Phantom injects high-tech into its super-luxury mix
ROLLS Royce has taken luxury to a new level with its eighth-generation Phantom, revealed last week at an invitation-only black tie event in London.
As you settle into the new Phantom, an assistant or valet touches the sensor in the door handle and the door whispers closed of its own accord – or you can make it happen yourself at the press of a button inside the car.
The sweep of wood panelling across the back of the front seats was inspired by the Eames Lounge Chair of 1956, a design so perfect it’s part of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent display. Deployed from behind it, at the touch of a button, are the rear picnic tables and theatre monitors.
Seat heating is standard, of course, but when you switch it on you’ll find that the heated areas also include the front door armrests, front centre console lid, lower C pillar, rear side armrests with all individual seats, and rear centre armrest.
If you choose the fixed rear centre console, inside it you’ll find a drinks cabinet with whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and coolbox. There is no plastic inside the new Phantom; every switch and control is made of metal, glass or wrapped in leather.
The one-piece, almost perfectly straight dashboard runs unbroken across the front of the cabin from door to door, much as it did on the first Phantom of 1925, but instead of a hand-finished solid walnut plank, split so that the two halves were perfect mirror images of each other, the new Phantom dashboard is a sheet of toughened glass.
Under it, on the driver’s side, is a chrome-framed 31cm colour TFT display with LED backlighting, showing three big round dials with chrome surrounds, beautiful virtual needles, jewel-like Rolls-Royce chaplets and clear lettering for speed, power reserve, fuel and temperature levels.
It’s also possible to spec custom artworks behind the glass panel, allowing owners to take a piece of their private gallery with them. Rolls-Royce has already worked with a number of artists, designers and design collectives to show just what is possible behind the glass, ranging from an oil painting of the South Downs of England in Autumn by Chinese artist Liang Yuanwei, to a gold-plated 3D-printed map of the owner’s DNA by German designer Thorsten Franck.
You can choose a favoured artist or designer to work with Rolls-Royce to create a truly individual work of art that spans the width of ‘The Gallery’ in your Phantom, or you can choose from a vast collection of silk, wood, metal or leather finishes, which are available off the shelf.
For the first time, the pantheon grille (about 12mm taller than that of the Phantom VII) is part of the body rather than a separate design element, and made of hand-polished stainless steel rather than nickel silver, while the door handles, usually cast in aluminium and satin-finished on premium cars, are instead carved from solid stainless steel and hand-polished to a warm glow.
The four rectangular headlights frame the daylight running lights and laser projectors, capable of illuminating objects 600 metres ahead. And finally, the Phantom rides on the biggest wheels yet specified by Rolls-Royce, 22” alloy rims with self-righting centre logos. Along with the lighter, stiffer chassis comes four-wheel steering and self-leveling air suspension which makes millions of calculations every second, reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering movements and the input of a forward stereo camera that reads the road ahead and adjusts the suspension for every bump before the car even gets there.
The naturally-aspirated 6.75-litre V12 that powers every Rolls-Royce has been re-engineered for the Phantom with two turbochargers making total outputs of 420kW and 900Nm.
It drives the rear wheels through new eight-speed automatic ZF satellite-aided transmission that uses GPS location to ensure that it is always in the right gear for what’s coming up around the bend, depending on how hard you’ve been leaning on the accelerator today.
The most immediate consequence of all this bespoke luxury is that it is no longer possible to quote a price for a Rolls-Royce until you have finished specifying your unique car – but in any case, if you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it.