A decade after its original launch, today the Volkswagen Phaeton owes its continuing existence to the Chinese market, which takes more than half of the 4000 units that roll annually from the Phaeton’s bespoke, glass-walled, Dresden factory. The Phaeton sells in tiny numbers in most European markets and has been cancelled altogether in the US. But thanks to its success in China, there’s sufficient demand for Volkswagen to continue not just building, but also improving the car.In 2008 VW installed its latest-generation 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, and in 2011 the Phaeton was tweaked again, to receive some significant styling changes (that now all-too familiar VW nose) and updates to its interior.Only a V6 diesel in short or long wheelbase is now offered in the UK, though in other markets Volkswagen also offers the oddball W12 petrol engine in long wheelbase form only. The larger one puts an extra 120mm of length between the wheels. This 444bhp 6.0-litre engine is essentially two V6 engines put together and is supposed to rival the V8s on offer in other luxury cars.

Top 5 Luxury

  • Mercedes-Benz S-class
    'Sporty' Mercedes have a three-pointed badge in the grille. Luxury Benzes get a three-pointed star atop the grille

    Mercedes-Benz S-class

    1
  • Range Rover has a maximum wading depth of 900mm

    Range Rover

    2
  • Tesla Model S
    The Tesla Model S is an upmarket rear-wheel-drive electric saloon

    Tesla Model S

    3
  • The latest XJ is a big departure from its predecessor, stylistically

    Jaguar XJ

    4
  • Audi A8
    The third generation Audi A8 is the best yet - and by some margin

    Audi A8

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Volkswagen range

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Lavishly-equipped, rugged-looking Peugeot 508 estate is a pleasant drive, but there are many more recommendable alternatives
  • 308 GT 1.6-litre petrol is priced from £24,095
    First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Peugeot's given the 308 the engine from the 208 GTi 30th and some chassis upgrades; we find out if the changes bring a bit of old-school Peugeot hot-hatch magic to this likeable family hatch.
  • Car review
    26 March 2015
    Does Suzuki's new city runabout have what it takes to succeed?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    Collins Performance has given the Fiesta ST 270bhp and 265lb ft, but has our favourite fast Ford been ruined in the process?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    The Seat Leon X-Perience is the closest thing to an SUV that you can buy with a Seat badge for now, blending estate practicality with off-road ability