From £52,690
Not oil over for Phaeton

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Phaeton

The Volkswagen Phaeton’s decade-old platform needs more than a tweak to be a success in the luxury car market

21 September 2004

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.

Noise suppression, surprisingly, is better than in the £60k V10 diesel, and the quality of changes from the six-speed auto is superb. Sadly, the ride has the same restless lumpiness as the rest of the range.

But thankfully it does have the craftsmanship and comfort of other Phaetons, on a par with its Audi A8 sister and which even the S-class or 7-series can’t match. But they have a superior image, and that’s the Phaeton’s biggest problem – the VW badge isn’t posh enough to cut it in this company. This car won’t change that, but it’s the Phaeton to go for if you must have one.

Chas Hallett

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