Used Volkswagen Phaeton Saloon 2003 - 2010 review

Category: Luxury car

The Volkswagen Phaeton is well engineered, but a lack of kudos may be crucial

Volkswagen Phaeton Saloon (03 - 10)
  • Volkswagen Phaeton Saloon (03 - 10)
  • Volkswagen Phaeton Saloon (03 - 10)
Used Volkswagen Phaeton Saloon 2003 - 2010 review
Star rating

What's the used Volkswagen Phaeton saloon like?

The VW Phaeton's ambition was to attack luxury saloon cars such as the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series, but as a new car it just never had the necessary prestige to succeed.

As a used car, much of that remains true, of course, but that relative lack of desirability does have one very welcome side effect: incredibly cheap prices. Compared with those rivals, the Phaeton is several thousand pounds cheaper.


The Volkswagen Phaeton is well engineered, but a lack of kudos may be crucial

  • Lots of space, comfort and luxury
  • Reliable
  • VW badge lacks the kudos of rivals
  • The controls are confusing
  • Thirsty V8 and V12 petrols

That doesn't mean it's missing out on comfort or equipment, though. It has enormous space in the cabin (for rear-seat passengers in particular), a huge boot, superb build quality and pretty much every piece of luxury and safety equipment you can think of.

If there is a disappointment, it's that it isn't more exciting to drive. Instead, the emphasis is on smoothness and refinement, with a comfortable ride rather than sharper handling, and steering that's short of feel.

Ownership cost

What used Volkswagen Phaeton saloon will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Volkswagen Phaeton saloon?

Despite what we have said about the Phaeton suffering terrible depreciation, it's not a cheap car to buy. You could argue that it's a bargain, but only next to cars such as the S-Class and 7 Series.

It's a big, heavy car, too, so its fuel economy is pretty frightening. An Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro returns 32.8mpg, but the heavier Phaeton with essentially the same engine does only 29.4mpg - and it's slower to 60mph. Diesel S-Classes and 7 Series don't have four-wheel drive, and are even more frugal, and it's same story with other engines - the VW is almost always thirstier.

At least it can recoup some of that extra cost with lower insurance groupings and cheaper maintenance: most Phaetons are in group 45, while servicing on a VW is much less than on a Mercedes.

Our recommendations

Which used Volkswagen Phaeton saloon should I buy?

The Phaeton reached the UK in June 2003, but it was two years before our favourite engine arrived. The 3.0-litre TDI diesel has the most attractive blend of performance and economy, if not the cheapest prices.

If you're looking to spend the absolute minimum of cash, go for the 3.2 V6 petrol, which was on sale from day one and has had longer to depreciate. It's our second-favourite engine overall, but the only one to choose on an early car.

The next cheapest model has a V8 petrol engine, but its price and running costs are very high. Still, next to the V12 petrol and V10 turbodiesel, it looks positively sensible. They're prohibitively dear to buy and run.

VW also sold long-wheelbase models from mid-2004. If you have a choice, it's best to save a few quid and stick with the shorter car, which is perfectly large enough.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Volkswagen Phaeton saloon?