The most lavish four wheels on the planet
“Dreams come true when you ride the new Phantom.”
“Time slows down in a Phantom…moments feel like years.”
“They say ‘definition of automotive luxury’…I’d rather say definition of the word luxury,” said Issam.
“Is it truly the best of the best four wheels on the globe? Praised.”
People ask me all the time, what is the best vehicle you ever drove in your whole career? I start to laugh, telling them, “You have to be more specific; that’s a broad question!” In 2016, I can surely tell you all that the best ever media trip (in terms of location and vehicle) was the first drive of the Rolls-Royce Dawn in Capetown. Although during my career I had so many trips and even vehicles that have a fond place in my heart, Capetown and the Dawn made me answer truly with no doubt.
Attending a first drive of any Rolls-Royce model is something in itself. Everything started when I landed at the Zurich airport and was transported by a Rolls-Royce Wraith to a very fancy hotel on Lake Lucerne. One thing I won’t forget is that the Phantom eighth generation was launched after 13 years!
Architecture and engineering
The first major benefits of the new architecture for the new Phantom are lightness, increased stiffness, efficient production of standard and extended wheelbase bodies and uncompromised exterior surface design. The all-new aluminum spaceframe structure delivers extraordinary car body stiffness for exceptional ‘best-in-class’ functional performance whilst also being lighter. Indeed the new Phantom is 30 percent more rigid than its predecessor, leading to better ride comfort.
Accompanying the increased stiffness of the spaceframe is a best-in-class high comfort chassis with air suspension and state-of-the-art chassis control systems, delivering a peerless, effortless ride and handling, and optimal vibration comfort performance.
A new double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle deliver astounding levels of control over lateral roll and shear forces, and also deliver incredible agility and stability, as does the addition of four-wheel steering; all contributing to an undisturbed passenger whatever the driving conditions.
Rolls-Royce’s celebrated ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ also improves as a result of the new lighter architecture and the latest generation of self-levelling air suspension. The suspension makes millions of calculations every second as it continuously varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system—reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs and camera information. In addition, the Flagbearer—evocative of those men who were required by law to carry a red flag ahead of early motor cars—adds a stereo camera system integrated in the windscreen to see the road ahead, adjusting suspension proactively rather than reactively up to 100 km/h.
The most silent motor car in the world
Incalculable effort was expended to create “the most silent motor car in the world” including 6mm two-layer glazing all around the car, more than 130 kg of sound insulation, the largest ever cast aluminum joints in a body-in-white for better sound insulation, and use of high absorption materials.
Acoustic insulation from road noise has been helped by the employment of double skin alloy on areas within the floor and bulkhead of the spaceframe. This is a feature unique to the new Phantom. Further noise insulation by inserting heavy foam and felt layers are between these skins to provide sound insulation not witnessed before in the car industry.
In addition, high absorption layers within the headliner, in the doors and in the boot cavity have further aided insulation and reduced reverberation. Rolls-Royce also worked closely with its tire supplier to invent ‘Silent-Seal’ tires—which feature a specific foam layer placed inside the tire to wipe out tire cavity noise and reduce overall tire noise by 9db, meaning that conversation within the car is completely effortless.
All in all it is a perfect 360-degree cocooning effect in a motor car that is approximately 10 percent quieter than its predecessor at 100 km/h. Indeed, when Rolls-Royce’s acoustic test engineer first reviewed the results of road and vibration tests, the sound levels were so low they had to check their instruments were calibrated correctly.
With the focus on creating the most silent motor car in the world, a completely silent engine was also required, and that meant more low-end output at lower revs to ensure that silence. Hence a completely new 6.75-liter V12 powertrain has been engineered for the new Phantom, in place of the previous naturally aspirated V12 engine.
The new V12 Phantom engine employs two turbochargers that contribute to a low-end torque output of 900 Nm at an incredibly low 1,700 rpm whilst also delivering 563 hp of power, resulting in calm low-speed progress associated with state occasions and an uninterrupted surge of power when one needs to press on. The addition of Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT) married to a ZF eight-speed gearbox also ensures that the driver is prepared for whatever the road has in store for them.
Features and technology
This central nervous system connects and controls all the various advanced intelligence systems of the new Phantom, making it the most advanced luxury motor car available. Some, but not all, assistance systems on-board the new Phantom include Alertness Assistant, a four-camera system with Panoramic View, all-round visibility including Helicopter View, Night Vision and Vision Assist, Active Cruise Control, Collision Warning, Pedestrian Warning, Cross-Traffic Warning, Lane Departure and Lane Change Warning, an industry-leading 7×3 high-resolution head-up display, WiFi hotspot, and of course the latest navigation and entertainment systems.
Its opening gesture immediately demonstrates a radical ‘contemporization’ of Phantom, through the reimagining of the Pantheon grille at the heart of the design. The strong portrait grille is raised higher than that of Phantom VII today, also resulting in a positioning of the Spirit of Ecstasy approximately a half inch higher, redolent of the futuristic design first hinted at on the grille of 103EX last year, but also influenced by the James Young-era Silver Cloud.
However, unlike 103EX and all previous Phantoms, the new Phantom’s grille is for the first time integrated into the surrounding bodywork. The resulting effect is a cleaner, reduced design with modernity and clarity, allowing the all-new Phantom’s lines to connect with this iconic statement of power and flow from it.
In addition, a new purposeful headlamp graphic gives a confident and focussed expression with fresh, frosted internals that feel open and optimistic, whilst accommodating an expressive ring of daytime driving lights and the most advanced laserlight system of any motorcar that at night casts light well over 600 meters down the road.
This flow is achieved through the handcrafting of beautiful, authentic materials and subtle creases in the bodywork. The key front-to-rear line begins inboard from the top edge of the grille moving outwards along the body to the rear, lending a sense of dynamism to the new Phantom, whilst the front wing line fades just after the door handle, suggesting pace and fluidity.
The grille itself is created from hand-polished stainless steel, a material that highlights the precious and timeless nature of this new Phantom and its modern architecture through the use of a visually warm and highly tactile material. Emanating from the upper tips of the grille, the polished stainless steel strips curve along the upper edges of the bonnet and around the windscreen, accentuating the length of the bonnet and seamlessly blending the cabin to the lower volume as though swept by the wind.
From the side, the new Phantom has the iconic 2:1 proportions that have endeared so many to every generation of Phantom, featuring a short front and long rear overhang, an upright front and a flowing rear. The rear lines of the car in side view circle forward to the waft line and lead the eye back through the front wheel. The largest single-piece of hand-polished stainless steel on any motor car is the side frame finisher of the new Phantom. It beautifully accentuates the elegant stance of the car and with a rounded, softer feel, preserves the iconic wide C-pillar for privacy, whilst allowing the eye to transition easily to the rear. Furthermore, a single polished stainless steel strip is placed on the sill of the Extended Wheelbase Phantom to differentiate it.
The rear glass, again defined by an impeccably crafted stainless steel frame, is more raked and the rear lines sleeker than the previous Phantom, whilst a subtle scallop on the rear roofline that hovers above the rear occupants assures one of preserved headroom.
The eye is also drawn inboard by a neat tapered tail, which is constructed of super formed aluminum to ensure more join-free surfaces and flowing bumper lines around the rear light graphic. Subtle creases in the boot lid that hark back to the more pronounced boots of earlier Phantoms flow on to a pronounced boot lid finisher. Again in stainless steel, this feature echoes the front grille whilst allowing the airflow to gracefully depart from the rear of the car. Even the jewel-like rear light cluster is furnished in exquisite detail with the famous double-RR badges etched in.
Hand-polished stainless steel also envelops the first touchpoints of the new Phantom—the handles on the iconic coach doors. Unlike the trend for insubstantial fared in handles, Rolls-Royce understands that the substance of a Rolls-Royce door handle is key to the owners’ everyday physical experience of their motor car, and the feel of this beautiful material under the hand is highly satisfying to them.
The final visual expression of Phantom is its wheels, which of course conform to the golden mean of Rolls-Royce design proportion. Essential to providing the sensation of flight on land, the largest high-value alloy wheel ever employed on a Rolls-Royce is offered. At 22-inches, the diameter when shod in Rolls-Royce’s Seal Technology tires delivers a ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ never experienced in a Rolls-Royce before.
Stepping aboard the new Phantom is an occasion in itself. The coach doors stand open. The only choice is whether one drives or is driven. As the patron settles into the car, an assistant or valet steps forward and lightly touches the sensor on the door handle. The door automatically whispers closed of its own accord, enveloping the occupant in ‘The Embrace of the World’s Leading Luxury Item’.
Fundamental to the rear occupant’s experience and enjoyment of their new Phantom is this ‘Embrace’. It re-defines Rolls-Royce comfort and refinement—already the benchmark for any carmaker—to create a detoxifying environment whilst cocooning the occupant in the finest of materials, whilst all four doors are enhanced with this new technology to enfold the occupant. The rear and now front doors can also be effortlessly closed from the inside.
‘The Embrace’ is the vision of Giles Taylor, inspired by his creation of 103EX. He has taken great strides towards evoking the spirit of 103EX with the futuristic interior design of the new Phantom, where nothing detracts from calmness and tranquillity in this particular sanctuary. Technology is hidden until required, spaces and surfaces are clean, and the eye rests only on beauty as if in an art gallery.
As one would expect from a Rolls-Royce, the environment is crafted from the most precious and contemporary of materials. What is unexpected is the feeling of lightness and simplicity, an effortless elegance.
From one’s position on beautifully enhanced rear seats, the occupant is borne along in near-silence as if on a pillow of air, thanks to much enhanced ride and acoustic comfort. When in need of a space to reflect on issues of import or simply lost in thought, one’s imagination is inspired by the largest Starlight headliner ever seen in a Rolls-Royce. High gloss, exquisitely tactile wood panelling that can be commissioned for the door interiors, center consoles, dashboard and picnic tables, encircles the passenger in only the most beautiful and authentic materials.
The lines at the front of the interior lean forward suggesting a progressive nature, while in contrast the rear doors lean back, relaxing the character of the rear environment. When designing the armrests, the J-Class yacht was heavily referenced as a design inspiration. The tension and ‘hull’ of the armrests are directly influenced by these large sailing yachts.
The seats are newly sculpted and handcrafted to deliver even more comfort. They feature a strong horizontal element through the top of the seat, imparting a sense of width, comfort and presence, whilst visually enhanced with a vertical interpretation of the seat ‘bullet’ previously seen in Wraith and Dawn. The sweep of wood panelling across the back of the front seats have clearly been influenced by the famous Eames Lounge Chair of 1956, a design so regarded by patrons of luxury that it is part of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent display.
Cleverly secreted behind the wood panelling on the rear of the front seats are the rear picnic tables and rear theater monitors, which are electrically deployed and retracted at the effortless touch of a button, ensuring an uncompromised theater experience. Rolls-Royce’s customary attention to detail even dictates that the seat controls are repositioned from the center armrest to a more intuitive position for the user.
Phantom patrons will be able to commission different seating choices best suited to their requirements. Choices include the more intimate Lounge Seat, Individual Seats with occasional armrest, Individual Seats with fixed center console and the newly introduced Sleeping Seat.
The new Fixed Rear Center Console receives significant enhancement by incorporating a drinks cabinet with whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and coolbox. In any configuration effortless conversation is aided with the very careful angling of the rear seats. This ensures occupants are able to talk to each other without straining their necks.
The sense of touch is also satisfied by the continued use of the finest and most authentic materials throughout the interior. Every item of switchgear is made from metal—such as the iconic eyeball vents and organ stop controllers, seat and light switches, violin key window switches—glass or wrapped in the finest leather as dials including the new front and rear Spirit of Ecstasy Rotary Controllers.
Meanwhile, further unseen levels of comfort and refinement are introduced into the Phantom Suite with heated surfaces operated in conjunction with the seat heating functionality. Areas throughout the interior that are now heated include the front door armrests, front center console lid, lower C-Pillar, rear side armrests with all Individual Seats, and rear center armrest.
At the heart of the new Phantom’s wholly modern design aesthetic is The Gallery, a wholly contemporary and luxury reinterpretation of a motor car’s dashboard and instrument panel area.
All of the elements within The Gallery are enclosed in an uninterrupted swathe of toughened glass that runs the full width of the dash area. Within it, the instrument digital dials are framed with chrome, adding a degree of jewellery and continuity throughout the front of the interior.
Behind the physical chrome surrounds of the instrument dials, Rolls-Royce has embraced a more futuristic approach to clearer instruments for the driver, something requested by Rolls-Royce customers around the world. 12.3-inch TFT color displays with LED backlighting now communicate all driver information from within the round chrome surrounds, with the displays themselves designed with clear and beautiful virtual needles, Rolls-Royce jewellery-like chaplets and clear lettering.
The standard clock features a dark face and the surround is finished in black leather. However, each Bespoke clock features a more intricate design, including a lighter backlit face with crystal effect details and counterweighted hands, and is finished to match the material selected within The Gallery.
How does it drive? Or how does it feel sitting in the back? Honestly I can’t answer such an inquiry. I can’t answer it because there is no reference or any other entity to be compared with. Pardon me…there is! The foregoing generation of Phantom, the Rolls-Royce Phantom competes with itself! To all billionaires around the planet, now you’ve got a new element to be added to your luxurious collection, other than your private jet, mansion or yacht. Phantom VIII is now available to order in the Middle East in short wheelbase and long wheelbase.
Pros: Individuality, sophistication, graceful proficiency, spectacular design, extra high-tech versus its predecessor
Cons: I can’t get one any time soon!
one word: extravagantly deluxe
6.75L V12, 563 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 900 Nm @ 1,700 rpm
8-speed automatic, RWD
0-100 km/h: 5.3 secs, top speed: 250 km/h, fuel consumption: 13.9 L/100 km
Weight: 2,560 kg