“You won’t notice many Phaetons on the road – yet this luxury limo is still worth a closer look.”
Since its introduction in 2002, the big Volkswagen Phaeton limousine has struggled against competitors. However, its obscurity is mainly down to badge image, not the quality of the car itself, as the hand-built VW flagship is a highly engineered machine with lots of luxury and equipment. Available in short or long-wheelbase four-wheel-drive form, and equipped with either a 3.0-litre V6 diesel or 6.0-litre W12, it has been facelifted to better fit in with the rest of the company's range.
A relaxed and comfortable cruiser. Even the entry-level 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine is powerful, while the W12 is a real powerhouse. Both engines are teamed with a smooth-shifting six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, which provide plenty of control and grip. The adaptive air-suspension set-up constantly adjusts, making the car comfortable whatever the road surface.
Excellent wood and leather trim plus plenty of standard-fit equipment give the interior a suitably luxury ambience. Four-zone climate control is highly effective at regulating the temperature, and heated, electrically operated front seats add to the pampered feel. Rear passengers can easily stretch out – particularly in the long-wheelbase model, which adds 120mm more legroom.
VW running gear is rock-solid, so it is unlikely you will have problems with the engine or transmission. Of course, as with any luxury car, the more gadgets there are the more potential there is for things to go wrong, but again the manufacturer's renowned design and engineering standards are reassuring. A three-year warranty gives added peace of mind.
The Volkswagen Phaeton's spacious interior and large boot are as you would expect from a luxury model, but while the comfort and convenience technology impresses, certain areas could be improved. This is a big car, so it would be useful to see VW's clever self-parking technology included on top of the standard-fit sensors. Also, the foot-operated parking brake is outdated – the marque would do well to replace it with an electric system.
Value for money
Compared to competitors from Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi and BMW, this well-equipped limo is priced very impressively, starting in the mid-£40,000s. However, those rivals do offer more advanced technology and superior badge prestige – so you pay your money and you take your choice!
You get a lot for your money initially but, far from boosting its desirability, the low numbers in which the Phaeton has sold mean it isn’t particularly sought after on the used market. As a result, buyers will take a hit when they come to sell it on. Those large, powerful engines are not especially fuel-efficient either, and comparatively high emissions place the VW in the upper road tax pricing bands.