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The exterior of the Volkswagen Phaeton has stayed relatively unaltered during its life to date; the 2011 round of changes are the first to significantly alter any metalwork.

They’re still modest changes, but they manage to bring the big VW’s face more into line with the rest of the Volkswagen range, and not unsuccessfully, either. What has always been an inoffensive car to look at now has a dose of elegance and purpose to its chrome nose.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Phaeton design language is a close match for the current Passat, characterised by strong horizontal lines

See old and new Phaetons side by side (an unlikely occurrence outside an ambitious Volkswagen dealership, we’ll admit) and you can easily spot the other detail changes, to the bumpers and lights – alterations that add presence at either end. However, this remains a car that, casually glimpsed on a motorway, could just be a big Passat. Which is just the way some owners like it.

The bumper, bonnet and front wings are all new panels, the Phaeton design language being a close match for the current Passat, characterised by strong horizontal lines.

At the back, smoked LED tail-lamps are supposed to reference the rear lights of the Passat and Eos. Like the front bumper, the rear one has been refreshed — although you have to look quite closely to tell the difference.

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If you ever see what looks like a Phaeton Allroad, that’ll be a car running in the higher of the air suspension’s two ride height settings. This raises the car up by 20mm simply by increasing the air pressure in the suspension cylinders.

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