Of course, ride quality is all-important when it comes to any limousine like the Volkswagen Phaeton, whether it’s at the budget end of the market or not. And in most respects the Phaeton is a comfortable car. Its self-levelling air suspension lowers at high speeds for better stability, and on motorways the car’s hefty weight is kept restrained and passengers remain well isolated from the road’s surface. But anything that involves more challenging forces than a motorway schlep can highlight the one-dimensional character of the Phaeton.
Yes, this is a car that will do big miles effortlessly, but with cornering forces involved as well it can result in some unsettling suspension thump as the springs try to control the body and absorb the disturbance. And this is the case in whichever of the Phaeton’s four damper settings you choose.
The degree of difference between the settings is quite slight in comparison with many similar systems, but put simply you must choose between softer springs and very noticeable body roll at one end, and marginally better body control with a slightly lumpier ride at the other end.
Which isn’t to say that the Phaeton rides poorly. It easily soaks up many of the bigger bumps and undulations in the majority of situations, but it falls short of the well resolved ride that some rivals offer. The finer points of the Phaeton’s handling characteristics are likely to be irrelevant to any prospective buyers, but essentially, as with the ride quality, it is adequate rather than exceptional.
Essentially, it is the saloon’s weight that dictates both its ride and its handling. Balancing the hefty body on the soft springs is key if any sort of tidy line is to be maintained. Even so, the Phaeton never feels like anything other than a big, endearingly soggy limo. Sadly, it has none of the multi-faceted ability that some rivals can offer.