Wim Oude Weernink describes Volkswagen’s entry into the flagship segment in this chat with Rudiger Folten, the man in charge of VW’s R&D strategy who describes the process which culminated in the Phaeton, a name borrowed from the most stylish of horse-drawn carriages that was chosen for Volkswagen’s new luxury limousine.

Some quotes from the interview:

“A car of this type offers its designers more freedom than they usually get, since they know exactly what market they are working for”.

“For us the D1, as we called it, was a whole new world, a world in which feeling and ambience mattered more than anything else”.

Our task was to find the perfect balance between superiority and respect, because it is very easy in this segment to let prestige slip into arrogance, particularly since a hint of arrogance is exactly what is required.

We couldn’t simply transfer styling cues from our other model, lock, stock and barrel, though we were, of course, free to interpret certain items, such as the radiator grille”.

“Conceptually, while very new Volkswagen introduces something special and innovative, we are required to remain true to our roots. At the same time, there’s no law that forces us to shape any front section in a conventional way around a traditional grille”.

“It was their work on the rear pillar that enabled our designers to visualise the character of the Phaeton, a character based on the tension between the vertical line of the door frame and the softer lines of the rear quarterlight”.

“We wanted to create an interior that was luxurious without being vulgarly opulent. And we achieved that by retaining all the classic VW practicality, but with a pinch of the emotional”.

Now it’s up to the motoring public to decide whether the Phaeton has set a whole new standard in limousine design.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 133

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