Facelift hasn’t stopped the Phaeton feeling irrelevant and out of date

What is it?

China saved the Phaeton. That is, without Asia's now enormous demand for luxury saloons VW's range-topper would have been consigned to corporate folly status long ago.

As it is, sales have been buoyant enough for VW to put the entire range thorough a facelift, including this long wheelbase W12 version which we have driven for the first time.

Then again, even in Beijing this particular Phaeton will probably be a rare sight.

What’s it like?

In the UK it wears an £80,000 price tag, around town we rarely saw better than single digit mpgs and if the previous incarnation was anything to go by, depreciation will be horrific. It’s hard to justify in other ways too. Yes it shares an engine and many other mechanicals with the Bentley Continental range, but it hasn’t received anything like the attention the latest versions of the Crewe car have.

On the road the Phaeton feels like what it is: an old car. It pitches, wallows and is easily unsettled by rough roads.

Of course the 444bhp engine feels strong. But nothing like as potent as V8 versions of the S-class or Jag XJ, say. And the VW feels hamstring by its aged five-speed auto ‘box. Another nod to yesteryear.

On the plus side it’s supremely comfortable and spacious, as a true limo should be. But when the Phaeton originally came out the levels of cabin craftsmanship far exceeded virtually any other car. Now though, it merely feels on a par with its competitors but they have switchgear and displays that look and feel more contemporary.

Should I buy one?

Yes. As long as you wait until it’s a used bargain.

Volkswagen Phaeton 6.0 W12

Price: £81,285; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 6.1sec; Economy: 19.5mpg; CO2: 348g/km; Kerb weight: 2433kg; Engine: 5998cc W12; Power: 444bhp at 6050rpm; Torque: 413lb ft at 2750rpm; Gearbox: 5 speed auto

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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