Drive: VW Phaeton to Chester

Snuggle up to this great big smoothie

By Kate Simon
Friday 04 October 2013 04:39

VW Phaeton 3.2 V6 £42,905
Acceleration: 0-62mph 9.2sec
Maximum speed: 150mph
Average fuel consumption: 23.2mpg
Insurance group: 16

Now, I'm not the kind of girl who drapes herself across the bonnets of cars - as you can see. In fact, I'm more likely to be heard banging on about the impact on the environment of the fat-cat's choice of vehicle. But I'm in love. And, as everyone knows, love is blind.

I'm in love with the Phaeton, Volkswagen's first luxury limousine, which launched last month. A luxury Volkswagen? Hardly a people's car, it's true. And VW ha; come in for much stick for daring to enter the market. But frankly, who cares? I don't, and I'd wager few who have been behind its wheel do either. An hour along the road to Chester, I realised that this was a match made in heaven.

At 5,000lb, this beast of a car weighs as much as a baby elephant. But on the open road, Nellie is wearing her tutu and striking a perfect arabesque. For, despite its size, the Phaeton fairly skims along the highway, cornering smoothly, accelerating in an instant and slowing to a halt in another.

Indeed, it could have been love at first sight, but smart, Germanic, conservative looks are not my thing. Still, it's what's on the inside that counts, and with its spacious, black, leather seating, eucalyptus trim and multi-function computer with colour screen, I was finding the Phaeton an increasingly attractive proposition.

Introductions over, it was time to get to know each other. A flick of the folding key and we were off. But within seconds I was learning that my new beau could get a bit touchy. Just a few yards down the road and the car was already complaining - in sound and vision - that I'd left on the handbrake. Well, how was I to know? In fact, where the hell was the handbrake? After five minutes searching around my seat I had to reach for the manual to discover that a discreet clip down to my right released the brake. Classy: I could forgive this car anything.

VW's Phaeton had so much to teach me. A row of switches on the driver's door activated child locks to the rear windows and doors, gave access to the petrol cap and released the electronically operated boot (cool). Another pad of buttons on both the driver and passenger seats enabled 12-way adjustment to assure perfect positioning.

More buttons on the steering wheel meant I could safely operate the computer controls while driving, including a six-disc CD player, which was neatly tucked away in the glove compartment. (A pleasant antidote to all this hi-tech fun was the analogue clock.) But the sat-nav proved distracting, and the screen in the centre of the driver's console, which boasted about the car's every function, from how far I'd driven to my choice of radio station, was downright irritating.

Meanwhile, the Friday-afternoon traffic was choking the M6, and a journey that should have taken four hours maximum was already clocking up more than five. What a relief to leave the motorway for the free-flowing A51, the Phaeton responding to the twists and turns of this glorified country lane with ease. By the time I reached Chester I was a little weary, but I felt more like I had lounged on the sofa for too long, than been stuck in a car.

So, how did this beautiful relationship end? Ultimately, we were incompatible. At almost £43,000, the Phaeton is out of my league - not to mention the fact that at just over 23 miles to the gallon it has a bit of an expensive drink problem. I guess I am destined to date one of its younger siblings.

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