Apparently, even in its native Germany Volkswagen is being forced to sell cut-price Phaetons to celebs to boost its appeal. And in the UK it’s the luxury saloon world’s Lord Lucan – when was the last time you saw one on the road?
So while next May’s launch of the new 3.0-litre TDi version isn’t exactly the last throw of the dice, you get the impression that the car has got some work to do. Yet it has a chance. As VW rightly points out, the centre of gravity among luxury saloons is not V12, V8 or V6 petrols, and especially not VW’s extravagant V10 diesel – it’s six-cylinder turbodiesels. After all, the best-selling Mercedes S-class, BMW 7-series and Audi A8s are all similarly powered.
Volkswagen isn’t going after the establishment without some decent artillery, either. The V6 diesel is a new engine, recently installed in both the Audi A8 and new A6. So it’s putting out the same impressive 225bhp and 332 lb ft, available from a low 1400rpm.
On the road that means the performance and refinement we’d expect from the best diesel luxo-barges. Even though the four-wheel-drive Phaeton is a lardy 2158kg, the V6 TDi is sprightly from the word go. Crucially, it also makes light work of flitting from city to cruising speeds and doesn’t feel out of its depth when called upon to regain pace at motorway speeds.