Rolls-Royce unveils grandest car yet

Rolls-Royce has introduced the Phantom VIII. This is Rolls-Royce’s largest and grandest car ever, born from the same line as those used by Elvis and Queen Elizabeth II and 50 Cent, plus myriad tycoons and oligarchs the world over.

The revamped saloon will cost 375 000-euro (US$440 000). Unveiled to the public in London on July 27, just days after the U.K. moved to ban combustion vehicles by 2040, the 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom is only the second modern version of the flagship state car that Rolls first introduced in 1925.

BMW Group unveiled the first truly modern Phantom in 2003 and used it until 2011; Phantom VIII is the first time since then that the car has been updated completely. In the years before 2003, Rolls was producing the Phantom VI on an incredible run from 1968 to 1990.

The car’s longevity is a testament to its design, which has withstood the test of time with grace and aplomb.

That success is, in turn, a challenge to the Rolls-Royce designers who laboured to birth the new one in Goodwood, England.

The half-million-dollar Phantom is Rolls’s biggest money-making series around the world. In this rare air, there is no margin for error.

“Rolls-Royce will start to go electric in the next decade,” Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the brand’s chief, said in an interview.

“You need to have then an effortless charging situation,” as its wealthy clientele isn’t in the mood to spend more than “a couple of minutes” topping up batteries.

The Looks

From my first experiences with the car, it looks like the team can rest easy.

Everything about the Phantom VIII is smooth, especially how it looks.

Giles Taylor, the director of design for Rolls-Royce, deserves much credit here for accomplishing what many have not — creating a new iteration of an old car so that it feels fresh but familiar.

His Phantom VIII manages to look both modern and majestic.

During the private preview in New York, Taylor said he wanted the car to look as though it’s surging forward as a boat would emerging from the water.

It does: The new super-clean stainless steel grille is recessed and pushed up higher than previous generations so that the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament virtually catapults forward.

The front end of the car is shorter and the back is longer than previously, as well.

All the styling lines in the rear circle forward and lead the eye back through to the front wheel.

The rear glass is raked more aggressively than on Phantom VII, which adds to the general idea of forward thrust.

Elsewhere, wide C-pillars along the sides allow for passenger privacy; massive single-pieces of hand-polished stainless steel frame and soften each side.

(On the Extended Wheelbase Phantom, a single polished stainless steel strip along the sill marks it as special.) You will be hard-pressed to find any visible join lines between body panels at any point in the car.

The interior of the Rolls Royce
The interior of the Rolls Royce

The intricate details of every component inside the car are too numerous and mind-numbing to list here, but suffice to say they adorn the car like jewels.

The rear light cluster has tiny Double-RR badges etched in; the high-gloss picnic tables and chrome dials make the rear feel like a theater (yes, there are movie screens); the center of the wheels always point right-side up even as the car drives.

Taylor even made the wood paneling across the back of the front seats to evoke the famous Eames Lounge Chair.

It’s worth noting that this is only the second Phantom produced by Rolls-Royce under its BMW overlords.

The driving system and entertainment controls are very similar to those in some of the brand’s other vehicles.

But even at this early stage, it’s easy to see that none is so befitting royalty as the new Phantom VIII.

Phantom VI was famously used as the coach for the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

Phantom VIII is a worthy, modern successor.

Silence Please

Talk to anyone at Rolls associated with Phantom VIII, and you’ll hear the same key items about the car mentioned with glowing pride.

Primary among them is the silence of its ride.

According to Rolls, it is 10 percent quieter at 60 mph (miles per hour) than the previous Phantom. One mile is equals to 1,6 kilometres.

This comes thanks to sound-absorbing materials layered inside the headliner, trunk, and doors; massive cast aluminum joints in the body of the car, which cut noise; double skin alloy laid on areas within the floor and bulkhead of the frame of the car; and special “silent-seal” tires that have foam inside to minimise road noise.

It’s also due to a new — as opposed to simply updated or reconfigured — engine.

Rolls gave Phantom VIII a 6,75-liter, V12 engine turbocharged to 563bhp.

(This is a change from the previous naturally aspirated, 453hp V12 engine used in Phantom VII.)

The turbo enables low-end power at lower revs, which works wonders to ensure silence at speed.

The car tops out at 155 miles per hour, and it’ll hit 60 mph in 53 seconds.

This, significantly, is far faster than, say, those smaller racecar-light Lancias that dominated the rally-cross track for decades.

The effect is unearthly once you close the doors — everything outside the car goes immediately mute.

Gallery Staging

Another point of immense — and justified — pride from the Rolls-Royce contingent is the “gallery” installed in the dashboard.

Rolls says that many of its buyers are collectors of fine mechanical watches, figurines, jewelry, and other trinkets worth far more than their size might suggest.

So it follows that perhaps these individuals would like to be able to appreciate some of their collections outside the home.

Even on the road, as it were.

Phantom VIII has a ZF 8-speed gearbox that is aided by satellite technology to make impeccable shifts for the road ahead at any speed.

Rolls-Royce

“Every one of our customers — each a connoisseur of luxury in the extreme —[was] asking for something more individual to them, not less,” said Müller-Ötvös.

“We were adamant that that was what they should have.”

The gallery does come with one permanent installation: an analogue clock that will be “the loudest sound you can hear in a Rolls-Royce,” one presser bragged.

Giles Taylor, the director of design for Rolls-Royce, told me the glass is treated so that it is not a safety hazard in the event of a crash.

One would hope.

And storage in general is ample.

“Trunk space was something which was criticised in the Phantom VII,” said Müller-Ötvös.

“We said OK, understood. We do it,” and it is now “massively more spacious” in the new model.

Smooth As a Cloud, But ReallyIt’s notable that the all-aluminum frame will underpin every future Rolls-Royce beginning with Phantom VIII, so no new Rolls-Royce will ever again use the same monocoque construction that is typical across the industry.

It’s also notable that the camera system is one of many that include panoramic- and helicopter-view cameras; a Night Vision camera; a 7-inch-wide heads-up display; and myriad collision/lane departure/cross traffic warning systems.

This is by far the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce on the market, even surpassing the sporty Wraith coupe.

But I digress.

The main point here is that everything about this car is smooth — even the doors, which shut by the light touch of a sensor so that they “whisper closed” of their own accord.

Because slamming a door is so continental, isn’t it? — Bloomberg

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