If there’s one word that seems to define the VW Phaeton it’s ‘why?’. Why build a luxury limousine with a mainstream badge when – in the Audi A8 – you already build one with a prestige badge?
Is this man’s desire to be different? Well, if you share that desire then this particular Phaeton is the one that best extols that virtue; a V10, 5.0-litre, 309bhp turbodiesel powering all four wheels of a long-wheelbase (extra 120mm) limousine that nobody’s ever heard of. Different indeed.
As in the Touareg SUV, which shares the same engine, the V10 idles with a slightly agricultural chunter that fades to a murmur when wafting along on a light throttle. It’s a dry, soulless sound with the odd hint of a five-cylinder Audi but with the bass control turned up until the slider has snapped off.
For a luxury flagship you hear a little too much of it. Then you depress the accelerator fully and a remarkable thing happens. From somewhere deep behind the bulkhead emanates a mean, hard-edged rumble, and the Phaeton stampedes forward with the effortless momentum you only feel when a real heavyweight defies physics. Make no mistake: 553lb ft makes this Phaeton a fast car in a straight line.
Stampedes is very much the operative word here, however, because at 2566kg the Phaeton TDi is very heavy indeed: 184kg heavier than the V8 Phaeton. Blame the use of a steel structure – unlike the aluminium Audi A8 – and the big-block 10-cylinder engine.