There’s an immaculate and sleek big executive express sitting outside my house right now. Is that a Mercedes three-pointed star, an Audi four-ring logo or a pouncing Jaguar adorning the grille? Why, no, it’s a humble VW badge.
Welcome to the amazing Phaeton and, yes, it is a Volkswagen – though a far cry from the humble ‘People’s Car’ that launched the brand all those years ago.
With a lead-in price of £50,016 or £53,755 for the long wheelbase three-litre V6 diesel version I drove, this is hardly a car for the masses. Those prices are just a guide for there’s a whole raft of optional extras that can be added to an already spectacularly loaded spec sheet.
Besides the TDi V6s there are V8 versions and, if you are after the full Monty, how about the W12, with its 12-cylinder V12 lump and a price tag pushing £80,000.
The possible permutations are such that no two Phaetons are exactly the same.
To build the car, VW built an amazing futuristic glass and steel, ecologically-friendly factory, which is set in a beautiful park In the East German city of Dresden – a works that has its own Michelin standard gourmet restaurant and where buyers are welcome to sit at the computer with the design team and specify their own bespoke car. It’s like having a suit made in Saville Row. No wonder the word ‘hand crafted’ is bandied about
A beautifully stylish, chrome adorned exterior cloaks an interior that reeks of comfort, luxury and prestige, with its classic wood finishes, luxurious leather and sparkling chrome. Attention to detail is key. Just look at the elegant polished aluminium boot hinges, the automatically operated wooden blinds over the four zone electronic climate control vents, the stylish and oh so clear instrumentation. Even the cupholders are a cut above the norm.
The car glides over rough surfaces and handles deftly and a range of optional driver assistance systems are available – including side scan lane change assist and automatic distance control, which automatically maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
A continuous damping control air suspension system comes as standard, minimising pitch and roll movements that occur when accelerating, braking hard, or cornering.
The chassis can be electrically raised for enhanced ground clearance and a smoother ride, or lowered for better high-speed aerodynamics. Plus, every Phaeton is equipped with the sophisticated 4Motion four-wheel drive system.
And how’s this for a nice touch of luxury? You can specify a steering wheel that not only integrates a range of controls but heats up fro cold mornings or how about sun blinds for the rear windscreen and rear side windows?
So what’s it like to drive? Well, it’s whisper-quiet, smooth and responsive, wafting its occupants along in utter comfort. It’s got performance too, with a 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds and a 147 mph top speed, while able to delivery 30 mpg in the combined cycle when driven less gingerly.
The Phaeton is, in short, a superb piece of kit – a serious contender for ‘World’s Best Saloon’ accolades. VW’s flagship models are superbly designed, beautifully built and do even more than is promised on the tin. So why are they such a rare sight?
Sadly, that can be put down to brand snobbery. People have forgotten that BMW used to make three-wheeler bubble cars and that Mercedes are used to taxis, so there’s no reason why VW should not be accepted into the ranks of prestige car makers. After all, they’ve already achieved it with their Audi brand and, lower down the ranks, have turned Skoda into a marque that is taken seriously.