► New Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII
► First of a new Roller generation
► The most high-tech Rolls yet
Ladies and gentleman, say hello to the new, eighth-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom.
It might look like a subtle evolution of the previous-gen Phantom VII (described by this very magazine as ‘the best luxury car money can buy’) but it’s an all-new machine – and the first to be built upon a fresh platform which will form the basis of the next generation of Rolls-Royce models.
Described by its makers as the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce ever, it features a full-width digital dashboard, more than 130kg of sound-deadening to make it whisper-quiet at speed, and more cutting-edge tech than any production Rolls yet.
Official reveal at 'Great Eight' exhibition
The new Phantom has been officially revealed at an exhibition in London's Mayfair celebrating the last 92 years of the car.
The event, called ‘The Great Eight Phantoms’, gathered a famous Phantom from each generation, from the ‘Fred Astaire Phantom I’ to subsequent models driven by royalty, or made famous by celebrities including John Lennon’s psychedelic-painted Phantom V.
Enough about the old ones, tell me about the new Phantom VIII!
The styling is a careful evolution of traditional Phantom themes: short front overhang, long rear, a giant and instantly recognisable C-pillar shape, and a front face as bluff as a wardrobe.
Elements of the styling were forecast by 2016’s 103EX concept, and design director Giles Taylor told CAR the classic Silver Cloud was also an influence.
The grille, for the first time, is integrated into the surrounding bodywork for a cleaner, more modern design, and it’s taller than that of the Phantom VII, with the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot mounted half an inch higher.
As before, the Phantom VIII is available in both short- and long-wheelbase form, dubbed EW for Extended Wheelbase by Goodwood.
What’s in the engine room?
A 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 petrol engine with 563bhp, hooked up to a satellite-aided eight-speed automatic gearbox from ZF.
The previous Phantom had a naturally aspirated V12, and the new turbocharged mill offers a huge amount of torque – around 664lb ft from only 1700rpm. Shove will be more than adequate.
That low-down muscle helps the engine to be as quiet as possible, as well as helping the Phantom gather speed quickly without feeling like it’s working too hard.
Brand-new, aluminium-intensive Rolls-Royce architecture
The new Phantom’s platform will also form the basis of the rest of the future Rolls-Royce range – the next Ghost, Wraith, Dawn and the upcoming SUV currently codenamed Project Cullinan.
Rolls-Royce, never knowingly under-aggrandised, calls the new platform ‘The Architecture of Luxury.’
The brand’s design chief Giles Taylor says: ‘Starting with New Phantom, I have the framework to create a future range of true Rolls-Royces. In essence, this is one big coachbuild project.’
Largely composed of aluminium, the Phantom’s structure is described as a spaceframe, rather than the unitary body construction more common to most volume-produced cars, and therefore allows more styling freedom. Lighter and stiffer than its predecessor, it’s 30% more rigid than Phantom VII.
Scalable to size and weight requirements, it’s been designed to accommodate ‘different propulsion systems’ too – leaving space for electric models in the future, and potentially a hybrid version of the Phantom sending additional power to the front wheels.
Goodwood is making much of the fact that the new platform is unique to Rolls-Royce models, and not a shared architecture with other cars within the umbrella of its BMW Group owners. The official line from the company is that ‘no future Rolls-Royce will be of monocoque construction as used by mass-manufacturers and some mass luxury brands.’
It also gives Rolls the potential to create a car smaller than the Ghost and offer a coachbuilding service – similar to that seen with the recently revealed Sweptail – to its wealthiest customers.
Smoother ride than ever, with self-governing air suspension – and easier to park, with four-wheel steer
The Phantom VIII uses a double-wishbone front, five link rear suspension layout, with self-levelling air suspension adjusted constantly by continuous electronic control.
Rolls claims it will take the Phantom’s so-called ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ to a ‘new level’ – helped by the new car’s lighter, stiffer structure.
There’s also a windscreen-mounted camera system to scan the road ahead and adjust the suspension proactively for bumps and cambers, active at up to 62mph.
Believe it or not, Rolls-Royce calls the system ‘Flagbearer’ – after the men who had to walk in front of cars with a flag back at the dawn of the motor car.
The rear wheels are linked to a four-wheel steering system, shrinking the giant car’s turning circle in tight spots.
Tell me about the interior
Customers get a choice of rear seat layouts – a single ‘lounge’ seat unit, individual seats with either an occasional armrest or a fixed rear centre console, or a new ‘sleeping seat.’
The rear seats are angled inwards, so it’s easier to chat to other occupants without straining your neck. Go for the fixed rear centre console and you get a drinks cabinet with whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and coolbox.
This being a money-no-object kind of car, every bit of switchgear is made from metal. Rolls-Royce’s philosophy is that if something looks like wood, it should feel like wood when you touch it, and likewise for metal components.
And that digital dash?
Rolls calls it ‘The Gallery.’ The dash has a traditionally upright shape, with its display elements housed in a toughened glass panel running its whole width. The dials are digital, including their ‘virtual needles’, but framed in round chrome surrounds.
There’s still an analogue clock behind the glass, continuing the traditional conceit that it should be ‘the loudest sound you can hear in a Rolls-Royce.’
The gallery name has been chosen because, in designer Giles Taylor’s words, he wanted the dash to be a focal point, not a dead expanse:
‘I wanted to take a motoring constant that has existed for a century but served little purpose but to hid airbags and componentry, and give it another purpose.’
To that end, as a bespoke commission, Phantom customers can have a favourite artist or designer work with them to create an artwork to be displayed across the Gallery dash – hence its name.
To give potential customers some ideas, Rolls-Royce has commissioned a few examples, including a countryside oil painting, and a gold-plated 3D map of an owner’s DNA. Who said Rolls-Royce owners were egocentric…
Rolls-Royce Phantoms for sale
‘The most silent car in the world’, says Rolls-Royce
Helping it achieve this claim is 6mm-thick two-layer glass all-round, and more than 130kg of insulation.
Rolls-Royce also claims the Phantom VIII features the largest-ever cast aluminium joints in an automotive body-in-white, again for better sound insulation, and innovative double-skin alloy on the floors and primary chassis bulkhead.
Together with foam insulated tyres, all of the above helps make the Phantom VIII 10% quieter than its predecessor at 62mph, Rolls says.
Give me the best Pseud’s Corner bits of the press release…
‘When in need of a space to reflect on issues of importance or simply lost in thought, ones imagination is inspired by the largest Starlight Headliner ever seen in a Rolls-Royce’ [LEDs set into the ceiling to resemble a star constellation or shape of the customer’s choice].
Rolls-Royce describes the door closing mechanism as ‘The Embrace:’ ‘As the patron settles in to the car, an assistant or valet steps forward and lightly touches the sensor on the door handle so it whispers closed of its own accord, enveloping the occupant in ‘The Embrace.’
Headline tech includes…?
What’s claimed to be the highest-resolution head-up display in the industry, an on-board wi-fi hostpot (gradually becoming a standard throughout many new cars), all the usual collision warning and active safety kit you’d expect, plus 360-view and night vision cameras.
Laser lights cast beam 600m down the road, and from a manufacturing standpoint, Rolls-Royce is proud of what it claims to be the largest single piece of stainless steel on any car, used for the side window frame finisher.
This car is all about showing off, isn’t it?
Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös describes the new Phantom as ‘a dominant symbol of wealth and human achievement.’
Next up for Rolls-Royce will be the production Cullinan SUV, recently spotted testing at the Nurburgring, and the new Ghost.
Check out all of our Rolls-Royce reviews here