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This Is the Second-Gen VW Phaeton That Never Happened, and That's OK

Volkswagen unveiled this secret prototype from 2016 to celebrate the Phaeton's 20th anniversary.

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golson-hs
Daniel Golson Former social media editor
3 min read
Front 3/4 view of a black Volkswagen Phaeton D2 prototype posed behind an airplane wing
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Front 3/4 view of a black Volkswagen Phaeton D2 prototype posed behind an airplane wing

This is the Phaeton that never was.

Volkswagen

The massively over-engineered celebrates its 20th birthday this year, and to commemorate the occasion VW is showing off a never-before-seen 2016 design prototype for a second-gen Phaeton that never entered production. Called the Phaeton D2, the project didn't make it past the one-off stage due to VW's increased focus on electrification. As nice as it looks, I think that's OK.

stopped selling the Phaeton in the US after 2006, though it remained on sale in other markets (namely China) until 2016. That original sedan was an incredible piece of engineering and shared much with the first-gen . It featured available V10 TDI and W12 engines, adaptive air suspension, four-zone climate control, all-wheel drive and a super high-end interior.

The Phaeton was also complex and expensive as hell, starting at around $70,000 and reaching close to $90K when fully loaded.

Rear 3/4 view of the black Volkswagen Phaeton D2 prototype in motion
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Rear 3/4 view of the black Volkswagen Phaeton D2 prototype in motion

The greenhouse is very reminiscent of the original Phaeton.

Volkswagen

When VW initially started working on the second-gen Phaeton in the early 2010s, the brand had four primary design concepts; it picked this design from then-exterior design head Marco Pavone and then-interior design lead Tomasz Bachorski. This fully functional prototype was built from the MLB platform, which underpins cars like the , and VW . There are no specs for the Phaeton D2, but it likely would have shared powertrains and other tech with the A8.

Like the original, the Phaeton D2 has understated good looks that put a premium twist on VW's design language. It has crisp surfacing, a large grille trapezoidal grille, complex LED head and taillights, tons of chrome trim, big wheels and prominent exhaust tips. The stately greenhouse is a direct nod to the original Phaeton, and overall the D2 looks longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. The interior is especially nice, featuring large swaths of leather and shiny wood trim, a huge central infotainment screen and digital gauge cluster, and a spacious backseat with a fixed center console. There are a number of details that hark back to the original, like the cupholder and armrest designs.

While the D2 never went on sale, many of its features have since emerged on production cars, like the similar infotainment setup in the third-gen Touareg SUV and the capacitive touch steering wheel buttons across the VW lineup.

Interior photo of the Volkswagen Phaeton D2 prototype showing the dashboard and door panel
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Interior photo of the Volkswagen Phaeton D2 prototype showing the dashboard and door panel

That large screen made its way to production Volkswagens.

Volkswagen

It's certainly sad that this flagship sedan never went into production, but I honestly think VW is better off for it. Even though the D2 Phaeton would have been much less expensive to produce than the first-gen model it would likely be just as slow of a seller, and because of its shared platform and components it would feel less special. And the Phaeton did get a successor anyway, kind of: the Volkswagen Phideon, a large sedan built on the MLB platform that's only sold in China. (In fact, it seems like this D2 proposal may have evolved into the Phideon, which was unveiled in 2016.)

Plus, even though the Phaeton D2 was scrapped so the brand could focus on EVs — the factory was even retooled to produce them — we know that a flagship Volkswagen is coming in the near future. VW has already announced Project Trinity, a cutting-edge luxury EV that will have Level 4 driver-assist systems and share underpinnings with the upcoming Landjet models from , Bentley and . Whatever Project Trinity is will likely be technologically advanced and definitely expensive, a perfect true successor to the Phaeton.

And hey, maybe VW will even bring back the name.

The Secret Volkswagen Phaeton That Never Was Looks Pretty Good

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