Welcome to the layer cake son.
Inside the new Phaeton you’re welcomed by an immensely large and pleasurable interior. The first thing your eyes will take in is all the plush leather interior on the seats and the contrasting leather stitching on the door panels and the dashboard area. While typical for cars in this category, the wooden trim compliments the rest of the interior both front and back, over the dash, doors, center console, steering wheel and gearshift.
Speaking of wooden trim, you’ll notice that the wooden trim on the dash stretches all the way across. The coolness (quite literally) starts when you turn on the climate control and the wooden panels silently slide up to reveal the a/c grills underneath. The extent of wood continues onto the cup holders which have to be depressed to be used. Otherwise they continue the smooth wooden trim as the rest of the center console.
Smack in the middle of Phaeton’s front console is the analogue clock which looks elegant with and without the wooden panels on the a/c. Move down and you’ll see the TNS 810 multimedia navigation screen. The menu navigation and setup is similar to that found in the rest of VWs fleet of cars, with a nice crisp touch response in addition to the menu buttons on the side.
While the 2012 Phaeton is supposed to come with Google Maps, the Middle Eastern versions will be getting that update later in the year. For now we’ll have to make do with the original VW navigation system, which is still pretty adequate.
Setting up my iPhone 4 to the onboard Bluetooth system was a real pain through the main navigation system. In fact there is no Bluetooth device pairing on the nav system as far as I could see. So I actually ended up pairing it via the steering wheel control through the speedometer cluster panel computer display.
Moving below you’ll see a plethora of buttons for the four-way climate control system. The VW Phaeton V8 LWB comes with four seats, so the passengers in the back also get individual climate control zones. Each of the passengers can set the temperature level they want, including that of their seats. As independent as each of the controls system are, the only thing that crashes this illusion is that the a/c fan speeds are all tied up, so if any of the passenger changes their fan speed, all the fan speeds are simultaneously affected.
Of course, the driver can simply setup all seats to have the same temperature and fan controls at the touch of a button. Furthermore, rear a/c controls can be restricted if the child lock is activated from the driver’s side door controls.
Speaking of driver’s side controls, of all the things VW designed for an easy approach angle, the window and lock buttons, along with the trunk and petrol cap switches are pretty much inaccessible. They are just located too far in the front and at a steep angle on the driver’s side door. You have to lean far ahead towards the steering wheel to access those controls, which sort of negates the whole point of having the buttons on the steering wheel in the first place.
Still, those are minor quirks the driver can live with. For the rest of the passengers, every second in the Phaeton is nothing but a luxurious ride to their destination. Every which way they’ll look, there’s nothing but comfortably padded and stitched leather. Each seat not only has its own climate control, but also power adjustable positioning.
The experience for the rear passengers is nothing short of a first class seating on an airline. Behind the headrest of the front seats there’s a high-resolution display which can show TV channels, or a DVD from one of the DVD’s in the changer in the boot. Or, if all else fails, they can entertain themselves with any media device which has an RCA output, as connections are available just under the climate control display panel.
The audio sourced inside the new Phaeton V8 is the DYNAUDIO Temptation sound system with a 1000W amp. Now Volkswagen has used DYNAUDIO in some other high-end cars, so I’m not sure whether the Temptation sound system has better tuning and higher fidelity speakers or whether it had something to do with the exceptional sound isolation of the interior cabin of the Phaeton, but these were definitely some of the best speakers I have heard in a car. Whether it was CD or lossless audio on the iPhone 4 (via Bluetooth no less), the DYNAUDIO sound system sounded crystal clear and ample bass (without being boomy).
Speaking of sound isolation, one thing I really adore about the Phaeton V8 is the sound of the engine Volkswagen has allowed to be heard inside. Unlike the Audi A8L which had a very subdued interior, the same V8 engine could only be heard at higher RPMs. The exact same corporate engine in the 2012 Phaeton, however, rumbles slowly at lower RPMs. Floor the pedal, and the 4.2 liter V8 roars to life with the high pitch of the cylinders firing away at 6K to 7K rpm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the engine noise is obtrusive at those speeds; you can easily have a civilized conversation while the Phaeton V8 is tearing down the highway like a beast.