It’s hard to imagine the car world without Rolls-Royce. For over a century, it has been the unapologetic automotive signifier of wealth, success, celebrity and status. And while the company has experienced as many ups and downs as any other manufacturer — if not a few more — The Spirit of Ecstasy has remained a shining beacon of luxury.
But even within Rolls-Royce, there is a hierarchy, and firmly at the top for over 90 years, the Phantom has earned adoration the world over as simply the best car money can buy.
Now it is time for the current Phantom to make way for Goodwood’s finest new endeavor, the Phantom VIII.
The styling on the 2018 Phantom is imposing, to say the least. The front has a new monolithic appearance that immediately sets it apart from its predecessor without throwing away its lineage. No one could ever accuse a Phantom of looking subtle, but the front end on the new generation uses a modern look to create a face that’s hard to miss. The Pantheon grille is larger than ever, but it fits more naturally into the surrounding bodywork. It also sits higher on the car, lifting the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament up higher still. It may not be initially to everyone’s taste, but the sheer modernity of this design should make it feel fresh for years to come.
The Phantom’s profile is a more minimal, reductionist affair that gives it a more understated feel than the front. The lines that pull from the front all the way to the rear do a great job of disguising the mass and breaking up the body panels just enough to keep it from appearing bulky. It may be the size of a boat, but small additions to the profile prevent it from looking like a building on wheels.
The front wheel arches lack the slight flaring of its predecessor and the rear haunch feels much more substantial and aggressive. The roof line has been simplified, too, making the lines of the car from front to back feel like one long continuation of a single idea. All in all, the cleanliness of the design makes the Phantom VII look fussy by comparison.
It’s fair to say that the new exterior styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s great to see Rolls-Royce making strides to take a modern approach to design.
Despite the fact that Rolls-Royce owners BMW are pretty handy at creating cars themselves (indeed they’ve shared the architecture of thewith cars like the ), the Phantom does not take any shortcuts to perfection.
Built on a completely unique platform and forgoing the benefits of the economies of scale, the all-aluminium unibody architecture that underpins the new Phantom will become foundation of all new Rolls-Royces. The platform will be flexible enough to scale to future models including any different forms of propulsion that may show up in future Rollers. This keeps the option open for an electric or all-wheel-drive Roller on this platform in the not-too-distant future.
The new chassis is 30 percent stiffer than before, and should add extra comfort to the ride, if you can conceive of such a thing. Weight saving was not a consideration, but the aluminium does conduct less sound than predicted, helping the new Phantom deliver 10 percent less road noise. Imagine something that’s 10 percent quieter then silent, and you get the idea. You’ll be able to hear your blood circulating.
Helping keep things both hushed and rushed is an all-new, 6.75-liter V12, now augmented by two turbos and tuned to deliver 563 brake horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. 0-62 mph happens in 5.2 seconds (deeply impressive for a nearly 6,000-pound automobile), and the Phantom’s paparazzi-evading top speed is governed to 155 mph. With an all-new suspension system and four-wheel steering, this new chassis should be nimbler than before, too.
Driver aids include a forward-facing camera that can scan the road ahead and adjust the self-leveling air suspension accordingly, to never miss an opportunity to make it feel like you’re hovering above the road, rather than driving on it.
The interior now features a full glass panel that stretches the width of the cabin encasing the infotainment system and what Rolls-Royce is evocatively calling “The Gallery.” Bespoke artwork can be commissioned from artists to fit behind the hardened glass to add a level of interior decoration not previously seen on a Roller — or any production car, for that matter.
Want a local artist to handcraft you some woodwork to fit in there? Done. Want your 5-year-old to scribble on an envelope and use that as the basis for your car’s interior? Given enough money, the good folks at Rolls-Royce will be happy to comply. A few standard choices will be offered to those who don’t have knowledge of — or indeed, interest in — fine art, but the Gallery concept does underline the concept that each Phantom is completely unique. One of one.
It would seem that the ultra-rich will still most definitely have plenty to drop their undoubtedly hard-earned cash on if they are interested in the ultimate expression of automotive opulence. For those who can afford it, the Phantom looks like it will be doing everything it can to retain the title of Best Car in the World.