Even when it was new, the Volkswagen Phaeton was an oddball that made an unusual luxury car choice — and that is a situation that has not been improved by the progress of time, especially when the VW’s own CC looks more like an executive car.
When it was first launched, the cliché ‘technological tour de force’ could have been invented for the Phaeton. It sits on a platform that was not only good enough for this Volkswagen, but also formed the basis for Bentley’s Continental range. But when you see Volkswagen prolonging the Phaeton’s life cycle beyond even that of the equivalent Bentley, you know you’re dealing with a car whose monocoque platform is growing something of a beard.
And that sums up the Phaeton nicely. While every one of the Phaeton’s major competitors has been replaced by an all-new model, the Volkswagen’s modest model tweaks mean that it can no longer compete. It’s an anachronism that represents little more than Ferdinand Piech’s decade-old obsession with creating a luxury VW.
The interior wasn’t really up to par when it was launched. Ten years on, it’s even less acceptable. Sure, there’s plenty of room to stretch out inside, especially in the long wheelbase model, but the style and plastics are rather too retro.
The Phaeton has arguably been at its most successful as an engineering benchmark for other Volkswagen (and, indeed, VW Group) vehicles. As enthusiasts, we find that makes the Phaeton a damnably hard car to dislike. But it’s a nigh-on impossible one to recommend against a wealth of rivals.