Introduced at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show, Phaeton was conceived by Ferdinand Piëch, the then chairman of Volkswagen Group. Piëch wanted Volkswagen engineers to create a car that would overwhelmingly surpass the German prestige market leaders, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Today, VW presents the new VW Phaeton, and will be unveiled for the first time at Auto China 2010 (27th April to 2nd May) in Beijing. The new Phaeton was designed by Walter de Silva, the group’s Italian chief designer. 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 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 Phaeton will be available with a choice of two wheelbase options, two back seat versions (three seats / two individual seats) and four engines (a turbo diesel and three petrol engines). The six, eight and twelve-cylinder engines range in capacity from 176 kW / 240 PS to 331 kW / 450 PS. The standard drive unit used in the Phaeton is a V6 petrol engine producing 206 kW / 280 PS. At the capacities above the V6 FSI the choices available are a V8 and a W12 petrol engine, delivering 246 kW / 335 PS and 331 kW / 450 PS respectively. On the diesel front Volkswagen is offering an V6 TDI. In Europe it is the most frequently selected engine for this car. The turbocharged common rail direct injection engine delivers 176 kW / 240 PS and accelerates the Phaeton V6 (top speed in this case 237 km/h) from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.6 seconds. This is accompanied by average fuel consumption that has now been reduced still further to 8.5 litres per 100 km (equating to 224 g/km CO2).
Depending on wheelbase, the 2011 model 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 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.
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 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).
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.
Information and entertainment systems
Volkswagen is for the first time offering an Internet-based Google function in the new Phaeton as a map display add-on for the RNS 810 radio navigation system with 30-gigabyte hard drive. The relevant data gets loaded onto the system over the Internet via mobile telephone and a proxy server specially set up for the purpose. The visualisation on the touchscreen’s display is the same as the Google Maps ‘Satellite’ view familiar from the conventional Internet and equivalent to the iPhone’s ‘Hybrid’ view. In the Phaeton the satellite images naturally get supplemented by the navigation system’s appropriately highlighted route recommendation.
Particularly interesting in this feature are the POIs (points of interest) that can be accessed. Addresses, tourist sights, businesses, sports venues, doctors’ surgeries and restaurants integrated within Google can be selected in seconds and transferred directly into the route navigation. In perfect conditions the system loads the data via UMTS connection. The telephone itself gets completely integrated into the system via remote SIM access profiles (rSAP). Alternatively, anyone who wants to use a mobile phone with hands-free profiles (HFPs) can also do this linked up with the new Phaeton (in this case Google is disabled). In HFP mode phones that are ‘Phaeton compatible’ include, for example, Apple’s iPhone.
Volkswagen is targeting sales of about 2,500 Phaetons in China in 2010, according to Winfried Vahland, the chief of VW China operations. This number would make China by far the number one market for the Phaeton worldwide.
The new Volkswagen Phaeton goes on sale August 2010 with prices and specifications set to be announced nearer this time, but most probably around EUR52,000 ($70,000).