2023 Volkswagen Phaeton: VW Announces the Luxury Legend Won’t Return

When people think of Volkswagen, they usually default to the legendary Golf. It makes perfect sense, too, considering it’s a historic car that birthed the very idea of the hot hatch. However, not many folks will think of ultra-high luxury sedans when they think VW. That, unfortunately, is the reason the stealthy Phaeton was a failure and will not be making a return.

This is what a 2023 Volkswagen Phaeton would look like

Volkswagen Phaeton prototype driving at airport could have been 2023 model
D2 Volkswagen Phaeton | Volkswagen

Despite the iconic luxurious Phaeton, a massive luxury sedan that shared the platform and engine with certain Bentley models, getting the ax from Volkswagen after the 2006 model year from North America, it continued life in other markets until 2014. However, the Phaeton did eventually come to an end. That didn’t stop Volkswagen from dreaming up another generation, though.

Volkswagen released some pictures of the D2 Volkswagen Phaeton in a recent press release. Unfortunately, the press release isn’t to announce the release of the 2023 Volkswagen Phaeton. Instead, it’s a reveal of the actual driving prototype for the next-gen Phaeton before its discontinuation. The company released these photos because 2022 marks 20 years since the launch of the original model.

“The car still has a very attractive appearance and beautiful proportions, and it impresses with its tangible high quality and value,” said Jozef Kaban, Head of Volkswagen Design.

Volkswagen Phaeton prototype interior rear seat
D2 Phaeton Interior | Volkswagen

Though this Phaeton prototype is a handful of years old, it gives us some insight into what a 2023 Volkswagen Phaeton would look like if it were to become a reality. Unfortunately, sales in North America were so minimal that Volkswagen stopped selling these big beauties after just two years on the market.

The Phaeton saw massive success in China, however. This is likely due to its long wheelbase and affordability in comparison to luxury competitors like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S Class.

The big sedan was pretty odd for Volkswagen branding

D2 Phaeton Volkswagen Prototype with private jet
D2 Volkswagen Phaeton | Volkswagen

Obviously, with Volkswagen being the parent company of Bentley, Lamborghini, and Audi, there’s no shortage of luxury running through the VW bloodwork. However, it is a bit odd to see a hyper-luxurious vehicle with VW badges on it. This, likely, is what made North American customers avoid buying them. According to Auto Trader, the price of a W12 model in the U.S. was $95,600, which works out to about $148,000 in 2022 money.

It certainly wasn’t overstepping any bounds, though. With over 400 horsepower, legendary 4Motion all-wheel drive, and remarkable interior luxury features like massaging seats, it was a fantastic value.

Additionally, the engine options in the U.S. were just the beginning of craziness. The cheaper option in the U.S. was the same 4.2-liter V8 you’d find in an Audi S4 or R8. The W12 engine is the same that you’d find in a Bentley Continental GT or Flying Spur, just without turbochargers.

Overseas markets, though, got the craziest engine options. They, too, got the W12. However, the entry-level engine offering was a Volkswagen 3.2-liter V6.

The showpiece of the European and Asian market Phaeton, though, was the diesel offering. They were available with a 5.0-liter TDI twin-turbo-diesel V10 engine. It made over 300 horsepower and over 500 pound-feet of torque.

Overall, though the world is understanding of why the Phaeton is gone, it still stings. It’s such a cool and quirky car that it could never really work. After all, it didn’t the first time. Still, this awesome look into what could have been is very cool.

Maybe someday, the big and expensive Volkswagen luxury sedan will return.

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