Rolls-Royce Phan­tom


Four­teen years is an eter­nity in the world of lux­ury and en­ter­tain­ment, the Phan­tom’s prin­ci­pal prov­inces. So climb­ing be­hind the wheel (and it is a bit of a climb) of an all-new Rolls is a spe­cial mo­ment. The dash has been re­con­fgured as an art gallery, the struc­ture it­self has the im­pla­ca­bil­ity of Mount Rush­more, and of course there’s the Spirit of Ec­stasy, point­ing for­ward from the long­est bon­net out there. More than ever, tak­ing the helm is not like driv­ing other cars.

It’s also a bit like driv­ing a beau­ti­ful build­ing, and it takes time to feel to­tally conf­dent be­hind the wheel. Many own­ers – pa­trons, as Rolls air­ily de­scribes them – like to drive them­selves, so there’s a re­newed em­pha­sis on at­tributes you might not as­so­ci­ate with a car as im­pe­ri­ous as this. Feed­back, for ex­am­ple. In ad­di­tion to the fa­bled magic car­pet ride, there’s now more di­a­logue.

The wheel is a tad thicker than be­fore, and fully elec­tric power steer­ing ar­rives, but the mode of op­er­a­tion re­mains the same: slide the del­i­cate lit­tle col­umn stalk into D, ap­ply the mer­est sug­ges­tion of pres­sure to the throt­tle pedal, and ease away in such a man­ner as not to rus­tle the copy of Pork Belly Fu­tures Digest that’s be­ing mulled over in the rear com­part­ment.

The Phan­tom still prefers to waft rather than hus­tle, al­though it can do so very ably should the need arise. Even with a (heav­ily

re­vised) ver­sion of Rolls’s 6.6-litre twin­turbo V12 – it’s 6.75 litres in ca­pac­ity here, and makes 563bhp – it feels in­ap­pro­pri­ate to trou­ble the power re­serve gauge any more than is strictly nec­es­sary.

You don’t no­tice things as hum­drum as gearchanges (the Phan­tom uses ZF’s silken 8spd trans­mis­sion), and you only no­tice truly aw­ful road sur­faces. If you’re in the back, you don’t no­tice much at all. Which is the point: in a Phan­tom, si­lence isn’t just golden, it’s om­nipresent.

Rolls says the new space­frame is 30 per cent more rigid than pre­vi­ously, a fgure that rises sig­nif­cantly in key ar­eas such as sus­pen­sion and gear­box. The chas­sis gets an all-new sus­pen­sion set-up, with a dou­ble wish­bone con­fgu­ra­tion on the front, a fvelink axle at the rear, adap­tive dampers and ac­tive anti-roll bars. It also benefts from 4WS, whose three de­grees of counter-steer help shrink the car’s heft at higher speeds, as well as im­prov­ing low-speed agility. The air springs fea­ture big­ger cham­bers than on any pre­vi­ous Rolls, and the tyres are spe­cially de­vel­oped Con­ti­nen­tals whose struc­ture in­cor­po­rates 2kg of sound­ab­sorbent ma­te­rial. There’s 6mm-thick, dual-layer dou­ble glaz­ing all round; over­all, the Phan­tom car­ries more than 130kg of sound-dead­en­ing ma­te­rial.

It’s a de­lib­er­ately the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The doors close them­selves, and Rolls talks about cre­at­ing a “detox­i­fy­ing en­vi­ron­ment”. Ev­ery­where you look there’s some de­tail magic. The rear seats are slightly an­gled so you can talk with­out strain­ing your neck. Push a but­ton in the C-pil­lar and lushly car­peted ot­tomans mo­tor out to meet your feet. Ev­ery item of switchgear is made of me­tal. The rear oc­cu­pants get to en­joy what Rolls calls the “em­brace”. Noth­ing as un­seemly as a touch­screen is al­lowed in here, ei­ther; the ro­tary con­troller re­mains. It feels won­der­ful, and serves as a re­minder that the tech arms race that’s re­defn­ing in-car con­nec­tiv­ity of­ten leads the end user up a blind al­ley.

The Phan­tom ex­pe­ri­ence is as much about the tac­til­ity of the doorhan­dles as it is how efort­lessly this thing moves. And, of course, how it looks as it scythes through lesser trafc. It’s only when you fol­low another one that you grasp what a uniquely fab­u­lous-look­ing ma­chine this car is. From the reimag­ined Parthenon grille to the tighter rear end – whose sur­faces beneft from su­per-form­ing to achieve per­fect radii – this is an as­ton­ish­ing car to be­hold. Or bet­ter still, to travel in. As ex­pen­sive as it is (from, gulp, £360k), there’s en­ter­tain­ment for ev­ery­one here.

“It still prefers to waft than hus­tle, al­though it can do so very ably”

Oh yes, we can feel the detox­i­fy­ing en­vi­ron­ment from here. And breathe

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