ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM VIII
ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM VIII
The ultimate in elegance and class
Combining the ultimate in elegance and class, the Rolls-Royce Phantom has been the effortless leader in automotive luxury for 92 years. The latest generation Phantom VIII comes 16 years after the previous generation, and effortlessly continues the legacy of the generations that have come before. BERNIE HELLBERG travelled to Switzerland to experience a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the world’s quintessential luxury brand.
To own a Rolls-Royce is for all but a very few, an unattainable dream, and driving one; an incontrovertible honour. It is so because, plainly, Rolls-Royce promises, and delivers, the last word in luxury.
I do not say that lightly. On the contrary, to bestow upon an automobile the de facto title of ‘best luxury car in the world’ should only be done after careful consideration of all factors.
In the practical sense, the Phantom has built a reputation for engineering excellence over the course of its existence. On an emotional level, it has come to represent freedom, passion, and dedication to craftsmanship. An unwavering commitment to combining only the finest of materials, the most advanced of technologies, and the most sought-after car-making skills.
A vehicle like this becomes even more special when one considers that a new Phantom only comes along once every 15 years or so…
The Rolls-Royce Phantom is that vehicle and, finally, the latest generation has arrived to critical acclaim when it was launched to the international media at the beginning of October 2017.
CLASSIC TO MODERN CLASSIC
Created to be the replacement model to the original Silver Ghost, the Phantom Series I was brought to life in 1925. Since then many fine automobiles have carried the Phantom moniker, with few as daring as the ‘Star of India’ Series II that was commissioned by India’s Rajkot royal family in 1934.
Other notable Phantoms include an excellently preserved black and yellow Phantom III (Chassis Number #3BU168 Sedanca de Ville by Coachbuilder Barker) driven by the villainous Auric Goldfinger in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. More than 20 years after the end of production, the Phantom III was renowned in the film for being able to hold the weight of the vast amounts of gold that Goldfinger smuggled around Europe.
The Phantom III was also the last car that Sir Henry Royce would actively work on, as he passed away, aged 70, one year into the Series III’s production.
Although the Phantom III was the only V12 Rolls-Royce until the introduction of the Silver Seraph in 1998, its successors would become more potent in V8 guise over time, until a 12-cylinder block made its return to the line-up in the Phantom VII (from 2006 to 2017).
ARCHITECTURE OF LUXURY
Far from being the staid brand one assumes it to be, each new generation of Phantom is created from a clean slate, purpose-built to marry the most modern of technologies with decadesold craftsmanship.
It is a large car, as are all Rollers. Surprisingly, the new generation Phantom is actually 77 mm shorter than the previous car. It is taller, though, by 8 mm, and wider by 29 mm.
Discussing dimensions are key here because Phantom VIII is the first product to be built on Rolls-Royce’s new ‘Architecture of Luxury’ – a bonded aluminium spaceframe platform destined to form the foundation for all future Rollers. This includes the upcoming Cullinan SUV, and potentially even the smaller Ghost family.
Despite being slightly smaller than the outgoing Phantom VII, Phantom VIII remains as imposing as before, with the upright Pantheon grille still prominently dominating the car’s visage, albeit in a more integrated and laid back fashion.
Stylistically Phantom VIII seems to have evolved from its Phantom VII forebear, more so than having taken a radical new turn on the new car. It is, however, entirely new, and a quick comparison with the
“FAR FROM BEING THE STAID BRAND
ONE ASSUMES IT TO BE, EACH NEW GENERATION OF PHANTOM IS CREATED FROM A CLEAN SLATE, PURPOSE-BUILT TO MARRY THE MOST MODERN OF TECHNOLOGIES WITH DECADES-OLD CRAFTSMANSHIP.”
old design highlights the distinctive new face with its unique daytime running light signature having become an even more prominent design feature of the new car.
Another stunning new feature – chrome surrounds on the windscreen that travels down all the way along the bonnet on both sides– are said to have been inspired by the reigns of a horse, and frame the grandness of the design in spectacular fashion.
Allow your eye to travel along the flanks of the car and discover that the Phantom’s characteristic coach-style doors retain the car’s classic charm, although all four portals can now be closed at the push of a button. In addition, the doors can be closed using a button recessed in the exterior door handle.
Rolls-Royce Director of Design, Giles Taylor, describes the rear of the new Phantom as “an elegantly flowing rear face treatment that pushes the car forward”. Elegant it is, finished in detailed yet straightforward LED taillights and a chrome-tipped dual exhaust, although the overall impression, for me, does not quite match the audaciousness of the leaping front of the new Phantom.
EACH CAR A BLANK SLATE
For purposes of introducing Phantom VIII to the media, Rolls-Royce had specified 12 new cars to be driven by the world’s motoring and lifestyle commentators. Although meticulously fashioned to showcase the finest RollsRoyce features, the power of the RollsRoyce brand, explicitly so in the Phantom series, is to offer its customers a level of freedom to customise that is not available anywhere else.
My evaluation drive in the region of the picturesque town of Vitznau on the shores of Lake Lucerne was carefully chosen by Rolls-Royce to showcase both the dynamic abilities of the car, and to reflect in meticulous detail, the “tradition of craftsmanship, attention to detail, and sense of privacy” for which the Swiss are revered.
For the two days spent driving, RollsRoyce provided me with a beautiful Phantom finished in a two-tone English White and contrasting Iguazu Blue paint job. Sitting pretty on the bonnet, the Spirit of Ecstasy was finished in gold plate.
Inside the cabin, a celebration of Arctic White, Navy Blue and Cobalto Blue was framed by swathes of Mahogany veneer. As added features, the Phantom also boasted Cobalto Blue RR monograms in the headrests, elevating footrests, massage function on all four seats, rear privacy glass, veneered rear picnic tables and steering spokes, and a bespoke clock.
The signature starlight headliner in the new Phantom is also uniquely Rolls-Royce and now uses over 1,500 individually hand-placed LEDs to create a dazzling night sky effect in each car.
New software allows the starlight LEDs to be controlled individually so you can have different section light up, to enhance each passenger’s lighting environment. In case the standard starlight effect does not dazzle you, Rolls-Royce will soon offer customised constellations in the headliner, and is reportedly also working on a shooting star concept for this feature.
By far the most intriguing of new interior features of the Phantom VIII has to be The Gallery. A distinctive display concept that brings to each car, the ability for its owner to artistically set a precious art piece behind a pane of glass on the facia.
The glass-encased space stretches across the dash from the steering to the passenger side door and can be used to display everything from artwork to your personal colour or finish preference, a bespoke design of your choosing, the possibilities will – dependant on
another year-or-so of development – be virtually endless.
Until then, Rolls-Royce has developed a number of design themes for selection when purchasing, and our test car was fitted with the Arctic White option.
The ability to determine the creative of your car’s facia may seem gaudy to some, being able to sculpt the entirety of the car in your image takes the level of bespoke available in Rolls-Royce to a new industryleading height.
Of course, to fully appreciate the sophistication of the Phantom’s interior requires a level of calm, and quiet, not seen on any production car before. 100 kg of sound dampening, double glazed glass, and specially-developed tyres with a foam layer on the inside of the tyre wall, all work in harmony to achieve this end.
POWER AT YOUR COMMAND
There is no escaping the fact that the Phantom is designed primarily for the chauffeur experience. Being driven is the name of the game. Increasingly, according to some of the Rolls-Royce executives I chatted to at the launch, the Rolls purchaser demographic is becoming younger, and more owners want to drive their own cars for the sake of the pure exhilaration that a Rolls-Royce driving experience affords one. Besides, the Roller staple 6.75-litre V12 has been extensively updated for the Series VIII, and I was not going to let an opportunity to drive this stately beast go to waste.
It might be a touch uncouth to discuss the engine characteristics and dynamic abilities of such a noble beast as the Phantom VIII, yet for all its plush carpeting and made-to-measure bespoke design, this Rolls-Royce is by far the most potent Phantom ever created. 563 horses prance under the bonnet, while a massive 900 Nm of torque endows the Phantom with the urgency it needs to gracefully charge from zero to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds.
Put into perspective, the Phantom VII was capable of producing 454 hp and 720 Nm from the same block. Top speed, while reached effortlessly and quickly, is governed at 250 km/h.
The ZF-produced eight-speed transmission has been tuned to offer maximum performance up to the 2,500 r/min range, as Rolls-Royce reckons that data from Phantom VII customers indicated that they use their cars mostly in that range. And being Rolls-Royce, the company responded to the whims of their clientele by ensuring that as much as 50% of the engine’s full might is available ahead of that mark.
With so much power underfoot, one might expect the Phantom to lurch under hard acceleration, but nothing could be further from reality. Thrust is delivered in a stately yet precise fashion, measured and deliberate, but never harsh. Equally, the splendid brakes will discard of any rate of speed in a similarly smooth way.
With all the faith in the world, Rolls-Royce allowed us to take to the Swiss hills during one of the dedicated driving sessions. In particular, the Furka pass, where the aforementioned Auric Goldfinger was set upon by James Bond who, as it turns out, was being pursued by the ill-fated Bond girl, Tilly Masterson. In the film, Bond and Masterson duel for command of the winding pass, as Goldfinger easily slips out of Bond’s grasp in his Series III Phantom.
53 years later, the new Phantom under my command – augmented by active antiroll bar technology with electric motor support – manoeuvred the treacherous with great ease. Many a hairpin bend, and believe me there are many on this particular road, proved no match for the eighth-generation suspension, and given the size and weight of this car, handling is exemplary even under such strenuous conditions.
Steering is light but precise, and the overall experience is bolstered by the GPSenabled transmission control system that anticipates the road in order to maintain the optimal gear, and a smooth ride, regardless of the twists or turns.
STARLIGHT HEADLINER IN THE NEW PHANTOM IS ALSO UNIQUELY ROLLS-ROYCE AND NOW USES OVER 1,500 INDIVIDUALLY
HAND-PLACED LEDS TO CREATE A DAZZLING NIGHT SKY EFFECT IN