It sounds like the dream ticket, doesn’t it? A car that combines the best of Audi (four-wheel drive), Bentley (W12 engine), Skoda (the Superb) and VW, the creators of the Scirocco, my favourite small car from 2010.
But the strange thing is that when you drive the W12 VW Phaeton what first springs to mind is:
“Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss.
Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and it is all organised by the Italians.”
Because the one thing this big saloon isn’t is a match made in heaven.
Apart from a complete lack of charisma and some very questionable interior styling, the car fidgets in whichever of its eight sub-optimal ride settings ( four damper x two ride height) you choose.
Accepted, there’s an impressive amount of interior space, in the back at least, and a decent boot. There also appears to be the most impressive range of electric adjustment I’ve seen for a driver’s seat - not only can you raise/lower the headrest electrically, you can even tilt it.
Five minutes after getting in, however, as my head thumped the roof lining yet again, I came to the conclusion that in whatever way I adjusted it the entire thing had been mounted too high. The seats I could see in the mirror looked quite tempting, however. The back is undoubtedly the way forwards, as it were.
On the road, and I’m aware I may get some flak for saying this, the 6.0-litre, 48-valve, 12-cylinder engine doesn’t really do it for me. By the time you’ve put it through five-speed auto (yes, remember those) and a four-wheel-drive system, it seems there aren’t many of those 443bhp left. It’s also a reminder of how engine design has moved on: the W12 has 413lb ft of torque at 2750rpm; the Range Rover Evoque’s diesel has 309lb ft at 1750rpm.
As one of my colleagues neatly described it, it’s a Phaeton worse than death.
Fortunately the company that makes the Phaeton still makes the superbly built Golf, the impressive Polo, the ultra-practical Passat estate and my favourite small car of 2010, the VW Scirocco.
Anyone want to swap a Phaeton for a Scirocco?