Find of the Day: The Budget Bentley

The Volkswagen Phaeton may be one of the greatest cars that no one bought and even fewer people understood. The German uber-sedan came to market loaded to the headliner with incredible features: Torsen-based all-wheel drive, two big engines in the U.S.: a V8 and a W12, aluminum body panels, double-paned glass, navigation (which was still new at the time), heated and cooled seats with massaging option, adaptive air suspension, a draftless four-zone climate control system, and much much much more. And who could forget the transparent factory with its hardwood floors in Wolfsburg where the cars were hand built?

When it was revealed in 2002, automotive journalists praised the technology, the fit and finish, the healthy performance, and the luxurious interior. In a 2004 comparison test, Motor Trend ranked the Phaeton above the Jaguar Vanden Plas, the Mercedes-Benz S430, and even the BMW 745i (though it was bested by the Lexus LS 430 and, ironically, the Audi A8L). So while this was VW’s first ultra-luxury sedan, it could hold its own with the big boys in the market.

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Even though the Phaeton was heaped with praise, there were a few things that Volkswagen engineers left out, and some things they left in that they shouldn’t have. One missing item was exterior design. The Phaeton was, well, the kind description is understated. Many called the design boring or simply a Passat XXL. The German execs insisted there was a market of buyers who wanted a luxury sedan but didn’t want a flashy car, and perhaps there was, but it was a small market. Another missing item was a luxury badge. Buyers want a proven marque with caché. The “people’s car” company isn’t what they had in mind.

Some items that could have been left out included weight (it was a very heavy car), and price. The Phaeton V8 started at $66,000. In today’s money that’s $86,000. The $98,000 W12 would ring up for $128,000 in 2017. That’s a lot of coin for a car from a company that was still making air-cooled Beetles when the Phaeton debuted.

The good news with all of this: you can now own a hand built German luxo barge for not a lot of money. This particular Phaeton is a V8 model with only 88,000 miles. The seller states everything works on the car, including the CD-based navigation system. It’s noted in the listing that the original owner was a prominent lawyer who was driven around by a chauffeur. Feeling classy? Hire a friend to take you and your date to the local Shake Shack for a burger. Check out the rear footrests while you’re back there.

You can find this 2004 Phaeton on eBay with a buy-it-now price of $10,500.