Welcome to the first entry of my series in Cars I don't like that everyone Likes, or CIDLTEL for short, today I'll set my sights on something that has been lauded on this sight for a long time. Of course I'm talking about the Volkswagen Phaeton
Not going to lie here, I ain't making many friends with this one. Now I've never driven a Volkswagen Phaeton, let's get that right, so if this seems ignorant, that's because it kind of is. I'm going to explain why this car doesn't do it for me.
Now I'm not going to say the Phaeton is a bad car, because it probably isn't. I'm sure it drives very nice, is very well-built, and probably was a classically underrated car that deserves more love. But with all that said, it doesn't interest me.
Now there is one very good reason for that, and it lies in the design, the same design that probably led to the demise of this car in the first place.
This thing does not look like a luxury car, yet it was marketed as such. And only one question comes of that. Why? Now Volkswagen making an expensive car or even a luxury car is not a bad idea, in fact I think this whole idea of the market rejecting an expensive car from Volkswagen is bupkis, because people will buy anything with a high-price point if they can one up their buddies at the dentist's office. However if Volkswagen wanted to make an expensive car, let me ask a very valid question. Why did VW make the Phaeton look like a stretched out Passat?
This is my biggest gripe with the car and why I just can't like it. Now I know I'm going to here two counter arguments.
1: Disliking a car based on looks is petty
2: Volkswagen intended the phaeton to be an understated luxury car.
Valid enough criticisms, but 1): taste is subjective, but let's discuss point two.
Now Point two is valid, not every luxury car should look flashy, in fact I prefer it when luxury cars don't look flashy, and Volkswagen making the Phaeton a luxury car more understated in appearance and function is totally fine. But understated luxury doesn't work if you can't pull it off in the first place.
Let me explain, back in the 80s Mercedes Benz had this
The top of the line S-Class, it was expensive and luxurious and well appointed, but it also looked boxy, wasn't very over-the top, and wasn't all that flashy, in other words the S-Class was a very understated luxury car (Before it became blinged out that is). So how could Mercedes pull it off and make a great car that is one of my favorite Mercedes products, but Volkswagen couldn't do it with the Phaeton. Because here's the thing, Mercedes could still make the S-Class distinctive, Volkswagen didn't make the Phaeton look distinctive enough, so even though you had a luxury car you basically paid expensive money for something that 1): looked like the Jetta you would see in a high-school, 2): had higher repair bills than said Jetta, 3): got worse gas mileage than said Jetta, and 4): could only really be differentiated from the fancy interior. When it comes to luxury, that's not going to fly, and it doesn't fly with me because the Phaeton ends up looking bland and anonymous, not something you want from a luxury car.
And to try and make my argument hold more weight lets present this thing.
Ugly little bastard in't it?
The reason I put the Maybach up there is because to give you another example, I hate Maybach. They look very wrong, but the reason that Maybach failed was because no one in their right mind would pay Rolls-Royce money for a stretched Mercedes with a fancy interior, similarly no one would've paid S-Class money for a stretched Polo with a fancy interior.
If Volkswagen wanted to succeed in this market and gotten people like me to be interested (Because there are very few true luxury cars anymore and from what I've heard the Phaeton was one of them) they needed to start from a better source. What is that source, this little guy.
It may have just been a beetle in fancy suit, but it is still fondly remembered today, and that's because Volkswagen managed to make it distinct. With the Phaeton, they did the opposite, they made the car advanced, but made it look too ordinary, they should've taken inspiration from the Ghia. Not in design, but in philosophy, they should've made the Phaeton stand out from the crowd, still keep the intent, but make it look a lot different from the other cars in their line-up, that way it could've succeeded in the market despite the high price point.
I think the Volkswagen Phaeton can succeed, if Volkswagen brings it back they can make the car successful, but from the concept art, it looks like Volkswagen is repeating history sadly enough.
In the end, I can't muster enough strong vitriol over the Phaeton, but it doesn't change the fact that it's boring ho hum styling prevent me from liking it. I know some people feel differently, please post some arguments in the comments, but I just can't like this car.
So tune in for the next time, on my opposite blog Cars I like that everyone doesn't, where I defend one of the strangest cars ever sold.