The acclaimed executive-status, must-have Mercedes-Benz S600 flagship sedan is challenged head-to-head this year by an upstart. Volkswagen, whose products have usually remained in the midrange price category, debuts a surprise: the 2004 ultraluxury four-door W12 Phaeton. Packed with the newest technology and electronics within its smoothly contoured frame, the $94,600 W12 includes VW-patented, permanent all-wheel drive; four-wheel anti-lock brakes; stability control; Tiptronic five-speed automatic transmission; and OnStar.
Under the hood, the 6.0-liter W12 (two conjoined V-6s) accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds and pumps out 420 horsepower. Inside, you'll find four-zone climate control; lots of leather, wood, brushed metal and chrome; and a heat-reflective, shatterproof window coating. You can order the Phaeton with a back-seat bench or two armchair-like buckets separated by a console that could double as a miniconference room. Front seats have 18-way memory, and all seats are heated.
The venerable $122,100 S600 sedan from Mercedes-Benz is powered by 5.5-liter twin turbos that assure a mind-blowing 493 horsepower and move the machine down the road from 0 to 60 mph in under 4.6 seconds. Aerodynamics play their part in this model, thanks to sleekly molded corners, a raked roof that still leaves lots of interior headroom, and front and rear lights that merge with the bodywork. As with its new Phaeton competition, the S600 has every imaginable feature: stability/traction control, five-speed automatic transmission with a touch-shift manual control and parking sensors. The cruise-control system maintains a preset distance from the car in front and alerts the driver with beeps and a dash display. Mercedes also provides a hands-free telecommunication program called Tele Aid, with voice commands, GPS tracking and automatic emergency response.
If you plan to keep your business life revving on all 12 cylinders, these two highly powerful, classy cars will do the trick.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 25 years.