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 Leisure

The 8th Generation Rolls-Royce Phantom

5th August, 2017

By ASWAN YAP

When you’re an ultra-luxury brand like Rolls-Royce, it can be a little difficult to develop brand new products.

Considering how low the production volume is for their models, it’s also understandable that their cars tend to have a fairly long product lifecycle. Not that this is an issue when the level of luxury remains fairly relevant even a decade after first being put into production.

The Phantom – a significant model in the marque’s range for decades – may be the eighth generation of the namesake, but it is only the second Phantom produced under the umbrella of BMW Group. Its predecessor was already an impressive technological step forward, thanks largely to shared technology between the Phantom and the BMW 7-Series, but still a properly luxurious product in its own right. Some elements were common between these models and this could be glaringly obvious, but these elements were phased out over time.

The general idea with the Phantom is that it is to represent the epitome of luxury, and much of that lies on the inside rather than the outside. You wouldn’t be blamed if you mistook this eighth generation Phantom for the model it replaces, as a lot of the styling cues and lines are fairly similar.

The rear benefits from some tightening up, providing a slightly sportier rear end without becoming gaudy. The front is a hint softer than the model it replaces, although the prominent front end makes an appearance once again.

Up front, there’s an all-new 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 engine which provides a fairly usable 563 bhp and a massive 900 Nm of torque which starts from just 1,700 rpm. This kind of low end ‘oomph’ is what helps the Phantom get up to speed effortlessly and cruise along despite a fairly seriously weight to carry. It’s mated with an 8-speed ZF conventional automatic – an old unit by now, but just as effective as you could ever hope.

Underneath the skin, there have been a large number of mechanical and engineering changes. Unlike what you would expect, the Phantom does not sit on BMW’s CLAR platform that has been used for everything from the 5-Series to the latest 7-Series. Rolls-Royce will no longer do it that way.

Instead, it is based on an all-new platform that Rolls-Royce is calling the “Architecture of Luxury”, which they say will underpin all of their products in the years to come. Heavy use of aluminium in a spaceframe type layout has allowed them to shave a fair amount of weight while increasing rigidity by roughly 30% over the outgoing model.

Through a combination of the lower weight and an improved air suspension system, the Rolls-Royce “Magic Carpet Ride” quality has been improved as well- not that it was bad to begin with. The system is so complex that it adjusts the stiffness of the dampers continuously with millions of calculations per second, even employing an optional stereoscopic windshield-mounted camera for extra proactive functionality.

More than mere comfort are the steps forward in interior design – away from prying eyes, perhaps, but far more important to potential owners of a car like the Phantom. While the Phantom may not be a very driver-oriented car, it has been outfitted with the latest advanced displays and information systems to keep the driver aware of the status of all the ‘vital signs’.

What is new is the inclusion of an Art Gallery. Yes, the new Phantom has an art gallery space that spans the width of the dashboard and is visible from the rear seats. When the entertainment system up front is not in use, it slides out of sight to reveal the full length of this gallery, and owners can commission specific artworks to give their car an ultra-personal touch.

The rear seats have also been revamped in order to make the ownership experience that little bit more comfortable. Old favourites such as a rear-console integrated coolbox and accompanying glassware for drinks remain but there is more emphasis on even higher quality materials, along with more refined switchgear that tries to distance itself from its BMW origins.

The coach doors have also been retained, allowing for elegant entry and exit from the Phantom and making every arrival an event of its own.

This all-new Phantom may not be radically different from the model it replaces, but perhaps that’s for the better. To go too far would be to alienate their current crop of customers and even those who aspire to own a Rolls-Royce may find radical changes a little off putting.

As always, Rolls-Royce has stuck to a proven formula and created a car worthy of the Phantom namesake, but not so stuck in the past as to become irrelevant in the context of a modern ultra-luxury car.

   
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