Home » Maybe Just Walk? 1989 BMW 750iL vs 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12

Maybe Just Walk? 1989 BMW 750iL vs 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12

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If you’ve watched enough YouTube or read enough car editorials, you’ve almost certainly run across the concept of buying a deeply depreciated used luxury car for the same price you could buy some brand-new cheap car you don’t really want. Sure, you could spend $16,695 on a Mitsubishi Mirage, but why do that when you could buy something with twelve whole cylinders? You know what, forget about even pulling 166 of your finest Benjamins out of your pocket. I mean, what are you, some kind of rich folk? We’re going to scrape the very bottom of the barrel of depreciated luxury. Before we do that, we should check in on yesterday’s unique Shitbox Showdown between two innovative, trashy, and imaginary Jeeps drawn by the Bishop:

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Looks like approximately 61.6 percent of you would rather drive the rad 1987 Jeep Honcho OffRoadster Pickup over the 1987 AMC Jeepster that definitely doesn’t look like AMC stole some Fiero designers from General Motors. The part about this vote that scares me is the fact that the trucklet was more rusty than the Jeepster. This thing has a dying frame and weight-reduced floors thanks to water leaks from that hopelessly complex roof panel! Does David Tracy really have the effect of making people choose the vehicle that’s in worse condition? Looking back, yes he does. I did buy a crashed and rusty Volkswagen Touareg VR6 because David had a pretty Lexus LX 470. Oh gosh, the rust is contagious.

I’m going to ignore this fact and get to today’s showdown, instead.

1989 BMW 750iL – $3,000

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Engine/Drivetrain: 5.0-liter M70B50 V12 making 296 HP and 332 lb-ft torque. Four-speed ZF automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive.

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Location: Holland, Michigan.

Odometer Reading: 93,000 miles.

Runs/Drives? Runs…in limp mode.

The words “cheap” and “V12” should cause any reasonable person to run for the hills, but we are far from reasonable here. Legend says you could summon Bloody Mary by saying her name three times in front of a mirror. If you say Candyman five times in a mirror, you’ll summon that character. Apparently, this is supposed to be a great way to get murdered, but of course, it’s not at all real. Anyway, I wonder what would happen if you stood in front of a mirror and said “cheap BMW 750iL” three or five times. Will a mechanic wake up in the night in a cold sweat?

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When this Beemer was in its prime, it represented the latest and greatest technology that BMW could put out. From BMW:

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Under the design leadership of Claus Luthe, the second BMW 7 series model incorporates harmonious lines and dynamic, confident style elements. The wide kidney on the front, for example, or the imposing rear, whose L-shaped taillights further underline the look. The BMW 7 series now comes with ABS as standard together with optional Park Distance Control and dual pane glass, which significantly reduces noise levels and ensures mist-free windows.

BMW further notes that this V12 is the first of its kind used in German cars since 1945. Additional luxuries available to the E32 included a car phone and refrigerator. Later models had Xenon headlights. Spiffy!

This BMW 750iL has fallen far out of its prime. The seller’s photos show the car in a forest sitting in front of a camper that also probably isn’t doing too hot. The seller doesn’t say for how long this car has been in the woods, but the dirt buildup around the vehicle would suggest that it wasn’t a short stint. The seller also put a ton of Seafoam in the engine, which is another sign of the car having been with nature for a while.

Why was this car abandoned in a forest? We’ll never know. A Dinan badge also appears on the decklid, but the seller doesn’t tell us what Dinan parts may be on the vehicle. The car’s definitely wearing a body kit for sure.

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More concerning is the vehicle’s engine problems. The seller states the vehicle is stuck in limp mode. The seller thinks they put in the wrong spark plugs. Apparently, some M70 engines are sensitive to spark plug resistance. Of course, the easiest way to figure that out would be for the seller to purchase the correct plugs and see if the vehicle gets out of limp mode. But, I suppose that’s for you to play roulette and figure out.

Remarkably, the car looks to be in pretty ok condition aside from the engine issue. The interior looks like it could use a cleaning, but look at that, no tears to be found!

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2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12 – $5,500

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Engine/Drivetrain: 6.0-liter W12 making 420 HP and 406 lb-ft torque. Five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.

Location: Manassas, Virginia.

Odometer Reading: 31,500 miles, probably not.

Runs/Drives? “Car runs.”

What if a 1989 Beemer is just too old or too common for you? I understand, I also love stupidly rare German cars. Apparently, less than 500 Volkswagen Phaetons made it over into America equipped with the fabled 6.0-liter W12 engine. Despite the modernity, this one might actually be worse for your wallet than the BMW. I briefly owned a Phaeton V8. I paid $2,500 for the car and my bargain luxury cruiser broke immediately. It overheated, the air suspension failed, heck, and the decorative cover for the dome light hit me in the face! I ended up selling it to my mechanic, who dropped $6,000 in parts alone and the car still wasn’t perfect. Mind you, he gets free labor.

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Oh wait, I’m supposed to be selling you on the car on your screen, here. I have just the thing. The Volkswagen Phaeton was the work of madman executive Ferdinand Piëch, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, engineer, and real-life James Bond villain. The Phaeton is considered one of the three vehicles of the “Piëch Trifecta,” the other two being the Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI and the Volkswagen Passat W8. Somehow, I’ve owned all three of the Trifecta, but not all at once.

I detailed the crazy history behind the Phaeton before:

Piëch allegedly set ten standards for which the Phaeton was to meet. Apparently, most of these standards never reached the public, but the few that did perfectly illustrate why the Phaeton is adored by hardcore Volkswagen fans. One requirement doesn’t sound all that sexy, but it was that the vehicle needed a torsional rigidity of 37,000 N·m/degree.

Another is that the Phaeton needed to reach 190 mph without vibrations. And maybe the most absurd, but the Phaeton needed to be able to drive all day at 186 mph in 120-degree temperatures while keeping the cabin at a cozy 71.6 degrees.

Yep, these were designed to storm down the Autobahn while keeping you in ultimate comfort. To date, I haven’t driven a car nearly as comfortable and nearly as quiet as my old Phaeton was. Piëch was mad just for thinking people would want to buy a Volkswagen with the bank vault feeling of a Bentley.

The seller of this W12 concerns me with what little information is provided. Once again, pictures suggest this car has been sitting for some time. However, clearly some part of the vehicle’s expensive air suspension system works because the car is sitting at its correct ride height. Of course, the seller could have just started the car before taking this photo, hiding any major air leaks.

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The vehicle’s paint also isn’t faring too well. This seems to be a problem with Phaetons as they age. My mechanic tells me that the clearcoat has started fading on the Phaeton I sold him. Also, is that a 2016 inspection sticker?

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An interior photo does suggest this car has just 31,500 miles, but I don’t believe it. This Phaeton looks like it has traveled perhaps 131,500 miles. I mean, aside from the rough paint, check out the missing fog light, hazed-over lights, and cracks in the taillights. Still, it’s a $5,500 Phaeton W12 that theoretically runs and drives! This is like one of those situations where you know something is bad for you, but you want to do it anyway.

The choice is yours. Do you want the BMW 750iL that’s lived in a forest for an unspecified time and now has a sketchy-sounding limp mode problem? Or, do you want the exceedingly rare and luxurious Volkswagen Phaeton W12 with its massaging seats, fading paint, and unbelievable odometer reading? Maybe it’ll be better to just walk to wherever you’re going.

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Datanerd
Datanerd
8 months ago

I would rather step on my own genitals, repeatedly, in boots, rather than own another old, cheap BMW.

But given these choices, I voted BMW.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
8 months ago

Another interesting tidbit…

BMW published the top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph) in the early batches of 7-Series brochures (I had one, but it was inadvertently discarded). That figure was amended to reflect 250 km/h (155 mph) and asterisk, denoting that the top speed was electronically limited.

This shocking revelation on E32 7-Series led BMW and the German manufacturers to implement the “gentlemen’s agreement” on limiting their vehicles to 250 km/h. That was during the heightened environmental awareness in Germany and as to pacify the Greens movement from proposing the law on national speed limit to 130 km/h for the Autobahn. Only Porsche thumbed its nose at the gentlemen’s agreement.

A clever workaround was to establish the new high performance divisions at later date such as quattro GmbH (Audi), BMW M, and Mercedes-AMG so they could at least offer the higher top speed option at extra cost without breaking the gentlemen’s agreement.

By the way, E32 7-Series beat Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class by a few months when the double-glazed window option went on sale in early 1991.

Finalformminivan
Finalformminivan
8 months ago

LS swap the 7 series and you got a rad looking cruiser.

Mister Win
Mister Win
8 months ago

You could also LS swap the Phaeton… Even if you can’t mount it longitudinally, there’s the LS4!

Last edited 8 months ago by Mister Win
Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
8 months ago

The BMW is cheaper. So BMW.

Neither is particularly appealing in their current state. The 7 becoming one with nature. The VW that has unknown mileage and hasn’t been through state inspection for 7 years. Interior looks nice, but so what with those cars.

Anything above “throw away” money is too much. $3k is about there.

Ward William
Ward William
8 months ago

Yea…………nah to both. Hard pass. My family would starve due to the maintenance costs alone and although I did suggest to my wife that there are ways she could help financially (wink wink), that would mean I would have to cook dinner which would quite likely poison us all, so no can do.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago

> This Phaeton looks like it has traveled perhaps 131,500 miles

I don’t think that’s possible.

That BMW was the last gorgeous BMW. So pretty.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
8 months ago

Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Sarah Bell
Sarah Bell
8 months ago

I choose the Phaeton just to check out all of the zany engineering bits inside. Since there’s no question I’d end up doing major disassembly of whichever car I choose.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
8 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Bell

I’d probably buy it, pull the trunk lid hinges, and flip the car.

Drad
Drad
8 months ago

There is one thing. ONE thing BMW can get right and thats a I6. So what can go wrong when they slap two of them together? Nothing. Thats what. *starts rocking back and forth slowly.* In all seriousness the BMW should be repairable when it breaks and with parts readily available from other cars. That Phaeton? Unless you have a Bentley parts car lying around you are probably screwed. I remember watching Tavarish pull apart that sketchy Bentley he bought off Tyler Hoover years ago and staring in horror at the engine he was pulling out, it was so insanely complicated.

Ricardo
Ricardo
8 months ago

This is not even a choice for me. As an ex BMW tech from the 90’s it is the 750il for me thanks.

There is no way that the wrong plugs have caused it to go into limp mode as the ECU are not that sophisticated, and the plugs are not special in any way, in fact nothing in the ignition system is remotely high tech. Some of the ignition parts are are common with a 318i of the same era in fact.

Its much more likely that it has bad throttle bodies have caused the ECU light as these have plastic gears in them that wear out, and when this happens that the two throttle bodies are out of phase (one open, one closed) then that will trip the fault code. (fun fact – its a drive by wire system)

Doing spark plugs on these requires patience and double jointed wrists for the back plugs so are often skipped by lazy mechanics, along with checking the battery (its underneath the rear electric seat and takes 30 minutes to get access to it) or replacing the cabin filter (see no evil, smell no evil)

Watch M539 Restorations on Youtube and check our Streten, a BMW loving nutter in downtown Frankfurt who loves nothing more than fixing old BMWs that normal people would set fire to. It will make you want an old BMW old your own…for fun.

Myk El
Myk El
8 months ago

Nope.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

Cmon what happens when you say either of these cars names 3 times in a mirror? A German Mechanic wakes up with a stiffy that will last longer than 4 hours. Hilda! Call your brother and tell him we don’t want the Jon Boat we want the yacht! I chose the BMW parts are in better shape and more onthe streets.I am buying this stripping it faster than a $20 stripper at a 20 somethings bachelor party and tripling my money. I ain’t even taking the time to sit in it and make vroom vroom noises.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago

Pfft! This is why I have a bicycle named “Reliable Transportation.” YOUR COMPLEXITIES DO NOT PHASE ME, GERMAN LUXOBARGES.

My gosh, this is a tough one. I SEE A CAR PHONE IN THAT BMW! I don’t care if it’s works. I will hold it up to my head and feel important. Rumor has it, these ’80s and ’90s car phones are like conches. Hold one up to your ear and you can hear what it’s like to have optimism for the future and a will to live.

But oh man, W12. W12!!! The big boy! Well, the big boy that isn’t a W16, anyway. Goodness, you know my feelings on rare luxury Volkswagens and that’s one of the rarest.

My sanity says the Siebener, which would be easier to rebuild, even if you’ve got to pluck out the engine and give it a full once-over. That looks like a fun project, although Michigan’s salty roads make me wonder what it looks like underneath. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a fun project, but c’mon, V12 WITH A CAR PHONE.

But my heart says Phaeton. The interior looks to be in nicer shape, and so long as you’re okay taking on the exterior glow-up one bit at a time, “rare Volkswagen Group product with unobtanium parts” is my dream form of masochism. W12 > V12, even at with the higher price.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
8 months ago

The BMW is cheaper, simpler, and from an era when you didn’t need a laptop and a dealer software license to change a window regulator.

The V12 is also basically just 2 M20’s glued together.

Watching the start up video, it 100% has a Dinan exhaust, at a minimum, and idles like an M20 in an E30/E34.

Phaetons are incredible examples of over-engineering everything you possibly can in a car. Maybe new, on a lease, but not now.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
8 months ago

I’m going with the VW. “Dinnan” on that BMW means “molested”
And WTF is going on with the pictures of it in the woods towing a trailer???

No thanks.

I’ll take that VW-Bentley over it.

HOT_HATCH
HOT_HATCH
8 months ago

If E32 is ever a part of the question, it is the answer. The glory days of BMW. Sure, the V12 probably needs some TLC, but they are reliable enough once sorted. Plus M539 restorations has about 100 YouTube video’s chronicling how to fix just about anything that could be wrong with it.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
8 months ago

V12 Bimmer

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
8 months ago

The bottom line is that any choice bewteen these two cars is inherently unencumbered by rational thought. So I’m going BMW…

JDE
JDE
8 months ago

the VW miles might be accurate, they were never known to run very long. the beemer is interesting though. Nice style and cheap enough and unloved enough to play with as a project. Some Tyler hoover wannabe Youtuber needs to buy it, spend way to much money “sorting” it out and then dumping it on someone else for pennies on the dollar.

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