Rolls-Royce replaces its flagship saloon car with an all-new model that remains the last word in automotive luxury
“A Phantom is a Phantom is a Phantom,” according to Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös, so we’re glad we’ve got that cleared up.
What he means is that the Rolls-Royce Phantom has always been the last word in luxury, and has sat atop Rolls-Royce’s range ever since the brand was rejuvenated under BMW ownership at the turn of the millennium. And will continue to do so.
This new Phantom, then, has been given the complete going over for its 2017 relaunch. There is a bespoke aluminium platform, which will underpin all Rolls-Royces in future, as well as a unique new V12, 6.75-litre engine with two turbochargers, driving through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
There are two length options with the Phantom – standard, and Extended Wheelbase, which adds 220mm to the rear legroom – and prices for either are phenomenal.
You’ll pay at least £360,000/$578,800 for a short one, £432,000/$561,600 for an EWB, but that’s just for starters. It’s not atypical for buyers to spend £1,000,000/$1,330,000 after they’ve specified options to make their Phantom unique to them. There’s very little that’s ‘standard’ about it, which gives it few, if any, direct rivals. Rolls says its business is more about luxury than cars. It’d be hard to spend as much on even a Bentley Mulsanne.
2017 Rolls-Royce Phantom on the road
The latest Rolls-Royce Phantom is a vast car, and a heavy one, and a lot of that weight – at least 130kg – is given over to soundproofing foams and sheets. There’s even soundproofing foam around the inside edge of the tyres.
As you might expect, then, it’s an incredibly quiet vehicle. The sort of car when you might not even hear the engine is running. At anything up to motorway speeds, the most noisy thing in the car is usually the occupants; you could have a barely whispered conversation at low speeds and everybody else will hear you.
The engine is actually very powerful, at 563bhp, but its the low-end pull that’s even more marked. It develops 664lb ft of torque from just 1700rpm, not that there’s a rev-counter to show you how fast the engine is spinning, nor any gearbox paddles to let you take control yourself. It just changes gear, usually imperceptibly, and usually at around 1500rpm.
That quietness gives the Phantom an incredibly relaxing air, and it’s a theme continued by the rest of the driving experience. The steering is light, but very accurate, and the throttle and brake pedals both have a long travel, which makes driving the Phantom incredibly easy, and surprisingly, rewarding, to drive smoothly.
There are air springs to aid the ride comfort – no new car rides with more absorbance – and active anti-roll bars, which stiffen to try and prevent the car pitching, diving and rolling too much. There’s also rear-wheel steer, which adjusts the angle of the rear wheels to improve manouevrability at low speeds, and add stability at high seeds. It all feels superbly integrated.
2017 Rolls-Royce Phantom interior
As befits a flagship Rolls-Royce, the Phantom’s interior is beautifully appointed from first-rate materials. Sit in the back, even in the ‘short’ version and you’ll find there’s ample leg and headroom, and you’re surrounded, in your climate controlled, massaged, adjustable seat, by vast swathes of leather, the thickest carpets, and whatever trim you’ve specified.
Similar is true in the front, only here you’re also greeted by an imperious view over the lengthy bonnet, digital instruments, and a relatively upright seating position if you want the large, thin-rimmed steering wheel within easy reach.
Spread across the dash is what Rolls calls a ‘gallery’, a sealed glass case which gives you the chance to have the dashboard adorned with whatever takes your fancy – some commissioned work by your favourite artist, maybe – into which a Rolls-fronted version of BMW’s infotainment system slips in and out.
Apparently Rolls-Royce owners have two modes of travel: quite often, they sit in the back, and get chauffeured. But more often than you’d think, they like to get into the front and enjoy the driving experience themselves. So although Rolls-Royce, as part of BMW group, has access to all of BMW’s electronics systems, you won’t find semi-autonomous tech among them.
Otherwise, though, it’s all here: all the equipment you’d want, down to a navigation system that tells the gearbox what kind of corner is approaching, so it can be in the right gear. Behind all of this is a generous 548-litre boot, so you won’t have to call upon a support car if you want to take four sets of golf clubs.
How do you give a purely objective verdict to a car where objectivity barely comes into the equation?
Where it does, the Phantom scores well. No other modern car rides like it, or is as quiet as it, or cossets its passengers or proves quite so easy to drive very, very smoothly. But, then, it’s £360,000/$478,800, so it should be good, right?
Right. But, ultimately, it has set out to do one thing: provide more luxury than any other new car. It does that, and it does it brilliantly, so if you’ve got the wherewithal, fill your boots.
Rolls-Royce Phantom specs
- Price £360,000/$478,800
- Engine 12cyl, 6749cc, petrol
- Power 563bhp at 5000rpm
- Torque 664lb ft at 1700rpm
- Gearbox 8-spd automatic
- 0-60mph 5.1sec
- Top speed 155mph
- Official economy 20.3mpg
- CO2, tax band 318g/km, 37%
- Release date On sale now