Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

There's a decent choice of engines in the Phaeton and the entry-level model is the 3.2-litre V6 with 240bhp. It's very smooth but with fuel economy of just 23mpg it lags behind the diesels in terms of running costs. A more powerful 4.2-litre V8 is also available which delivers 335bhp and is the same engine that is used in the Touareg. It has a characterful engine note and plenty of low down grunt too, delivering a 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds - although fuel economy is a poor 22mpg.

The top petrol is the immense 6.0-litre W12 which boasts 420bhp - although in 2005 this was increased to 450bhp which means it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds. It's not that quick away from a standstill, but accelerates effortlessly quickly on the motorway. However, average fuel economy is just 19mpg. The 3.0 V6 diesel is one of the most in-demand engines thanks to its strong blend of performance and economy.

It was introduced in May 2005 with 225bhp and a 0-62mph time of 8.8 seconds. Economy is good for this size of car at 29mpg and it actually boasts more pulling power than the 4.2-litre petrol. The 5.0 V10 TDI is a breathtaking diesel and offers useful fuel savings over the petrols along with masses of low down grunt. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds (identical to the 4.2-litre petrol) and averages 25mpg.

All models come with 4MOTION four wheel drive except the entry-level 3.2-litre V6 which is available with two-wheel drive.

The Phaeton is a little off the pace in terms of handling. It's a large and heavy car, which is evident on country roads. However, it's possible to adjust the suspension and gearbox settings to give a sportier and firmer drive, but it still lacks the enjoyment of the accomplished Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class. That said, with the suspension in comfort mode, it makes an exemplary cruiser.

The ride is outstanding and glides over even the roughest of roads. Despite its size, it's not too much of handful around town - only width restricted streets cause real problems.