The Gläserne Manufaktur as a transparent factory. At the start of production in Dresden in December 2001, Ferdinand Piëch summed things up in a nutshell: “In this location we will manufacture Volkswagen’s flagship vehicle in the luxury car segment. It will be possible to both see and feel the finest hand craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology here.”
Only the very best was good enough for the new flagship – and the same was also true of the production plant. The Gläserne Manufaktur was built on the outskirts of Dresden, an industrial facility embodying high architectural quality. The Phaeton was assembled almost completely by hand in light-flooded halls. The employees were clothed in white and many of them wore gloves. And the hall floors were covered with light mountain maple wood from Canada and dark German moor oak.
Two petrol engines and one TDI. The engine range rounded off the exclusive character of the saloon. Early Phaeton customers were able to choose between two naturally-aspirated petrol engines and a TDI. The entry-level engine was the compact 3.2 V6, whose cylinder banks were arranged at a narrow angle of 15 degrees to each other; it had an output of 177 kW (241 PS). The second petrol engine, the W12, was also unusually short – it was built in the form of a “W” using two V6 engines. This engine developed 309 kW (420 PS) from a capacity of six litres.
V10 TDI with 750 Nm. The most unusual engine was the V10 TDI. With a capacity of five litres, two turbochargers with variable turbine geometry, an output of 230 kW (313 PS) and a torque of 750 Nm, this engine made the Phaeton the most powerful diesel saloon in the world at the time. Like with the W12, the drive power was transmitted to all four wheels via an automatic gearbox and the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system; the 3.2 V6 came with front-wheel drive as standard.
The engine range was repeatedly enhanced over the course of the 15 years of production. In 2003, a 4.2-litre V8 engine was introduced for the luxury saloon. This was followed one year later by the 3.0 V6 TDI. This quickly became the most popular engine variant, and it had an output of 180 kW (245 PS) in the last version. The ten-cylinder diesel engine was discontinued in 2006, and the W12 five years later. And the 3.2 V6 was replaced by a 3.6-litre engine and a 3.0-litre version.
Always up to date. The Phaeton was kept up to date by four model enhancements, which were introduced between 2007 and 2014. They included new features such as a multimedia system with touchscreen, carbon-ceramic brakes for the W12, assist systems such as Rear Assist, Side Assist and improved ACC, camera-based Dynamic Road Sign Display and advanced main-beam control. For a few years there were also self-luminous number plates featuring electroluminescence technology. The major facelift in 2010 brought a new look at the front and rear, which was especially popular among customers in China.