The Phaeton first appeared in 2002, as the realization of Ferdinand Piech‘s vision of a VW flagship, but also the creation of the best car in the world by “Fauve”. The attention to detail and the use of expensive materials inside and out (aluminum doors-bonnet-tailgate, use of double glazing for better soundproofing, etc.) meant that VW did not make a profit on any car it sold. Which doomed its 2nd generation, which we never saw – even though it was ready for launch!
“Phaeton” (son of Helios and Clymene, according to mythology) remained in production for 14 years, undergoing a facelift in 2007. After the renewal, and despite lower-than-expected sales, it managed to continue for another 7 years, perfectly serving the role it had from the beginning in the VW range: that of the flagship, above and beyond the Touareg.
It may not have done well commercially (the Germans wanted 20,000 units per year, and 25,000 were built in the first four years), but it took care of the “takeoff” of the company’s prestige and the placement of its name next to the behemoths of its premium compatriots (see BMW and Mercedes ).
For this reason, VW never abandoned the idea of a successor. On the contrary, he not only developed him but also had him ready! The Phaeton D2 was developed to the fully functional prototype stage, at the pre-production car level. The dimensions were larger than the Phaeton, which in turn reached 5.06 meters, with the design intensifying the premium tones and adding dynamism.
The grille got more chrome and went lower, the front headlights got slightly bigger and the rear ones found the dynamism missing from those of the Phaeton, joined by a chrome strip. More generally, nickel was offered bravely in D2.
Inside, it is no exaggeration to say that it depicted today’s VWs, 6 years ago. The combination of the digital instrument panel – touch screen for the multimedia system essentially pointed the way for the Innovation Cockpit, which appeared in 2018, while the quality of materials and attention to every detail (note the pattern of the wood trim) would suit any flagship.
The 2nd generation Phaeton ultimately never made it to the production line. VW changed its mind and decided that it no longer needed a 5+ meter super luxury limousine, at a time when SUVs are booming. Consequently, it fed back the relevant funds into the improvement of the Touareg, which since 2016 has led the range.
The Phaeton D2, however, influenced design and technology models from across the VW Group: the front was adapted to the Arteon, the rear to the current Skoda Superb, and the digital dashboard was carried over almost as is to the Golf MK8. The whole, then, may never have been built. Partially, though, it’s as if he walked through the factory gates in Wolfsburg!