What is it? It’s the all-new Phantom. As Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mull-Otvos put it: ‘A Phantom is a Phantom is a Phantom’, which is the sort of philosophical musing you’d expect when gazing at a car costing £360,000. But what is it, apart from a Phantom?
While your eyes may be drawn to the bodywork, it’s what happens underneath that is really new. So new in fact that this is the first Rolls to feature it – a completely new aluminium spaceframe platform. It’s 30% stiffer than the old platform, and 100% stiffer in some areas. It’s also lighter, although the goal was torsional stiffness.
That platform stiffness should mean more refinement and an even better ride quality, which are hardly incidental goals for any Rolls-Royce. And that platform floats on air springs working with adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars. It’s a long and heavy car to haul around although at 5.76m (the long-wheelbase EWB is 5.98m) the Phantom is actually shorter in the wheelbase than it used to be. So, it’s shorter, stiffer, got adaptive air suspension – this thing is going to be a screamer in the corners right?
Perhaps anyone confused at this point ought to note that there is more than 130kg of sound-deadening material. There is even 2kg of soundproofing foam on the insides of the sidewall of each of the tyres. Clearly outright pace is not the primary concern here.
Although there is an engine. It’s a 6.75-litre V12 with 563bhp and a truly monumental 664lb ft of torque. That torque comes full on from 1700rpm and the general operating range of the engine is going to be up to 2500rpm only. Although you can rev it to 6500rpm should you be gauche enough to want to.
The engine idles at 650rpm, although you’ll largely be unaware what it is up to since it is uncannily quiet. There’s a vast swell of torque and power when you press the accelerator, and the car surges forward with alacrity when you demand it. But there’s no chirruping from the tyres, no screaming revs, basically no sound. It’s not even like an electric car where you can hear the whine of the motor. There’s nothing.
Compared to even the previously massively hushed Phantom, in real terms this is about 75% quieter still. You can hear the steering wheel sliding through your skin on your hands. So you start driving like a chauffeur, moving your arms with the wheel, rather than letting your scaly skin rasp a fearsome racket in the cabin.
And you will want to drive this car. Give the chauffeur the day off, she probably deserves it. Rolls-Royce is fully on board with you taking the wheel, you’re meant to, and you’re meant to enjoy it. Certainly this is hardly a sports car, but if you drive with some minor level of decorum then you’ll be rewarded with handling that is surprisingly fluent and engaging.
This is partly down to the steering, which is remarkably precise and light to a degree you wouldn’t expect. The controls are beautifully weighted and, as long as you don’t go crazy, it’s a seriously enjoyable car to steer around, aided further by four-wheel steering.
Engine: 6.75-litre, V12, twin-turbocharged, petrol
Power: 563bhp at 5000rpm
Torque: 664lb ft at 1700rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 20.3mpg
CO2 rating: 318g/km
The ride, needless to say, is in the sort of league where Rolls-Royce doesn’t really have anyone else to play with. Absorbent, compliant, hushed, it’s faintly magical.
The cabin, oh dear, this is beginning to sound ridiculous. Sitting in the front, grasping that large, thin wheel, you have everything you need an more besides, although the company seems to take a dim view of autonomous driving, and wants you or your nominated driver to do that, which is hardly a hardship. The quality of design, fit, materials and finish is beyond compare, it really is.
Slide into one of the two vast seats in the rear and you can be cossetted in all manner of ways, from massage to warmth and several buttons we didn’t feel we deserved to even try. There’s an awful lot of legroom and headroom back there of course, which doesn’t even impinge on the boot space. Owners are likely to have quite a lot of matching luggage, and it will all fit in the boot.
We’re trying to find something not to like really. The bodywork. How do you feel about the rather bluff lines of the thing? Maybe we’ll warm to it. But once you’re inside the electrically closed doors you won’t notice what’s going on outside anyway.
To be inside the new Rolls-Royce Phantom is to be in an environment where few will go. It’s really the most astonishing place to be, a mobile space of exemplary design and finish, built to standards so high you wonder how it can ever be surpassed. Yes, it is indeed a Phantom.