2005 VW Phaeton Signature Series
The Phaeton is probably the single most best-kept secret in the auto industry. On the road, the German machine is one of the finest touring sedans in the game. On its own, the VW newcomer has made the rite of passage as a key luxury recruit. Inside the cavernous cabin of the Phaeton is a mixture of intuitive driver technology and splendor for the longest of drives. Walnut wood flows throughout the cabin, covering hidden air vents while circumventing the gear shifter and the navigational LCD screen and its integrated controls. Soft hide adorns the 18-way, therapeutic seats and door panels.
With a 4.2-liter 335-horsepower V8, 4MOTION AWD and a self-leveling air suspension, the ride is always spectacular. The Phaeton even comes with rear window shades for extra privacy. If a base model is not enough, then try a $76,315 Signature Series by Automotive Rhythms. It comes with Michelin rubber, Davin 20” Speed 1s, a sound system by Audiobahn JL Audio, a custom grille from E&G Classics and suspension tuning by Wagensport of Beltsville, Md. Big Boys Toys took care of the rest of the installations. The only setback with the Phaeton is a navigation system that is as confusing as your high school chemistry teacher’s assignments!
2006 BMW 3 Series
One thing you can always remember is that the 3 Series is one of only a few entry-level luxury sports cars that attracts the guys and the gals without prejudice. BMW’s graphic lines and curves, which began with the 7, have trickled down the totem pole. Number 3 is blessed with the same arrogant uniforms as the rest of the squad. Engine power is pure BMW, with the company’s tried-and-true straight six mills. Choose from the 325i with 215 horsepower (185 lb.-ft. torque), or the 330i with 255 horsepower (220 lb.-ft. torque). Both flow with a 3.0-liter inline six. The 325i runs a 6.7-second 0-60, while the 330i finishes with a 6.1 reading (manual). Only the 3.2-liter six in the M3 will burn up the track coming down the backstretch. This 333-horsepower minimonster does 0-60 in about 4.8 seconds.
I’m not a fan of iDrive, the on-board computer system that controls the radio, navigation, vehicle settings and many other systems via a rotary joystick. There’s too much interaction going on while trying to manipulate each screen, especially with a manual. Highlights of the 3 include a remote start/stop key feature, dynamic cruise control, swivel Xenon lights and fold-down rear seats. The Bimmer is available in eight different configurations: 325i and 330i sedans, 325Ci coupe and convertible, 330Ci coupe and convertible, and M3 coupe and convertible. With all the goodies, expect to pay $46,115. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $36,995 (330i), $30,995 (325i) and M3 ($47,995).
2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG Coupe
They say that if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly. Benz did just that. Its latest and greatest? The hand-built 6.0-liter bi-turbo V12 engine with an astonishing 604 horsepower and 738 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s the CL65 AMG, the model that attracts the “All Money Getters.” The leather AMG sport seats are made for taking decreasing radius turns and the AMG SpeedShift steering wheel keeps your vision 100 percent focused on the lane ahead. The CL65 definitely gives you wings. Make a mental note, however, that the twin-turbo V12 is not acoustically as giddy as that of a 911 turbo. The Benz notes are mellower, if anything.
Still, the one-man handmade engine, which bears the builder’s signature, propels the CL65 from standstill to 60 m.p.h. in a mere 4.2 seconds. Feel like resting your feet? Switch on Distronic Adaptive Cruise Control, which uses radar to maintain separation between you and the vehicle ahead. Once your distance is set, the Benz will adjust the throttle and brakes (up to 20 percent) to keep the distance you input. Remember, though, the 23-gallon tank on the CL65 only gets 12 miles to the gallon city. This Benz “work of art” will deflate your bank account by $186,520.
Kimatni D. Rawlins is the publisher of Automotive Rhythms and host of “The Urban Automotive Experience.” Visit www.AutomotiveRhythms.com.