Volkwagen's Phaeton is a luxury car for people who prefer to wear their designer labels on the inside of their clothing. If you can afford a hand-built luxury car but don't need to go around with a three-pointed star or a leaping cat or a flying lady hood ornament to proclaim your arrival, then you may find that this new $64,600 VW more than meets your needs. We use the word "more" because the Phaeton offers a luxury car with a 12-cylinder engine for about the price of a V8-powered Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Phaeton comes standard with features such as a navigation system for about what you'd pay for a basic short-wheelbase 7 Series BMW. Volkswagen is moving upscale and the Phaeton is its new luxury sedan, the flagship of a fleet that in the North American market includes the Golf, New Beetle, Jetta, Eurovan, Passat, and the new Touareg sport-utility. In 2006 we should see a modern interpretation of the hippies' favorite, the VW Microbus, followed, perhaps, by a new, mid-engine, two-seat sports car. The expansion of the Volkswagen brand is part of an effort to widen the scope of the entire VW Group, an automotive empire that includes VW, Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley. In 1999, the Volkswagen Group ranked sixth in worldwide sales, but subsequently has overtaken Renault/Nissan and DaimlerChrysler and trails only General Motors, Ford and Toyota. The term phaeton dates back to days of horse-drawn carriages, and then was applied for special, coach-built touring cars with custom features. In the case of the Volkswagen Phaeton, most of those custom features are included as standard equipment.
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