VW’s desire to compete in the luxury limo market created this high-tech W12 giant, but it fell woefully short of the long-established competition.
Built from two VR6 engines running a common crankshaft, the Volkswagen Phaeton's relatively compact, all-aluminium, 48V W12 produced 414bhp. A five-speed automatic gearbox fed a Torsen diff that split drive 50:50 front to rear in normal driving. The platform was adapted from the contemporary Audi A8, but steel body panels contributed to a 2434kg kerb weight.
Among limos, only the twin-turbo V12 Mercedes S600 accelerated faster. However, engine refinement was generally poor. Brakes were initially strong but soon faded.
The air-sprung suspension was competitive only when pushing hard in Sport mode. The rest of the time it was too harsh and jittery. The variable-speed steering was vague, too.
Healthy kit, ample leg room, a big boot and comfy seats were highlights of the double-glazed interior, but drab design and a lack of perceived quality disappointed, as did its fuel economy and residual forecasts.
For: Exclusivity, performance, equipment
Against: Inconsistent ride, thirst, steering