There is something to be said about spending a few days with the most exquisite motorcar in the world.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – The Rolls-Royce marque is storied and has always been reserved for the elite one-percent of the population, but recent entries such as the Dawn (reviewed here) and Ghost are ever-so-slightly more attainable. Our last sit-down with Rolls-Royce’s CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös reminded us that the Phantom name is one of the most legendary even in the ultra-luxury brand’s own history. We were offered a 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII, the eighth-generation of the flagship, for a few days of evaluation.
“Phantom” is the longest-serving name in automotive history, dating back to 1925. This fully redesigned model only slightly resembles its predecessor in its profile, but is absolutely all-new and is the first Rolls-Royce that was engineered from the ground-up after parent company BMW took ownership of the brand. Based on the new Architecture of Luxury platform, a new aluminum spaceframe chassis, the Phantom VIII is the first vehicle with these underpinnings. It’s a slightly more rounded design overall, but maintains its traditional lines that define its character.
There are two wheelbases available on the Phantom VIII, and Rolls-Royce claims that roughly 80% of buyers will opt to drive themselves. After conducting a lengthy test of this vehicle on California’s finest roads, we came to the conclusion that while it’s a spectacular car to be driven in, there is a unique allure to piloting the long-wheelbase Phantom. At 235.8” long, the Phantom VIII Extended Wheelbase is 8.6” longer than the standard-length car, and is positively monstrous. Hand-built in Goodwood, England, the Phantom offers unmatched quality and precision with regard to materials both inside and out.
Beneath the extravagant bonnet that bears the Spirit of Ecstasy is a new engine, a 6.7L twin-turbocharged V12. It is an updated version of the 6.6L seen in the Wraith (reviewed here), and this wonderful motor now offers 563 horsepower (unchanged) at 5,000RPM, but a significant boost in torque with 664 lb-ft. right at 1,700RPM. It sends power to the rear wheels through a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. The power numbers aren’t what truly impress (read: they really do), but the overall smoothness is simply unlike any other car in the world. The car appears to shrink at speed, and offers unparalleled ride comfort and power delivery.
Many other cars out there offer a driving experience where you can’t feel how fast you’re traveling. The Phantom VIII is on another level – at highway speeds it feels like you are cruising at 60km/h or less, when in fact you may be doing double that. Rolls-Royce’s engineering team has implemented nearly 300 pounds of sound-deadening material, double-paned glass on the windows, and even noise-absorbing foam in the tires. As such, the new Phantom delivers a 75% perceived noise reduction over the previous Phantom. The goal here was to produce the most silent car ever built, and they have managed to accomplish this feat.
It handles decently well too, and the steering wheel’s slow and light movement is very fitting of the Phantom’s character. When exploring the hills around Hollywood, the latest from Goodwood had no issues maintaining the utmost composure and poise when tackling the narrow laneways and curvy mountain roads. The smart adaptive dampers work in conjunction with an optical bump detection system give this car the absolute best ride quality of any passenger vehicle available today. The anti-roll bars are controlled by electric motors that will attack body roll when whirling the Phantom around corners, and they work exceptionally well. Comfort, serenity, and quietness really are the main characteristics of this car.
As with the previous Phantom, rear passenger entry is via two beautiful rear-hinged doors. All four doors can be closed at the touch of buttons, and the two rear seats are adjustable with miles of legroom ahead. Two stunning veneered picnic tables can power-fold down, too. It’s a conservative and traditional design, though some of the bespoke options fitted to our test vehicle included a “Mandarin” tertiary colour, which start with a tasteful pinstripe outside the car and go on to classy orange piping and embroidery throughout the cabin. It looks a lot better in person than it sounds, and let’s not forget that the typical Rolls-Royce buyer will spend six-figures in bespoke customizations alone.
Up front, whether it’s your driver or yourself, comfort is right on par with the rear accommodations. The driving position is quite good, with an excellent view up front, highlighted by the Spirit of Ecstasy at the front of the car. The instrumentation is all fantastic to look at, along with an infotainment system that is based on BMW’s iDrive setup. The screen and analog clock are actually protected by a layer of glass, which means your visuals will never appear dusty and are easy to clean. Clients can also opt for personally commissioned artwork to be placed behind this glass; Rolls-Royce will commission art from a variety of artists around the world.
Pricing for our test vehicle is in US dollars, and the “base” price of the longer Phantom is $530,000. Most will opt for many bespoke options though, and some of the highlights fitted to this machine include a rear theater configuration with picnic tables, Ghost Bespoke Clock, Commissioned Collection Umbrella, Central Cool Chamber (refrigerator), ventilated and massaging seats, and more. The acclaimed Starlight Headliner that is now a very well known Rolls-Royce characteristic is standard equipment. The total sticker on this test vehicle crested $628,000 US, which at the time of this writing converts to about $820,000 before taxes or fees. This car can easily cost in excess of $1,000,000 with more customizations.
Whether looking at it from the inside or out, the Phantom VIII is an imposing presence. It’s the utmost display of success and wealth in the automotive landscape, and the outgoing vehicle could be described as excessive. The combination of a new platform, an updated design that should age very gracefully, and powertrain updates that add only more refinement to one of the most serene cars in the world means this is one of the greatest Rolls-Royce models ever to be made. Not only that, but we’d be hard-pressed to argue against this being quite possibly the finest motorcar ever built.