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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.


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).


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



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.


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.


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.





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