No vehicle has a stronger association with royalty than the Rolls-Royce Phantom. For the third time since 1968 a completely new Phantom has been unveiled – a special moment for captains of industry, royalty and those seeking the ultimate luxury available on four-wheels.
The new Rolls-Royce Phantom is the first Rolls-Royce to use a new all-aluminum space frame named the ‘Architecture of Luxury’. It makes the Phantom lighter and stiffer than it’s predecessor and this ‘AoL’ will form the basis for all future Rolls-Royce models including the Cullinan and the next-generation Ghost, Wraith, Dawn and other coachbuilt projects.
The design of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom builds on the success of the Phantom VII. Design cues are taken from the 103EX concept car, first shown in 2016. At first sight it will be instantly recognisable as a Phantom. Yet if you look closer you see the slightly raised grill and smoother, cleaner body compared to its predecessor.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom has always been as much about the luxury inside as it is about its stately exterior image. The Phantom VIII makes no compromises. The massive suicide doors open to rear reclining seats. Planting your feet in the thick carpets, the doors close at the press of a button. Sitting under a star studded roof lining, you find everything you need to work, relax or sleep.
A new twin-turbo 6.75 liter V12 engine is responsible for the forward momentum in the Phantom VIII. The Phantom has never been about speed or performance so the actual engine output is quite irrelevant. What is relevant is how quiet the V12 engine runs. It is one of the hallmark characteristics of any modern Rolls-Royce. I once parked a friend’s Rolls-Royce in Beverly Hills only to be informed by the security guard at the parking lot who came chasing after me two blocks down the road that I left the engine running – it is so quiet it is not easy to tell if the engine is on or not.
Just in case you do insist on knowing the performance specifications of the new Phantom: the new V12 produces 571hp and 900Nm of torque. A sprint from 0-100 km/h takes 5.3 seconds and the Phantom is limited to a top speed of 250 km/h.
Most Phantom owners will spend time in the back seat but for those that like to drive themselves, here are a few words on the handling and driving characteristics of the new Phantom VIII. It is hard to mask the weight and size of the new Phantom. Over two meters wide and nearly 6 meters long, it is quite a handful navigating the Phantom through city streets. Luckily the steering is light and precise. Several driver assistance systems help keep the Phantom on course and away from obstacles.
Thanks to the new aluminum space frame with its upgraded chassis control systems, the chassis has increased rigidity and the Phantom is less prone to body roll through the corners. It is not a sportscar by any stretch of the imagination, but the differences are clear. Four-wheel steering significantly reduces the turning circle and increases high-speed stability.
The magic carpet ride of the previous Phantom has also been improved. It feels smoother than ever before. The suspension proactively adjusts the shock absorbers based on road conditions. It sounds cliche but it really gives a floating sensation, both from the drivers seat and while sitting in the back.
Another unique feature of the Phantom VIII is the Gallery. Two digital displays provide the driver and passengers with key driving information and infotainment. On the passenger side, the glass panel extends into an art gallery where owners can add and exhibit art work of choice. An oil painting by renowned Chinese fine artist Lian Yangwei inspired by the English South Downs in Autumn, a gold-plated 3D-printed map of an owners DNA created by German product designer Thorsten Franck or an abstract design in silk by young British artist Helen Amy Murray are some of the creations available for this most unusual of Gallery spaces.
During my test drive of the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII we visited porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg in Munich. This world famous porcelain manufacturer produces the finest porcelain tableware, vases and art by hand. Little has changed in the production process since it moved to its current location in the garden of the Nymphenburger Palace in 1761. For the gallery in the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, Nymphenburger has created a porcelain display of roses. It takes countless hours to make each leaf by hand but the result is a 3D masterpiece.
The gallery adds a unique element of personalization for customers of the new Phantom. It goes beyond the existing bespoke opportunities. The Phantom already stood for great individuality with the majority of customers choosing custom colours, leather, trim, embroidery and even a gold or diamond encrusted spirit of ecstasy. But the gallery takes this to a new level, decadent as it may sound, it is something that fits with the type of clientele a Rolls-Royce attracts.
The gallery is just a tiny part of what makes the Phantom so special though. It breathes style and sophistication like no other car. Young and old, everyone tries to catch a glimpse of the person riding in the back seat, and that is something which hasn’t changed for generations and hopefully never will.