If there is one car brand that has stood the test of time, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars would take the badge. Admittedly the more distant past has been rather chequered in terms of profitability, but the past decade and a half has served to prove that you can take a product and brand even further up the desirability curve.
And at Rolls-Royce Phantom has been the heart of that single-minded focus. It seems almost perfect that the BMW-owned part of the Bentley-RR split chose to develop the Phantom VII, while Bentley carried over the Arnage. From that point, the paths moved further away as the latter focussed on more affordable and volume products, while Rolls-Royce took its time about going there.
The Phantom has definitely grown in the 14 years of the seventh generation, adopting technology and new legislation in its presentation as the ultimate luxury motor. And the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII represents a leap ahead.
The author was fortunate to be one of the select invitees to see the still ‘under-wraps’ Phantom VIII in the hall of the Armani hotel below Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The event was strictly a no cameras one – something that one gets used to as Rolls-Royce seeks to maintain the mystery and allure of its new offerings. You can forgive them – for the centrepiece Phantom shone on the rotating dais, complete with its new profile and fascia.
The principle takeaways on the Phantom VIII in terms of its engineering development are that they have invested in an all-new aluminium spaceframe architecture that is dedicated only to the brand, that they have further invested in an all-new twin-turbo 6.75-litre V12 engine and the vehicle gets a completely new electronics backbone. The approach is labelled ‘Architecture of Luxury’ and will serve as the underpinnings of the Cullinan project as well as future generations of the Wraith, Ghost and Dawn.
The designers have also had a field day on the new platform, although certain basics remain, like the basic ratios and the dominant prow. The Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII still retains the coach doors, the powered close, the starlight roof and the painted sipes down the side. But the change is in the way cabin interiors have been tweaked to enhance the lounge like effect, while the front gets a whole new appeal from the more prominent headlights and standout grille.
We aren’t even going to enumerate the features offered in the car. From pop out screens that hideaway in surfaces that seem almost ebony, massage seats that slide and recline, a range-topping sound system and wifi hotspot, the car has it all.
The new engine also has been tuned to offer 900Nm of torque to match with its 563bhp of power. The core of the waftability of the car is right here. This is matched with an 8-speed automatic gearbox that is linked to the satellite navigation system (allowing it to shift in anticipation of curves and bends or climbs). Another huge change that has happened is in the increased volume brought in for the air suspension. This allows for better control over ride quality, matched with the new double wishbone front suspension and the 5-link rear.
Another standout element of the interior, the new Gallery on the dashboard, was much talked about at the showing. In effect, the entire sweep of the dashboard becomes one giant glass panel, with the driver’s third getting the traditional instrumentation, the centre portion housing a deeply recessed portion that accommodates the 12.3” central display (that can drop away if needed) and the passenger’s third housing an art piece. Rolls-Royce offers a panel of artists and standard offerings including etched gold, porcelain roses, exquisite fabric – but apparently you can select just about anything or get a unique presentation commissioned just for you. Company officials assure us that the whole unit is effectively sealed against dust and moisture. The concept of the gallery has been drawn from traditions – “In the 18th century, miniatures were highly fashionable and valuable items of art that allowed their owners to carry images of their loved one with them wherever they travelled. I really loved that idea of taking your art with you, when travelling, and so I acted on it,” says Giles Taylor, Director of Design. “Now, our clients will be able to do the same.”
Some of the artists that the brand is working with are Chinese fine artist Liang Yuanwei, German product designer Thorsten Franck, the porcelain work is by Nymphenberg and the fabric work by young British artist Helen Amy Murray.
Now, at the launch, further details have surfaced including the fact that the tyres have been specially manufactured for the Phantom, using an integral foam layer to absorb sound – lowering tyre noise by 9dB. In addition the car is supposed to integrate almost 130 kilograms of multilayer acoustic damping as well as further damping from dual layer glazing.
As expected, the communication from Rolls-Royce centres around the luxury motif, how the car is considered part of a luxury lifestyle. But above all the platitudes you can really sense the conviction that the company and the Rolls-Royce team have about their new offering. Take Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars who says “From its debut in 1925, a Rolls-Royce Phantom has been the choice of the world’s most influential and powerful men and women, and as a result, a constant presence at history’s most defining moments. “
He also calls the birth of a new Phantom as a ‘seminal moment’ for the brand.
Going by the brand’s record – the new Phantom is likely to be on a long waitlist, especially in the region. Most long wheel base variants are highly customised and the order books and delivery times could stretch over months, especially if it also includes specially commissioned art pieces.