Volkswagen Phaeton Saloon (2003 - 2011) review
Read the Volkswagen Phaeton saloon (2011 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.The Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.3 The Volkswagen Phaeton is an understated luxury saloon car which shares much with the Bentley Continental GT and features sublime build quality and refinement.
- Understated design
- Exquisite build quality
- Smooth and refined
- Loses lots of its value
- Can feel unwieldy on narrow lanes
- Looks a little anonymous
At a glance
The Phaeton is well equipped, although it lacks Bluetooth and iPod connectivity – specifying these from the options list will cost around £1,000. Bright xenon headlamps, wood trim, four-zone climate control, CD autochanger, adjustable suspension, heated electric leather seats all come as standard. The long wheelbase version of the 3-litre diesel adds rear window sunblinds, rear climate controls and an electric glass sunroof. The range-topping 6-litre petrol also features electric seats with 18-way adjustment, power operated bootlid and electrically height-adjustable seatbelts.
The Volkswagen Phaeton received a new look in 2011, which gives it VW’s latest look. That means sleek, angular headlights with LED sidelights integrated into them, while the rear gets rear lights reminiscent of the latest Golf. Fans of the Phaeton love its understated looks which doesn’t cause a fuss, while critics cite its similarity with the Passat as a reason to choose a Mercedes S-Class or Jaguar XJ.
The interior feels far more special than the exterior design, with acres of wood trim accompanied by bits of chrome and leather. The design has a real Volkswagen feel, and the angular lines are more sober than those of the Mercedes S-Class and Jaguar XJ. That said, the controls are well laid out – although the sheer number of features can be overwhelming – and the seats are extremely comfortable. The vents which hide behind slabs of veneer when not in use is a very nice touch.
The Phaeton is available with two engines, but it’s the 3-litre diesel which makes up the overwhelming number of sales. It produces 237bhp and 367lb/ft of pulling power which means it will reach 62mph in 8.3 seconds before reaching 147mph. Performance is hampered by a its weight of more than 2.7 tonnes, and this is most noticeable when accelerating from speeds above 50mph. Below this, acceleration is brisk, and the refined way it drives and sounds masks its low-speed performance. A 6-litre W12 engine is also offered which offers a 6.1 second 0-62mph time and a limited 155mph top speed. Models are offered with an automatic gearbox only.
The Phaeton is a huge car, so it comes as no surprise there’s masses of space. The cabin offers space for four to travel in opulent comfort, but it’s still possible to squeeze in a fifth with space to spare. Long wheelbase versions add an additional 120mm of legroom, substantially improving space. The 500-litre boot offers roughly the same room as the Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ, but around 60 litres less than the Mercedes S-Class. There’s ample storage space in the cabin, and all-round sensors aid parking.
The Phaeton feels extremely well built, and given Volkswagen’s reputation little should go wrong. Volkswagen has issued no recalls since the car was launched in 2002, which gives additional confidence.
Ride and handling
Offering sportscar-like thrills isn’t the Phaeton’s forte; instead it is an exceptionally comfortable and refined way to travel. It has staggering levels of grip when the pace increases, with its four-wheel drive system, but the sheer size of the car means it’s happier when cruising rather than snaking along country lanes. All models come equipped with suspension which adjusts for height and firmness for a more comfortable or sporting ride.
The biggest cost facing Phaeton owners is the value lost from new over the first few years. The near £50,000 price of the entry-level short wheelbase diesel will be worth around 50 per cent of that three years later. Day-to-day running costs for the 3-litre diesel model are less scary – it’ll cover around 32mpg, and emit 224g/km of CO2. The 6-litre petrol is far more costly, with its sub-20mpg fuel consumption and top tax band-baiting 348g/km of CO2.
The Phaeton hasn’t been rated by the Euro NCAP crash test programme, but comes with a significant amount of safety kit. Standard equipment includes front, side and curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front headrests and doors which automatically unlock in the event of a crash. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist and Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP) with electronic differential lock also comes as standard.