A biturbo V12, “Architecture of Luxury,” and bespoke porcelain roses. Meet the new king of opulence.
There are luxury cars, and then there’s the Rolls-Royce Phantom. A nameplate that has seen eight generations over nearly 100 years, it’s safe to say that the Phantom, perhaps more than any other car, represents the absolute definition of premier luxury.
Standing in an undisclosed location somewhere in Los Angeles, I’m surrounded by elements of the new Phantom. Veneers and leathers of the richest hues. Porcelain and gold-plated elements that can be hand-crafted to an owner’s specification. It’s overwhelmingly opulent to a Vans-wearing, Honda CRX-driving guy like me. But to Phantom owners, it’s what’s expected. “The best” isn’t good enough. It has to deliver on that and offer so much more.
That starts with a firm design statement, one that’s powerful and purposeful. Never mind what you saw in those horribly warped brochure scans recently – in the metal, the new Phantom is both elegant and dominant. Whether in two-tone or solid colour, this car has presence, with massive wheels, flowing lines, and a rump that elegantly tapers off toward the centre.
The eighth-generation Phantom is completely new, riding on an all-aluminum structure that Rolls-Royce calls “Architecture of Luxury.” This chassis will soon underpin every one of the company’s future models – even the SUV – further enhancing the “magic carpet ride” driving dynamic of every Rolls-Royce. Of course, just because it uses aluminum bones, don’t think the Phantom is suddenly a super svelte sedan. In extended wheelbase form, this thing is still nearly 20 feet long, 6.5 feet wide, and weighs almost 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms).
A Phantom staple, the iconic 6.75-litre V12 remains underhood. But it’s heavily updated, with a pair of turbochargers that help it produce 563 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to make this behemoth scoot to 100 kilometres per hour from a standstill in 5.3 seconds (5.4 in the long-wheelbase version), which is damn quick, should sir wish to participate in such antics.
Of course, with a car like the Phantom, it’s not the driving dynamics that matter, so much as the overall serenity of the ride itself. A double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear suspension do the heavy lifting, aided by a self-leveling air suspension with camera technology that can pre-adjust the levels of stiffness based on what’s ahead. Plus, to help maneuver the big Phantom, Rolls-Royce incorporates four-wheel steering into the chassis.
The end goal, Rolls-Royce executives tell me, is to have the customer completely cut off from the outside world – no annoyance, no harshness should filter into the cabin. That’s further evidenced by two-layer glazing around the glasshouse, and a full 130 kilograms of sound insulation. Rolls-Royce says the 2018 Phantom is 10 percent quieter than the previous model at 100 kilometres per hour.
And then there’s “The Embrace.” This is how Rolls-Royce describes the new self-closing rear doors, which can now be operated from the outside, as well as from inside the cabin. Let the company’s own luxurious text speak for itself: “As the patron settles in to the car, an assistant or valet steps forward and lightly touches the sensor on the door handle so it whispers closed of its own accord, enveloping the occupant in ‘The Embrace’.”
From the moment my butt hits the seat, I’m relaxed, surrounded by the finest materials, the most precise stitching, and every single detail accounted for. There isn’t a single visually unappealing or bad-to-touch place inside the cabin, with tons of room and every amenity you’d ever want.
A truly special part of the experience is “The Gallery,” set behind a single piece of glass that spans the full width of the dashboard. In front of the driver, you’ll find a small screen with the typical instrument panel controls. In the middle, a retractable, 12.3-inch infotainment screen. But the rest of the design, well, that’s up to you. Customers can choose from things as simple as wood veneers, elegant fabrics, or even silk. But for those who really want to go wild, the possibilities are nearly endless. Rolls-Royce itself suggests bespoke oil paintings; a gold-plated, 3D-printed map of the owner’s DNA (I’m serious); or perhaps a handmade display of roses – roses whose genetics are the property of Rolls-Royce – done up in Nymphenberg porcelain. You have to see it to believe it.
But indeed, this is the Phantom, and what seems like unnecessary displays of wealth to folks like me is total normalcy for the intended customer. Remember, these are the people who will be chauffeured in their Phantom from their house, to the airport, onto their private plane, and to their other house, which probably has a yacht in its private harbour. For these folks, the new Phantom must offer everything they could want and more. And from what I can tell, it does.