After letting its flagship sedan languish without any upgrades for nearly a decade, Volkswagen unveiled a revamped 2011 Phaeton at the 2010 Beijing auto show.
Unlike its sibling, the Audi A8, the latest Phaeton’s styling is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The new car looks slightly more refined than its predecessor, thanks to an all-new front fascia with some angular lines. A new four-bar chrome grille, coupled with revised headlamps (complete with LED daytime running lamps) help dress up the Phaeton’s nose. Modifications to the car’s aft quarters are even more restrained. New taillamps incorporate LEDs, while the VW logo is now a three-dimensional emblem.
Changes to the Phaeton’s cabin are equally conservative. Interior trims have been updated and the steering wheel redesigned, but the general look and layout is close -- if not identical -- to the first-generation Phaeton. Volkswagen did, however, bless the latest car a revised infotainment system, which utilizes the same Google-based navigation system found in the A8.
Other new tech features include road sign recognition, which helps identify important road signs and alert the driver. According to Volkswagen, the new Phaeton is the first vehicle that will notify the driver of “no passing” signs. Buyers can also spring for “dynamic light assist” -- not only does the system automatically dim the headlamps when an oncoming car is sensed, but the system actively tilts the headlights upwards as speeds increase to provide better illumination. A dynamic cruise control system is also available, as is a blind-spot alert.
Buyers will have a few different options when it comes to purchasing a Phaeton. Both short- and long-wheelbase forms will be offered, and Volkswagen is offering no less than four different engines across the range. A 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter gasoline V-6 is standard, while a 335-horse, 4.2-liter V-8 and a 450-horsepower, 6.0-liter W-12 are optional. Fuel misers will likely spring for the 3.0-liter, 240-horsepower turbo-diesel V-6, which returns up to 28 mpg on the European test cycle.
Although several Volkswagen officials have publicly mulled the idea, the revised Phaeton has not been confirmed for a North American revival. VW had a hard enough time trying to sell the first-generation car to Americans between 2004 and 2006. Unless Volkswagen can find a way to convince buyers to spend decent money on a luxury car with a pedestrian nameplate (something Hyundai has been able to do with the Genesis), it may be hard to pitch such an idea to the suits in Wolfsburg.