Roll-out of ultimate benchmark of luxury
Rolls-Royce has revealed the eighth generation of its luxury flagship, the Phantom, writes Mark Smyth
July 2017 was a historic month for the global automotive industry. It will be remembered as the month when car makers and governments tripped over themselves to make announcements on alternative fuels, electrification and the future demise of the internal combustion engine. Many will see it as the real start of a revolution, a month when the game changed completely and when lower emissions, the environment and our health and wellbeing came to the forefront.
Meanwhile, over at Rolls-Royce, it will be remembered as the month when it launched the eighth generation of the Phantom. Traditionalists need not panic, for now there is no sign of an electric Roller — but it will come. Instead beneath that long bonnet sits a 6.75l twin-turbo V12 pushing out 420kW and 900Nm. But a Phantom is never about power, at least not in a sports car kind of way. It is about how that power makes hauling a couple of tonnes of luxury more effortless.
Before we get to all that luxury, and there is lots to tell, there are some big changes beneath the handcrafted skin. The main one is that the company insists it has shunned BMW’s 7 Series Cluster Architecture platform and instead gone on its own. Rolls calls its unique platform the "Architecture of Luxury" because platform is just too crass a word. It will underpin the new Cullinan SUV too, as well as the next generation of the Ghost, Wraith and Dawn.
It features a new all-aluminium spaceframe that is not only lighter, but is said to be 30% more rigid for better handling and comfort. Connected to the chassis is a new air suspension system and new chassis control systems. There is also a new double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle, four-wheel steering and an improved "Magic Carpet Ride" to ensure passengers do not spill champagne while travelling over those pesky bumps in the road.
That comfort is improved further by what Rolls calls the "Flag Bearer". In the early days of the motor car, a man would walk ahead of it waving a red flag to warn people to get out of the road. Today, the Flag Bearer is a camera in the windscreen that monitors the road and tells the many systems to adjust for any bumps or obstacles.
Comfort is also about quiet and the new Phantom features a massive 130kg of sound insulation as well as 6mm double glazing all around. There are also unique tyres featuring a special foam inside to eliminate road noise. Passengers should be able to listen to concertos without being disturbed, after all.
The design avoids raising any red flags though, instead, a level of familiarity. However, look closely and you will see the famous grille is integrated into the bodywork for the first time. There are new headlamps which include laser lights. The side profile features short overhangs while the rear has lines that pay homage to the Phantoms of the 1950s and ’60s. It is more square than the classics, with Rolls saying that it has the appearance of being hewn from a solid block of aluminium.
Returning to the luxury aspect, it’s time to include some fancy descriptions. This includes "The Embrace", which for us lesser mortals means that if you touch a sensor on the door, it closes, although Rolls would like to think this is not something an owner would do themselves, but rather a chauffeur or valet.
Once inside, you are not in the cabin or the interior, you are in "The Suite". The embrace theme continues here though, with designer Giles Taylor wanting the owner and passengers to feel cocooned in the car, to experience tranquillity.
The driver and passengers sit on the highest quality leather seats, inspired by the famous Eames Lounge Chair and can look up at the largest starlight headlining the company has ever made. There are rear picnic tables and infotainment screens, although of course Rolls calls them theatre screens. Rear passengers can sit in a Lounge Seat, Individual Seats or even the Sleeping Seat. Should you choose not to have a nap, then you can indulge in a tipple courtesy of the fixed rear centre console that incorporates whisky glasses and a decanter, champagne flutes and a coolbox.
Things also get artistic, with the dashboard featuring "The Gallery", a piece of glass that runs the full width of the dash and which allows owners to commission their own artwork.
In contrast, the dash also features two 12.3-inch displays for instrumentation and infotainment. The Spirit of Ecstasy controller dial has been enhanced, as has the system it controls.
The new Phantom will arrive in SA early in 2018 and don’t even bother asking the price. This is partly because of the age-old adage of "if you have to ask you can’t afford it" but mainly because there is no such thing as a standard Phantom.
Every model features endless bespoke options and owners like to make their Phantom very much their own.