The Rolls Royce Phantom has always been the unmatchable pinnacle of luxurious motoring. Ever since it was conceived in 1925, the Phantom has been the car of choice for the most successful industrialists, kings and heads of state. But in its Eighth iteration, the new Phantom is set to redefine everything we know about luxury and bespoke automobiles.
The effort, as Rolls puts it, has been to increase customization options for its buyers. The company felt that it was not doing enough to allow patrons to individualize their rides and that the Phantom had to deliver an even more premium passenger experience than it already did. Now, considering how phenomenal the previous generation Phantom really was, that is a very tall order indeed.
The new focus on the comfort of the passengers begins right from the underpinnings of the barge. Companies across the world choose to share platforms with more mass-market models to realize better economies of scale. Not Rolls, of course. It decided to develop an all-new platform from the ground up that could lay the foundation for the entire model range from RR. The result was a brand new platform, which Rolls calls the ‘Architecture of Luxury’.
The Architecture of Luxury is a new scalable all-aluminium spaceframe platform that will pin all future models from RR. The platform has been designed to be able to handle different size and weight requirements of models along with different propulsion systems, paving the ground for electric models as well. The platform is 30% stiffer than the one on the Phantom VII and will also be seen on upcoming models like the Project Cullinan SUV.
This is accompanied by a new double wishbone suspension up front with a 5-link setup at the back. Coupled with a four-wheel steering system, the new Phantom is likely to be much better in terms of dynamic feel and body control than ever before. The signature Magic Carpet Ride features new updates as well. The system will now use a camera to monitor the road ahead at speeds of up to 100 km/h and perform millions of calculations in each second allowing the limo to modify various suspension parameters proactively rather than merely reacting to surface imperfections and driver input.
The new design of the Phantom is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary – something which is very important in the segment. The inspiration from the VISION NEXT 100 concept displayed last year is very evident, especially at the front. The Pantheon grille – finished in hand-polished stainless steel is now even more upright and stands about half an inch taller, making it appear more imposing. The laser matrix headlamps are the most advanced units in the world and Rolls claims that they can effectively light up the road up to 600m ahead.
The primary character line from the front grille fades away past the door handles – which, by the way, still feature the unique coach doors design. The roof culminates in one swooping curve as it bows into the rear boot-lid. The posterior clearly harks back to the Phantom V with the long overhang and the integrated tail lamp. All of this is complimented by polished steel detailing all around.
However, a Rolls is nowhere near as much about what dress it comes in or what is beneath the skin as it is about the experience it delivers to its passengers. Gently touch a button on the door handles and behold as the Rolls welcomes you with automatic opening doors. Step inside “The Embrace” and you will notice a design which bears stark resemblance to the outgoing car. The devil, however, is in the details, as they say.
The dashboard has been redesigned and is now more upright than before. Sleek wooden panels hide all displays until such time when they are necessary. Every single button in the Rolls is crafted out of metal and every surface has been swathed in either wood or leather. The Sethji at the back can obviously control everything without moving a muscle using a plethora of buttons at his disposal and the rear seat can be had in layouts ranging from a couch, individual recliners to an unprecedented lie-flat bed option as well.
The headline design element is the Gallery. Housing the twin 12.3 inch LED displays is one of the lesser functions of the front dashboard fascia. The Gallery is Rolls offering to its patrons who have, in the past, demanded more options in the expansive bespoke menu (And here, I can’t even decide on a Pizza from the tiny menu at Domino’s). The idea was to take owners back to the coach-era when their cars distinctively represented their masters through tiny art pieces all around.
Now, the owners can genuinely carry their art with them. The options are innumerous – ranging from simple polished wood veneers to oil paintings by renowned Chinese artists, from silk inlays to handmade porcelain roses. Rolls can even add a gold plated 3D-printed map of the owners DNA – and we are not even joking.
Of course, complete isolation is an important part of the Rolls experience. The new Phantom has 6mm two-layer glazing all over the car, over 130kgs of sound deadening material and the largest ever cast-aluminium joints on a car to help minimize on-board noise. Double-skin alloys, high absorption foam and felt beneath the metal and a special silent seal tyre compound that releases 9 dB less noise make it 10% lighter than its predecessor. In fact, when the Phantom was first tested for noise, the engineers were so amazed at the low sound levels that they thought that their testing equipment was bust. Of course, this means that the loudest noise inside the car continues to be of the analogue clock in the gallery.
A new generation of the iconic 6 and three-quarters V12 engines now gets forced induction in the form of two turbochargers. The power has been bumped up to 563 BHP and 900 Nm of torque delivered from as low as 1,700 RPM. This paired with a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic gearbox with Satellite Aided Transmission can take his majesty from 0 to 100 in just 5.3 seconds.
The Rolls also gets the latest in terms of safety and driver support options. Alertness assistant, 4-camera system with panoramic and helicopter views, night vision, active cruise control, collision warning, pedestrian warning, lane departure alert, WiFi hotspot, 7×3 inch HUD are just a few of all the features available on the Phantom. It will even be offered in a long-wheelbase version (which is likely to offer more space inside than most flats in Mumbai).
If anyone ever asked you, “Can cars ever be art?” – look no further than the new Phantom to find your answer. It takes luxury motoring to a level that has never been reached before and is unlikely to be reached again. The new Phantom is the car that marries tradition and history with a bespoke owner-driven identity that will define the luxury segment for decades to come, before Rolls decides to rejig its line again.