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First drive: Rolls-Royce Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.

First drive: Rolls-Royce Phantom
We've driven (and been driven in) the sublime new eighth-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom.

 



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Rolls-Royce Phantom

5 5 5 5 5

Rolls-Royce doesn't launch a brand-new car very often, so it's quite an occasion for it and its wealthy buyers. The Phantom sits at the top of the range (and always will, we were told at the launch, despite the imminent arrival of the new Rolls-Royce SUV) and for 2018, the British company is introducing the eighth-generation vehicle to wear the illustrious nameplate. Having spent a few days in its company trying to get to grips with the new car, we tend to agree with its maker's assertion that it is less a car and more a luxury object. And a very special one at that.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Rolls-Royce Phantom
Price: from approx. 360,000
Engine: 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door, four-seat saloon
CO2 emissions: 318g/km (2,000 VED year one, then 450 for next five years)
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Power: 571hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 900Nm at 1,700rpm

What's this?

The 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom, the eighth car to bear that name and, despite visual similarities with its predecessor, an all-new vehicle, pretty much from the ground up. Underpinning the car is a new scalable aluminium spaceframe architecture that will form the basis of the next generation of all Rolls-Royce models. For the Phantom, it's claimed to be 30 per cent stiffer in torsion than that of the previous model. Under that long bonnet is a new 6.75-litre V12 petrol engine. It uses twin-turbocharging to help it produce a mammoth 900Nm of torque from just 1,700rpm, while peak power (apparently of little relevance to the way Phantoms are usually driven) is 571hp at a never-to-be-seen 5,000rpm.

Transmission of those outputs to the rear wheels is taken care of, as before, by a ZF-produced eight-speed automatic transmission, with a shift strategy adapted by using satellite positioning data. There's nothing so uncouth as a Sport mode for this gearbox, nor a set of gearchange paddles behind the large steering wheel.

There's plenty else of note behind that steering wheel, of course, including a massive step forward in terms of infotainment and driver assistance technology. However, for us, the most interesting aspect of the front of the cabin is what Rolls-Royce calls 'The Gallery'. This allows buyers to commission works of art and have them embedded within the dashboard behind a full-width pane of glass, giving the Phantom a completely unique feature. There are 'default' finishes for this area, too, but most customers are expected to do their own thing. And it really is very special to behold.

Naturally, many owners will spend their time in the rear seats, which are exquisite. They adjust, heat and cool to your demands, the materials used to create the cabin are the best you can get and it's all highly customisable, of course. The regular wheelbase version has more room than most will need, though there's a long wheelbase variant, too.

How does it drive?

Rolls-Royce makes some bullish claims for the Phantom, reckoning it's the quietest and most comfortable car in the world. It's difficult to argue with that to a certain extent. There's 6mm thick two-layer glass all around, 130kg of sound insulation throughout the body and even a special foam within the tyres to absorb road noise. Self-levelling air suspension is complemented by adaptive damping (again, the driver can't alter the settings of this), which delivers what Rolls-Royce calls a 'Magic Carpet Ride'. It doesn't just react to the surface, but tries to pre-empt it by using a stereo camera system called 'Flagbearer' (historians will love that one). It is wonderfully supple yet also controlled.

The Phantom doesn't purport to be a driver's car in the least (it weighs considerably more than two tonnes and even the regular wheelbase model is huge by any normal standards), but it is very satisfying to drive all the same. You sit upright in comfortable seats with a great view out. The large diameter steering wheel has a slender rim, is lovely to hold and it operates an electrically assisted power steering system that helps the Phantom shrink around you, as it feels direct (though never nervous of course) and perfectly weighted. Assisting with that is the new rear-wheel steering system that pivots the back wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds. This makes the Phantom feel more agile in the corners while giving it a surprisingly tight turning circle.

As you'd hope, the powertrain is utterly smooth and free from vibration and, almost, noise. Only when you extend the long-travel throttle pedal to the floor for any length of time will you hear the machinations of the V12 engine in the distance - and it's not an unpleasant sound at all. Progress is swift if you really need to move quickly, but in normal use it's best to describe the Phantom's performance as 'effortless'. That fits in with the image and its buyers' expectations while still allowing it to the ability to scarper away from the paparazzi if needs be...

Verdict

It seems a little churlish to attempt to objectively review the Rolls-Royce Phantom. It was always going to be a five-star car and has virtually no direct rival in the automotive world. Its purchase is likely to be a treat, something to be savoured and adored by its buyers. It vies for their attentions as would an expensive motor yacht or a villa in the Alps. I know which I'd have.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Shane O'Donoghue - 22 Nov 2017









  www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com    - Rolls-Royce road tests
- Rolls-Royce news
- Phantom images

2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.

2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII drive. Image by Rolls-Royce.








 

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