Who buys a Rolls-Royce these days? I guess somebody does, because they’re still being made and sold, but it also seems like their choice as a viable luxury and performance ride peaked many, many decades ago. In a lot of ways, driving a Rolls today is seen as gauche and extremely declasse. Back then, a Rolls was as subtle as anything else British. It was all about understated luxury, not about “look at me, I’m filthy rich” with an emphasis on filthy. So what is the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, and why would one consider buying it this day and age?
Perception Versus Reality
In their heyday, a Rolls was like a Savile Row suit or refurbishing the roof on the olde family manse that great-grand-Ma-Ma left to you. It was something that one, one of a certain peerage and lineage, did. But then the New Rich clocked to the idea that if you could buy the trappings of the Old Rich, you could, in theory and to some people, be perceived as having class. You could simply buy your way into the ornamentation of a title and not worry about the title itself.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both bought fine old English mansions back in the 60s. John Lennon bought a Rolls and painted it all psychedelic as a rather nice ironic statement. Keith Moon bought a Rolls and drove it into the pool of his old English manse because he’s Keith Moon. Now, it’s all sheiks and minor princes and heirs from minor oil-soaked fiefdoms and the occasional rapper that seems to be Rolls-Royce’s stock in trade.
Architecture of Luxury
Admittedly, you’ll be getting something screwed together more like a bespoke luxury yacht than a car. Rolls’ attention to stuff like carpets and leather and wood and such has been well known for the better part of a century. The obfuscation of technical details is just as well known, but that, like so many things RR, is a thing of the past. Now, Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW and that, in a lot of very important engineering ways, has been good for the company.
The new Rolls Phantom sits on an all-aluminium spaceframe architecture. This all aluminium spaceframe will underpin every future Rolls; no future model will rely on the monocoque construction used by the “mass-manufacturers and some mass-luxury brands.” Oh SNAP! The new Roller is approximately 30 percent more rigid than the spaceframe architecture found on the outgoing Phantom VII. Naturally, all this stiffness results in “the Rolls-Royce experience” in ride, acoustic, and seat comfort, along with a particular exterior and interior presence.
All of this is part of RR’s new “Architecture of Luxury” and if you thought the builders from Crewe would leave it at that, you’re sorely mistaken. Rolls hits on that phrase relentlessly from here on out. This new focus is concentrated on making the new Phantom lighter and stiffer, with more efficient standards of production.
The new spaceframe rides on an air suspension and features state-of-the-art chassis control systems. Rolls-Royce says this results in “peerless, effortless ride and handling and optimal vibration comfort performance.” The front suspension is a new double-wishbone setup with a 5-link arrangement at the rear. This offers better control over lateral roll and shear forces, while delivering increased agility and stability. The new Phantom also gets four-wheel steering.
As with all Rolls-Royce models, the new Phantom is as quiet as a drawing room, thanks to the 6mm two-layer glazing on the windows, more than 130kg of sound insulation, cast aluminium joints, and the use of other high sound absorption materials. There’s double skin alloy on areas within the floor and bulkhead of the spaceframe for better acoustic insulation from road noise.
Rolls has inserted dense foam with felt layers between panel skins for further sound insulation. They’ve even added sound deadening to the headliner, in the doors, and in the boot (trunk) cavity. They even spec’d new “Silent-Seal” tires that feature a foam layer inside to see to tire cavity noise and drop road noise by another 9db. All of this results in what Rolls calls “the most silent motorcar in the world.”
Performance & Technology
Motivating this boat is a new twin turbocharged V12 Phantom engine that puts out 900Nm (over 660 ft-lbs.) of torque and 563 horsepower. The 12-banger’s power is put to the tarmac through something called a Satellite Aided Transmission, married to a ZF 8-Speed gearbox.
And since it’s 2017 and not 1917, the new Rolls-Royce Phantom is dripping computer technology. Rolls refers to this as an “Electronic Architecture,” complete with an electronic nervous system that connects and controls all the various intelligent systems of the Phantom. Rolls says it’s the most advanced luxury motorcar available today and sure, why not. There’s the Alertness Assistant which is a 4-camera system with Panoramic View for all around visibility, including a helicopter view. There’s Night Vision and Vision Assist, Active Cruise Control, collision warning, pedestrian warning (should you actually care about the wellbeing of your lessers), cross-traffic warning, lane departure and lane change warning, and a 7×3 high-resolution heads-up display. WiFi hotspot? But of course, sir! The latest navigation and entertainment systems? Need you even ask, sir?!
Price? Well if you have to ask about that, perhaps you should run along with the other reach-me-downs and chuckaboos to the <shudder> Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar dealership. That might be more befitting someone of your, a-HEM, station, sir. I said good day sir!
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.