Sale of the Week

This 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12 sold for just $625 per cylinder

by Conner Golden
1 April 2023 2 min read


If Google Translate is to be believed, that’s German for “depreciation.” Funny, I always thought it was Phaeton—but as it turns out, that’s French by way of ancient Greek for “vintage touring car,” and not “ultra-luxe W-12 VW sedan sells for 5.76-percent of inflation-adjusted MSRP on Cars and Bids.

Well. I never was any good at foreign languages in school—let alone riting gud in Englush—but you learn something every day. Oh, I already knew the Phaeton was cheap, but $7445? Shoot, if anything goes awry—and that’s a hysterical inevitability with the Phaeton W-12—you could make that back and more if you part the car out.

Cars and Bids

Yes, it looks like the Phaeton takes its Bentley roots a bit too seriously. Like the Continental GT and Continental Flying Spur that share VW’s D1 platform, the Phaeton clearly presents an opportunity for your dollar to go a long way—just make sure there are plenty more where the first buck came from, as you never really pay off a W-12 Phaeton, you just transfer the loan note from the bank to your local VW specialist.

According to the Cars and Bids listing, this 2004 VW Phaeton originally sold new for $81,690, or around $130,000 adjusted for inflation at the time of this writing. Envisioned as a stealthy, comfort-oriented limo alternative to the sportier A8, the Bentley-based Phaeton never sold in healthy numbers aside from Germany and China, where enough moved to justify refreshes and updates until final discontinuation in 2016.

Cars and Bids

Just over 84,000 Phaetons sold globally, but only roughly 3,400 moved in the States, and only 500 of those carried the wild 6.0-liter W-12 in place of the standard 4.2-liter V-8. Conceptually, they’re quite fascinating cars; VW Chairman Ferdinand Piëch decreed ten engineering parameters to the development team that the nascent Phaeton must match prior to entering production. The full list isn’t public, but we know one of them was the car must be able to cruise at 186 mph with an exterior temperature of 122 °F while the occupants relaxed in 72 °F perfection.

It was over-engineered—scratch that, excessively engineered—without much thought to durability or serviceability. As a result, Phaetons are extraordinarily maintenance-intensive, and the costs do not reflect the Volkswagen badge on snout and tail. Cars and Bid’s example has managed to cover an impressive 180,000 miles since new, incurring over $50,000 in repairs since 2011 alone.

Cars and Bids

Even with that substantial investment, this Phaeton isn’t perfect. The sale notes a number of exterior scratches, dings, undercarriage rust, and wear present on interior trim. We don’t track Phaetons in the Hagerty Price Guide, but considering we maintain an average agreed value of $12,100 for our Phaeton policies in the U.S., this looks to be bought right in-line with the market when taking into account condition and mileage.

Now, when are we going to see this type of depreciation in Golf Rs? If they perform anything like the first-gen R32, I’m screwed.

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  • George Schonholtz says:

    Buying one of these and trying to maintain it is a fools errand. It was made to make a splash without regard to longevity or reliability. They belong in a museum or in a large private collection.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    over $50,000 in repairs since 2011 alone… Holy crap! That’s why you avoid the Phaeton.

  • Don Heditsian says:

    I had the privilege of daily driving a Phaeton with the 4.2 V8 for a few years when they first came out. It was a remarkable car in many ways and had a substantial feeling of quality felt in few cars even today. For me, it will always be remembered as a world-class automobile conceived by the legendary Ferdinand Piech and brilliantly executed by his engineers. The well used, 12 cylinder noted above is one data point, instead I’d be looking for a clean, sub-100K mile V8 example.

  • Kathryn Blane says:

    I bought my 12 cylinder Phaeton new in 2004 and I’m surprised to hear the complaints. Other than regular scheduled service I’ve had no issues. I drive it daily and it’s the “ go to” car. Mileage is at 77,600. Since my retirement I spend winter in a warmer climate. (To explain the low mileage.)Previously I’ve owned 1991 Corvette convertible, F150 Ford Truck, Honda Ridgeline, Toyota RAV4, both Ford and Lincoln sedan and I’ve enjoyed driving every one. The most ridiculous car I owned was a Porsche 356B.

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