few lines of code today, the car also had a feature that would activate the rear wiper if the front wipers were on and the car were placed in reverse.

    – Lighting from the rear tail lamp was employed to also illuminate the rear washer tank, that way the filler cap could easily be seen/found in the dark, assuming you at least left the parking lamps on.

    All in all, it really was a delightful car as compared with some of the other stuff available at the time. The seats were far and away the best seats I’ve ever sat in – all day comfort that left you refreshed at the end of a long day’s drive.

  • avatar

    I be those collector pockets in the Phaeton collected a lot of HVAC insulation and headliner adhesive.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    If you don’t have a Phaeton or a Lexus handy you can opt for the As Seen On TV! option…

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    My long ago-owned 1961 Mk II 3.8L Jaguar (British Racing Green, natural burled wood trim, spoke wheels with knockoff hubs AND the mallet for them, etc.), also had a Borg-Warner-Studebaker auto transmission. When you stopped at a light, the brake locked, eliminating the need to keep your foot on the brake or shift into neutral to prevent creep. When you started off, touching the accelerator released the brake automatically.

    Years later I test drove a later Jag, though one that was still pre-Performance Auto Group, and was surprised and disappointed to find that that feature had disappeared.

    Sometimes it is those little things that make a car stand out as not just great, but truly unique.

    And FWIW, my Panther (97 Grand Marquis) has both seats that are wide enough for anyone’s rear end (OK, maybe not a Weight Watchers before pic type), AND there is room for my hand to fish out my key fob should it fall in the crack. Still, I would like having that phone-catcher feature, especially in my wife’s Camry, where I often have to resort to either forceps or a pair of needlenose pliers to fish out her keys, lipstick, etc.

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