Fleet News

Volkswagen Phaeton V10 TDI

Volkswagen

Review

IF you prize the oversized VW badge from the Phaeton's elegant rear, there should just be room to squeeze enough of a chrome alphabet between the tail-lights to spell 'Schmutzigreichvolkswagen'.

German speakers will doubtless be quick to point out that the language boasts no such one-word oxymoron as 'Filthy Rich People's Car'.

But, in recognition of the efforts of a company founded on one-model reliability to now embrace every conceivable automotive niche save amphibians and the occasional motorcycle sidecar, perhaps it's time to invent one.

The current, healthy state of the company coffers suggests that now departed Ferdinand Piech's insistence on the need to both expand Volkswagen's product range to meet ever-burgeoning market diversification and inject emotion into the brand has been largely vindicated.

However, with the renaissance of the Beetle Cabriolet timed to raise the company profile somewhat higher in the USA (where the re-badged Golf, called Rabbit, never achieved the sales proliferation its new name aspired to), it seems clear that - with the exception of V10 turbodiesel-powered offerings - VW's prestige Putsch of both Touareg and Phaeton are aimed squarely at the American market.

To that end, only 300 Phaetons per year are earmarked for the UK market, of which just 30 will be this V10 TDI version.

On sale in both V6 and W12 guise from June 15, the five model range, priced from £42,000 to £70,000, will be supplemented in December with the arrival of both the V10 TDI and a V8 hosting Audi's proven 4.2-litre unit, and completed next year with a 3.0- litre V6 TDI. A long wheelbase version is also in the pipeline.

Those hoping to incur reduced tax penalties by opting for the V10 turbodiesel powerplant will be disappointed.

Though the TDI's CO2 emissions are quoted at a wholesome 66g/km less than the 374 of the W12, the resultant 308g/km figure is still hilariously far off the 2003/4 scale, leaving the V10's efforts at fuel frugality - 24.8mpg to the W12's 18.1mpg - as the only serious cost saving inducement.

The low volume Phaeton will be available through an even smaller range of showrooms than those already afforded the Touareg.

A dedicated area within chosen showrooms will pander exclusively to Phaeton customers, though VW is saying nothing more about presentation specifics at this time.

Expect copies of the Daily Mirror to be in abundance alongside the coffee machine, however in recognition of the car's appeal to company directors rather than those scrolling through user-chooser lists, as a number of chauffeur businesses have already been targeted.

Equipment levels have yet to be finalised for the UK, but top of the range W12 and V10 models are likely to be armed with every conceivable toy in the German executive lexicon, including 12-way electric front seats, four-zone climate control, eight airbags, a raft of ABS-related stability and braking aids, xenon headlamps, rain and parking sensors, and a first class sound system.

Options include a suspiciously Mercedes-like keyless-go facility, radar controlled cruise control (ditto) and satellite navigation. Also optional is a four-seater format with two electrically-operated chairs astern split by a centre console housing rear air-conditioning controls, which VW cannot yet price more accurately than between £2,000 and £4,000.

It's not yet clear whether de-badging will be a further option. But it would come as no surprise to find customers asking for those overt VW roundels to be removed from this handsome car - a reflection of the prejudices so deeply entrenched in the rarefied air of this market segment.

  • In our first drive of the VW Touareg (Fleet News April 10), some prices were incorrect. Petrol models range in price from £29,335 on-the-road for the 3.2 V6 manual to £43,070 on-the-road for the 4.2 V8 Sport auto. Diesel models range from £28,595 on-the-road for the 2.5 TDI manual to £50,440 on-the-road for the V10 TDI auto.

    behind the wheel

    A SMALL copse appears to have been sacrificed to furnish the interior of each Phaeton. And, though the absence of alternative metal trim finishes may disappoint those who do not share the German executive obsession with high gloss timber, both build quality and equipment levels are exceptional.

    Multiple levels of position adjustment provide exemplary comfort behind the wheel and, with the notable exception of driver's door window switches placed so far forward you have to lean out of the seat to operate them, switchgear ergonomics are also first class.

    The rear, fitted with the optional, four-seater pack in the car I drove, is comfortable, amply spacious yet unfortunately claustrophobic - the large, front seat headrest exactly filling the windscreen ahead.

    Why are cars aimed at chauffeured owners not fitted with a folding/removable front passenger headrest?

    On the move the Phaeton is very nearly very good indeed. Gone is the executive-inappropriate chunter of a V10 diesel at idle, replaced by little save minimal wind rush and slightly too much tyre roar in the back.

    Indistinguishable from its W12 sibling but for an absence of visible exhaust pipes astern, this is the £60,000 diesel offering powered by the same, monstrous V10 TDI unit found in the Touareg.

    That equates to five twin-turbocharged litres, 313bhp and a horse's hoof to the groin in the shape of 553 lb/ft of torque. Thus armed, the V10 Phaeton dismisses 62mph in 6.9 seconds to the W12's 6.1, shares the same governed 155mph top end and betters twelve-pot petrol economy by nigh on 7mpg.

    Air suspension with four-stage adjustable damping doesn't tackle nuggety surfaces or abrupt undulations as well as expected but, left in mid-position, proves a competent all-rounder.

    Massive torque provides impressive mid-range acceleration through a six-speed auto box inclined to snatch a tad in 'sport' mode. Permanent four-wheel drive offers fine body control and ample tenacity erring towards understeer when pushed, but the steering's disappointingly reluctant to engage the driver and the brakes are slightly grabby after initial indifference to the more polite inquiry.

    Driving verdict

    Exceptionally comfortable, remarkably powerful and built to Benz-bothering standards of fit and finish, the Phaeton has nought but badge snobbery and a slightly brash interior standing in its way as a worthy rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-class, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ and BMW 7-series.

    vw phaeton FACT FILE

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Phaeton 5.0-litre V10 TDI
    Engine (cc): 4,921
    Max power (bhp/rpm): 308/3,750
    Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 552/2,000
    Max speed (mph): 155
    0-62mph (sec): 6.9
    Fuel consumption: 24.8
    CO2 emissions (g/km): 308
    Transmission: 6-sp automatic
    Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 90/19.8
    Service interval (miles): 20,000
    On sale: December
    Price (est): £60,000

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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