For 2006, the Volkswagen Phaeton receives a few minor changes. The W12 engine now makes 444 hp, up from 420 hp; there’s a cell phone preparation for Nokia phones on five-seater models; four- and five-seater models can be prepped for Bluetooth cell phones; and Telematics has been deleted.

The largest and most luxurious of Volkswagen’s sedans, the Phaeton is available with a 4.2-litre V8 with a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 6.0-litre W12 engine with five-speed automatic. (The “W” refers to the engine’s design: the banks of cylinders are staggered to form a W shape, which allows for a more compact engine.)

Both engines are also used in the Audi A8; although the cars look similar, they’re not twins. The A8’s aluminum-spaceframe construction is 454 kg lighter than the steel-bodied Phaeton, and in its smaller version, the A8’s wheelbase is 57 mm shorter.

Like the A8, the Phaeton is all-wheel-drive, using Volkswagen’s exclusive 4Motion permanent system with a Torsen centre differential. A four-corner adjustable air suspension uses an Electronic Damping Control program that constantly monitors the road surface and vehicle speed, and adapts the suspension automatically. Five-passenger seating can be optioned to four-passenger, with a wood-trimmed rear centre console dividing the seats.

The V8 Phaeton includes dual exhaust pipes, soft-close doors, automatic Xenon headlamps with washers, fog lamps, heated mirrors with auto-dimming, power fold, reverse tilt, puddle lights and integrated turn signals, power sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, heated washer nozzles, trunk closing assist, four-zone automatic climate control, automatic locking, navigation system, auto-dimming interior mirror with memory function, chrome and eucalyptus wood interior trim, 6-six CD changer with ten speakers, 12-way adjustable heated front seats, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, OnStar, Homelink garage door opener, leather interior, one-touch up/down on all windows and four ventilated brake discs.

The W12 Phaeton adds four exhaust pipes, infrared- and heat-reflecting glass, power opening and closing trunk, rear climate controls, walnut interior trim, upgraded six-CD system with twelve speakers, 18-way driver and 16-way passenger power adjustable memory seats with heat, air conditioning, massage and power-adjustable lumbar support, power-adjustable seatbelts and head restraints, heated rear seats, integrated cell phone, and heated steering wheel.

Although it’s an impeccable machine, with incredible stability, superb road manners and a choice of two extremely smooth and competent engines, the Phaeton has not made much of a splash with buyers. Much of it has to do with its nose: that telltale badge is the size of a dinner plate, and it’s tough to get buyers to shell out a hundred grand for a Volkswagen. Still, if you’re more concerned about the ride and performance than about the impression your nameplate makes, the Phaeton does everything right.

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