Rolls-Royce Phantom is a 'whole new level of Magic Carpet Ride'

Rolls-Royce hopes to have reinvented luxury road transport (again) with its all-new Phantom, revealed overnight at Mayfair in London.

To be priced around $1 million, the super luxury sedan brings a fresh injection of technology designed to separate it from competitors in an era when exclusivity and luxury are more in demand than ever.

The eighth generation of Rolls-Royce's most famous nameplate is smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient than the one that saw the rebirth of the storied brand in 2003 under current owner BMW.

Sitting on a new scalable aluminium architecture – billed Architecture of Luxury – that will underpin all future Rolls-Royces, the all-new Phantom is claimed to deliver a "whole new level of Magic Carpet Ride" as part of a "reinterpretation" of luxury.

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös describes the new Phantom as the pinnacle for the brand and "the ultimate luxury product in the world".

The V12 uber limo also gets an optional rear sleeper seat, a miniature art gallery inside and cameras that 'read' the road as part of an intense focus on first class luxury.

It's all about the comfort

Key to the appeal of any Rolls-Royce is how it wafts over the road.

For the all-new Phantom there is a new generation self-levelling adjustable air suspension system, helping keep the body flat while absorbing anything from potholes and road joins to pesky speed humps.

Like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Phantom now incorporates cameras that scan the road ahead, proactively preparing the suspension for any imperfections before the car gets there, rather than reacting once there.

Advertisement

Rolls-Royce calls the system Flagbearer, conjuring images of the men who once ran ahead of vehicles waving red flags when cars were a rarity.

Waftability

"Adequate" was once the phrase used to describe the power of a Rolls-Royce.

These days it's more precise, with the latest iteration dishing out 420kW and 900Nm, the latter produced at just 1700rpm, contributing to the "waftability" the brand loves.

The new generation V12 employs turbochargers for the first time, indicative of a shift towards forced induction by manufacturers to reduce emissions and improve efficiency.

The capacity is the classic Rolls-Royce 6.75 litres and it's connected to an eight-speed transmission produced by German manufacturer ZF.

As with other Rollers the transmission is linked to GPS satellite-navigation, able to monitor upcoming curves and undulations and shift into an appropriate gear ahead of time.

Shhhhhh…

Serenity is crucial to any Rolls-Royce and the Phantom achieves a new level of refinement, according to the brand.

It's claimed to be "the most silent motor car in the world", being around 10 percent quieter than the old Phantom at 100km/h.

The newfound quietness comes courtesy of a whopping 130kg of sound deadening that includes double skin alloy in the floor and between the engine and occupants.

There's also double glazed windows and foam and felt layers in the body to shield out everything from the roar of the tyres running over the road to the thrum of the V12 engine.

Even the hefty 22-inch tyres on the Phantom have been reinvented, incorporating a layer of foam designed to "wipe out tyre cavity noise".

It's got the look

The new Phantom has a look reminiscent of the old but every panel is new with a cleaner aesthetic.

The rear doors are still rear hinged and can be opened and closed electronically at the press of a button.

The distinctive toothy Pantheon grille (made of hand-polished stainless steel) is larger, with the flying lady (or Spirit of Ecstasy) now a couple of centimetres higher on the enormous bonnet.

New laser headlights blast light 600 metres ahead – perfect for keeping an eye out for roos.

Inside, there's a labyrinth of tech housed within the lashings of wood, leather and metal – as well as the "startlight headliner", now bigger than ever.

But designers have worked to keep the digital luxury out of sight "until required".

A broad central infotainment screen is accompanied by a head-up display, each similar to those in top-end BMWs.

Classical dials are projected on a customisable 12.3-inch instrument display that incorporates the iconic power gauge in lieu of a tachometer.

Size counts

Whether you choose the regular Phantom or the big daddy EWB – or extended wheelbase, with another 22cm of rear legroom – you're buying plenty of metal.

While it's slightly shorter than the model it replaces – by 77mm and 109mm respectively – the new Phantom is still comfortably the longest passenger car on the road. The regular Phantom stretches 5762mm and the EWB almost six metres, at 5982mm. To put that in perspective, the Holden Commodore large car is less than five metres long.

The Phantom's back doors are hinged at the rear to make for easier ingress and egress and there are umbrellas built in, just in case.

As part of a vast customisation program owners can choose between individual rear seats, a lounge seat or a new "sleeping seat". Or you can opt for your own private back seat mini bar, complete with whisky glasses, decanter, champagne flutes and fridge.

Up front there's a glass fascia built into the dash, something designers say can be used to display artwork. Rolls-Royce plans to work with renowned artists the world over to commission bespoke pieces for customers.

Competitive set

Rolls-Royce doesn't consider cars as the only rival for the Phantom.

Indeed, at around $1 million there are few luxury cars that come close to the Phantom, although its most natural competitor is former sister brand Bentley (now owned by Volkswagen).

Instead, Rolls-Royce sees other luxury items as the Phantom's main competitor.

Maybe a helicopter, private yacht or exclusive piece of jewellery; basically anything that could relieve the uber wealthy of some pocket money.

As for pricing, that will be announced closer to the car's 2018 on sale date. The current Phantom sells from $855,000, well down on the $1,075,000 it once sold for.

Future thinking

Despite the tech injection there's more tradition in the Phantom than innovation.

It still slurps petrol and is still made of metal.

While there's no mention in the media material released as part of the lavish reveal, expect the Phantom to get the latest crash avoidance and semi-autonomous technology as fitted to various BMWs – the source of much of the Phantom's hardware and software beneath the skin.

Although, as some have pointed out, Rolls-Royce has had autonomous tech for the best part of a century: the chauffeur in the front seat.

Rolls-Royce is also working on hybrid and electric technology, something at the heart of parent company BMW.

In 2011 it revealed the 102EX (or experimental) motor show concept car. It was a one-off version of the previous Phantom that eschewed its V12 engine for batteries and two electric motors (producing a combined 290kW and 800Nm).

More recently the 103EX concept teamed autonomous tech with electric drive.

Expect some of that electric thinking to make it into the Phantom throughout the 10-plus-year lifespan of Phantom VIII.

51698009