After seeing a Phaeton on AutoTrader I stopped looking at anything else. Phaeton’s were a complex car back when they were new and had lots of electronic gadgets and features so I made sure to look into common faults and things to look out for when purchasing.
The VW Phaeton is a rare car, it wasn’t a sales hit. In its day it was priced to rival the likes of the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 (which it shared many parts with) but without the premium badge. At the time of me searching on AutoTrader there were only 50 for sale in the whole of the UK!
I didn’t want to be travelling the length of the country in search so restricted my search to a 50 mile radius and soon found a one in Oldham. The colour was a silvery blue and from the pictures it looked in good condition. The car had literally just been advertised on AutoTrader and only had a few pictures up but I called ahead and the car was available to view. I made the 40 minute journey to Oldham and was given a look round the car before being offered a test drive. The car was a lot tattier than the limited pictures suggested. The cream leather was stained and dirty with tears and cigarette burns all over. The wooden air vent covers, which are supposed to electronically ascend when the climate controls are switched on, didn’t work and the boot didn’t open. Needless to say after discovering this, I walked away.
I persevered with my search, luckily as I had a perfectly good car at the time (my BMW Z4) I could take my time to make sure I found a good one. I continued looking through AutoTrader and even ventured onto eBay and after a few more weeks I found one for sale in Huddersfield, about an hour and a half from where I live. Now the story of how I come to buy my Phaeton should really be titled ‘how not to buy a car’.
I phoned ahead and spoke to the seller who said I could come and view the car but he was only available that morning as he was due to go on holiday that afternoon. As I write this I cringe that I didn’t see this as a way of applying time pressure but I live and learn. I made my way up to Huddersfield and struggled to find the place. The postcode and road I was given showed no signs of a garage. I pulled in behind a shop and saw the garages were behind it but no sign of a Phaeton. I waited a few minutes and eventually the seller arrived in the Phaeton. Second alarm bell should have rang here that the car was being ‘warmed up’ before I saw it. Although it is always polite to phone ahead to let someone know you are coming to view a car (and also good practice to avoid wasting your time in case the car has been sold) it is best to avoid giving exact time so that the seller doesn’t get chance to ‘warm the car up’. If a car has engine issues these are quite often present at start up so if the seller can get the car started and run for a short while it may disguise any potential problems.
Anyway the seller turned up and I was given a test drive round the local area. I got back to the yard and gave the car a good look over, checked the paperwork etc. I was given the hard sell (again alarm bells should’ve rang but I really liked the car) and decided I was going to buy it. Now this car was, at the time, the only V6 Petrol Phaeton for sale on AutoTrader. It had a 3.2 litre V6 engine. This was the first automatic car I had ever owned, although I personally prefer manual cars the Phaeton was not available in manual.
As usual I part exchanged my Z4. As it was such a long drive to Huddersfield I took all my Z4 documents with me so that if I did decide I wanted the Phaeton I could get it there and then. This was another error on my part, if I had gone and thought about it I doubt I’d have ended up buying that car but the excitement of the day took over my head. I completed the paperwork for the Phaeton and took my private registration plate off my Z4, I swapped over my insurance and made sure the Phaeton was taxed before I headed home.
On the journey home I started noticing flaws in the car that I hadn’t discovered on the test drive. Firstly there was terrible wheel wobble on the motorway. The car was fitted with aftermarket alloys that clearly hadn’t been balanced. Secondly, the exhaust noise. Now as I mentioned earlier the car had a 3.2l V6 petrol which is bound to produce more noise than your average car but add this to an exhaust that had been modified and the drone in the cabin was awful. On the motorway where I was at a constant speed the rumble was annoying and could still be heard over the radio. I learnt quite quickly how thirsty a V6 is too! When I left the garage I had purchased it from it said it had 40 miles in the tank which should’ve got me off the motorway and nearer to home where I could’ve found a petrol station, how wrong was I. I’d been driving for about 15 minutes and just got on the motorway when the fuel empty warning came on. As this car was new to me I had no idea what this mean in terms of when it would completely run out. Some cars get 20 miles or so on ’empty’ and some just go there and then. This was immensely stressful, I looked hopefully at every upcoming sign hoping that there would soon be a services. Thankfully there was one 5 miles away, I kept everything crossed that I’d make it that far. Thankfully I did.
When I got home with my car, instead of enjoying it and wanting to get out on the road, I was extremely stressed. I went into my house and had a massive panic attack which somewhat tainted my day. After the anxiety subsided I took the car for a drive locally hoping to fall in love. I didn’t. The only thing I liked about the car was the comfort. The leather seats were like armchairs and heated! But that was pretty much it, it handled like a barge and floated around. It certainly wasn’t engaging to drive. I realise now that I had bought completely the wrong car for my driving style. I like a car with responsive, fun handling. This was neither of those. But at least it was big and comfy, I could fit 5 people in in extreme comfort. The space in every seat was amazing and the boot would put most garden sheds to shame with the amount it could hold.
As I began showing my Phaeton off to friends and family everyone seemed very impressed with it and that’s because it really is more of a passenger’s car. I was rapidly starting to fall out of love with the car. I no longer drove for fun, for two reason. The first reason being that it wasn’t fun to drive and secondly that the fuel economy was so bad I couldn’t afford to go out driving for fun. At the time I worked 4 miles away from where I lived, a 10 minute journey at most that didn’t involve speeds over 30 and had no traffic lights. I was using £40 a week in petrol to do this journey. In my Z4 that would have lasted me a month, including going out driving for fun. In the Phaeton I was spending £40 just to travel to and from work 5 days a week.
I knew it had to go. I had the Phaeton for a grand total of 8 weeks and it is the only car I don’t regret getting rid of. It’s the only car I regret buying.