We had to catch a flight from Muscat to Salalah, the refreshing Oasis of the gulf, but it was the prelude to it – a journey by road in business class till Muscat – that enticed us to the long-haul with our toddler, strapped up in the rear!
The Eid break looked promising for two reasons: first, the rains and greens in the oasis of Salalah. And then, the prospect of driving the Volkswagen Phaeton to Muscat, where from we (me and my family) would catch a flight to Salalah. Both didn’t fail to deliver a refreshing and rewarding journey.
The tickets were booked for the onward journey from Muscat on economy class and we were thankful that it would last just above one and a half hours, after waking up at three in the morning to clear the border before the early birds could flock in and fuss. We were also thankful that the journey from Dubai to Muscat was going to be in the Volkswagen Phaeton, just over four hours of business class comfort, which wouldn’t leave us complaining about the length of the journey!
This is a journey during which we made full use of what was central to the cabin. The console and its screen featured a navigation system that was hugely accurate and helpful, a DYNAUDIO music system that was almost as good as a home theatre system. It better be, because the cabin of Phaeton is almost big enough to call ‘home’!
Beating the sulking early birds to the borders of Muscat meant that my son was still sleeping sound in the rear baby seat. The silence in the cabin did help even as the V6 continued its sweet burble as I negotiated the sweeping curves and sped along the straight lines to the mountainous Hatta border check.
Once the borders were behind, Oman was a territory to be crossed almost monotonously with a straight road punctuated with roundabouts. As I stepped on it, the rpm meter climbed all the way up to the red, while shifting gears and coaxing the engine as it shook up its sporty spirit. The suspensions had a range of choices from sporty to comfort – the steering that was to later give me the pleasure of negotiating sharp curves felt light yet accurate – and the suspension responded to the road for the driver even as it smoothed over the bumps for the sleeping passengers behind. As the car gathered speed, they slept as though it was standing still! The otherwise silent cabin turned pretty noisy when I pushed back the narrow squarish vent that is the sunroof. So, that bit of amenity had a short stay!
While parking the car in Muscat the steering lock was doubly reassuring. The driver information is comprehensive which includes navigation cues on screen and tire pressure monitor and a suspension status display. Just that the arrival time calculation is a bit slow and I kept beating the gadget to it almost all the time!
Navigation support and a quick throw to the airport
A stranger to Muscat despite having been there many times in a decade, I only had to call in the Navigation genie to guide me without doubt to destinations set within the city. First stop: grocery shopping at a mall in Al Khwair. That was where I would gain my first rest, with feet stretched out, yet not intruding into my family’s space behind, thanks to the spacious cabin and seat settings.
It was our wedding anniversary and a visit to the church was in order. The navigation unit promptly offered a solution and diligently guided us to the city’s only church complex. If you thought the Phaeton was far more sedate than sporty, you should have been aboard when the car sped back towards the departure terminal from the heart of the city. But the car was more comfortable in sweeping curves and wider angles, rather than acute and sharp turns at high speeds – as expected of a car this long!
Stuff for almost a week was stowed into the boot, but things that fared well in the erect dimension would find it hard to get in. But the automatic tailgate is a fine sample of build quality and sophistication about the Phaeton.
Call it dated or a classic practical luxury car, the Phaeton does have elements of negative sophistication like the foot-down handbrake and a release lever as well as grand leather seats that are designed for a well-fed Forbes aspirant but lacks in lateral support, despite which I should say we were fresh for a long-haul after a five hour journey to Muscat that started at three in the morning and lasted past noon!
How good is the Phaeton on short drives and how does it compare with other cars in this segment? Await a full review of the Phaeton on DriveME, soon…
Drive Courtesy: AVME, Dubai
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy