The VW Phaeton is the undeniable king of all Q-Ships/Sleepers. Not only is it a very powerful and comfortable luxury car that most people will pass off as just another Passat, it’s extremely rare to see one for sale in the U.S.
The Phaeton is Ferdinand Piëch’s swang song from his reign as Chairman of the Volkswagen Group. At the time, Piëch’s vision was to have VW Group surpass GM and Toyota as the world’s largest automobile manufacturer. Piëch challenged VW engineers to build, in his words, “the best car ever made.” Well-known as a hard-driving perfectionist, Piëch gave his engineers ten parameters the Phaeton needed to fulfill. By the time the Phaeton made it to production, half of VW’s engineers working on the project moved to other assignments in frustration thinking the parameters were not achievable. Piëch wanted the Phaeton to be a halo car for the VW Brand that focused more on luxury than sportiness.
VW only divulged a few of Piëch’s engineering parameters at the car’s debut. In the TopGear episode introducing the car, Jeremy Clarkson famously revealed one of them was “The Phaeton should be capable of being driven all day at 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph) with an exterior temperature of 122 degrees (Fahrenheit) whilst maintaining the interior temperature at 71.6 degrees (Fahrenheit).” Clarkson proceeded to demonstrate how the Phaeton does not blow air directly onto passengers and how the car’s dehumidifier system prevents the windows from fogging from the inside.
Despite the Phaeton’s amazing performance and luxury features, the styling ultimately let the car down as consumers felt the car looked too similar to the Passat. Adding to that was the hard-for-people-to-swallow-a-$70,000-VW base price meant that Volkswagen produced only 3,354 Phaetons for the 2004 through 2006 model years (source: GoodCarBadCar) for the U.S. market. The example featured here is one of only 252 ’06 U.S. models, making this car rarer than just about any other exotic offered in America at that time.
The 120K mile Black over Black Leather example presented here only adds to the stealth nature of these cars. As this is the W8 version, it shares its 4.2L engine with the Audi A8 of the same period, so these lower content Phaetons are a bit easier to work on than the ever rarer W12 equipped model. While the seller states this example “runs and drives nicely and is very well taken care of, ” further interviewing will be needed to confirm who and how maintained the car to date. Without the VIN provided in the ad, it’s hard to tell the history of this car, so we highly recommend running a Car Fax report before purchase.