VW Designed a Secret Successor to the Phaeton That Would Never Come to Be

Volkswagen had a successor to its luxurious Phaeton sedan waiting in the wings when the project was killed off in 2016.

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A photo of a black VW Phaeton D2 concept car driving in an airport.
The secret successor to the VW Phaeton that never was.
Photo: Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Phaeton was first thrust on the world in 2002, when the firm launched its vision for how a real luxury car should look and perform. It won countless fans, including current and former Jalops, but was killed off in 2016. Now, the firm has unveiled the secret successor that was waiting in the wings before the car was canned.

Called the Phaeton D2, the concept for a second generation luxury sedan from VW has been unveiled to mark 20 years since the original car’s launch.

And what a machine the original Phaeton was. Measuring 16'7" long, 6'2" wide and 4'9" high, the first Phaeton looked a bit like an amped up Passat from the same era. But, its elongated dimensions and superior features put it firmly in the luxury segment.

A photo of the original VW Phaeton driving alongside the Phaeton D2 concept car.
Like father, like son.
Photo: Volkswagen

What’s more, unlike its much smaller sibling, the Phaeton could be specced out with a wonderful interior comprising materials like chrome, wood and leather. It also came with a gear shifter that was said to be inspired by the thrust lever on a luxury yacht and VW even made an elongated model designed with chauffeur-driven rides in mind.

On top of that, you could order your Phaeton with a six-liter W12 engine. What a machine!

All of this meant that if you bought a Phaeton you were getting a rival to the likes of a Bentley Flying Spur for half of the price at up to $100,000.


But sadly, American buyers couldn’t wrap their heads around a six-figure VW, and it soon retreated from these shores before being canned altogether in 2016.

A photo of the rear quarter of the Vw Phaeton D2 concept.
The Phaeton D2 looks wonderful, doesn’t it?
Photo: Volkswagen

Despite its impending demise, designers at VW still worked away on a potential replacement for the Phaeton. And now, VW has unveiled the only working prototype of the Phaeton D2, and it is glorious.

Like the original, it takes the understated stylings from VW cars of the time and refines them. There’s a little more chrome around the grille and along the skirts than you’d find in your standard Golf or Jetta.


There’s also a slightly more confident, commanding stance to the car, which I think is down to its larger size, those bigger rims and a sharp line along the bodywork from the tip of the headlights all the way back to the tail lights.

Inside, it’s a similarly luxurious affair. There’s more leather and wood paneling throughout, as well as four meticulously-finished seats.


The center console also draws clear inspiration from the original, while bringing it up to date with the tech of the time. As such, there’s a screen replacing the dials and another one built into the dashboard.

A photo of the interior of the VW Phaeton D2 concept car.
If you hid the VW badge, I’d assume this was something from Bentley, Mercedes or BMW.
Photo: Volkswagen

It all looks beautifully made and, once again, wouldn’t look out of place in the best from Bentley, Mercedes or BMW.

Sadly, it was a car doomed from the outset and never made it into production. The one you see here is the only working prototype VW built of the Phaeton D2.


The firm says innovations from its design did make it into other vehicles, with the cockpit design in the 2018 Touareg drawing heavily from the Phaeton D2.

But still, imagine a world where we’d been treated to this instead of VW’s current barrage of SUVs and crossovers? Maybe if VW had unveiled this in 2016 instead of killing off the Phaeton, the rest of that year might not have gone as awfully as it did.