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Beijing show: VW facelifts Phaeton – again

Going chrome: VW's big Phaeton limo has been given another spit and polish, mainly for the Chinese market.

VW Phaeton still won’t come Down Under, but is it third time lucky S-class rival

23 Apr 2010

VOLKSWAGEN’S ageing first-generation luxury limousine has surprised observers by going under the scalpel again in the face of much younger rivals, just two years after the last update.

Eight years on from the Phaeton’s world debut at the 2002 Geneva motor show, the revised four-door sedan has surfaced at this week’s Beijing motor show boasting automotive botox in the form of a refreshed nose and tail, as well as some cabin modifications.

The Chinese market is actually growing for Volkswagen’s S-class competitor and the importance of China to Volkswagen’s global expansion plans is evidenced by the fact the German giant chose Beijing to unveil its freshest Phaeton.

The Phaeton found 1400 buyers last year – a 37 per cent increase over 2008 numbers – and in 2010 the goal is 2000 units. The revised Volkswagen flagship goes on sale in Europe in August.

Despite is success in China, however, the Phaeton remains off Volkswagen’s radar in markets like Australia and North America, where it was unceremoniously dumped from the line-up in 2006.

Sharing much of its underpinnings with the Bentley Continental range, the Phaeton is now comes fitted with a new look and technologies, further developing what is one of the most advanced luxury vehicles available.

The latest Phaeton is differentiated by new front quarter panels with sharper shoulder lines, a reprofiled bonnet, new bi-Xenon headlights underlines by a row of LED daytime running lights and LED foglights, a new all-chrome grille and a smoother new front bumper with plenty of obligatory chrome.

3 center imageAs well as new alloy wheels, there are intricate new tail-light lenses and a fresh rear bumper, while the Phaeton cabin gains a new steering wheel, a colour electronic display ahead of the driver, revised trim finishes and a new camera-based Dynamic Light Assist main beam regulation system.

For the first time in a Volkswagen, there’s also the option of a Google Maps-capable satellite-navigation system, which integrates online data from Google into the map display and, using an optional front camera, can ‘see’ road signs and visualise speed limit signs to the driver, as well as recognise and depict ‘no overtaking’ signs.

Standard equipment continues to include 4Motion all-wheel drive, Continuous Damping Control (CDC) adjustable air suspension, leather trim, satellite-navigation, 18-way power seta adjustment and laminated glass all round.

Both short and long-wheelbase – and four-seat or five-seat – versions will remain available, with the longest Phaeton measuring 5.18 metres overall, powered by either 206kW 3.0-litre V6 FSI petrol, 176kW 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel, 246kW V8 petrol and 331kW 6.0-litre W12 petrol engines.

VW says the Phaeton V6 FSI has a top speed of 237 km/h and sprints to 100km/h in 8.6 seconds, while reducing average fuel consumption to just 8.5L/100km and CO2 emissions to 224 g/km.

Mythology surrounds the Phaeton, which is the brainchild of former Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech, despite poor sales.

The story goes that the Phaeton was conceived in fury after Piech learned that Mercedes-Benz broke a gentleman’s agreement by moving into the Golf market with the original A-class in the mid 1990s.

Allegedly, the then-VW boss insisted that the Phaeton’s four-zone air-conditioning could maintain a 22 degrees Celsius cabin temperature after eight hours driving at 300km/h in 55 degree heat and that its torsional body rigidity should exceed an impressive 37,000Nm per degree.

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