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The eighth-gen Rolls-Royce Phantom is the second of the company's modern era. Is it still a world-beater?

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Change is a concept to be treated carefully when it comes to cars such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Some of it is unavoidable as part of any mid-life-cycle update such as this super-luxury limousine has just been through. But too much of it can look like experimentation; a tacit admission, perhaps, that Goodwood could have done better with the second-generation car, which it launched to the world in 2017, and which went under Autocar's road test scrutiny the year after. And when the car in question represents the pinnacle of everything that a company like Rolls-Royce can achieve, an admission like that would never do.

You can have your Spirit of Ecstasy mascot in solid silver, gold plate or even illuminated frosted glass, and it can be hidden away when the car’s locked.

So this Phantom 'Series II' keeps its changes fairly small. If you've got an eye for detail and know the 2017 car well, you might just spot the external ones. If you're looking at a car in just the right specification, meanwhile, you'll certainly notice the main interior ones. But most important is what's been retained about this world-renowned symbol of unsurpassed wealth and status; what it says about its owner.

Goodwood’s self-proclaimed ‘best car in the world’ was, in its previous generation, the car with which Rolls-Royce revealed the full size and scope of its ambition under BMW Group ownership in 2003. And it was a limousine unlike any other the world had seen.

This is the eighth generation of the Phantom in Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ history, though they haven’t always run concurrently. The current car brought with it an all-new platform in 2017 that, it was claimed, made Rolls-Royce unique as a super-luxury car maker.

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It’s a platform ready to accept the electrified powertrain technologies of the near future and will go on to serve as the basis of every Rolls-Royce model to come. That means it will sever the most important material link between some of Goodwood's recent previous models and other BMW Group cars, a link that has been used as a stick with which to beat Rolls-Royce in recent years.

If the outgoing Phantom was the company’s ‘renaissance car’, this one could be just as significant for what’s underneath it and for what it’s capable of. The Phantom has stood relatively unchallenged at the top of our super-luxury vehicle class for as long as that class has formally existed, combining unmatched extravagance and grandness with supreme comfort and refinement, remarkable drivability and incredible sense of occasion.

It’s time to reveal, then, exactly how groundbreaking this 2.8-tonne, 5.8m, hand-built symbol of wealth and status really is, assessed on city roads and across country; both on the motorway and in the motorway service station car park; and measured in objective terms by satellite timing gear and – perhaps even more important – by the decibel.

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Although both the standard-wheelbase Phantom tested here and the EWB (for extended wheelbase) version are slightly shorter cars overall than those they replace, they are still behemoths by normal saloon car standards. At 5.76m in length, even the standard Phantom is more than half a metre longer than the longest Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

So from the outset, it’s clear that this isn’t a car designed with any fear – or even vague acknowledgement – of the concept of excess. And certainly not when something like such a long wheelbase can contribute so plainly to rolling refinement, in ways that we’ll come on to later.

The platform underneath the Phantom is an all-new, all-aluminium spaceframe dubbed (perhaps with unnecessary pomp) the ‘Architecture of Luxury’, and it makes the car’s body-in-white at once 30% stiffer than the previous Phantom’s was and slightly lighter.

The polished stainless steel ‘Pantheon’ grille is now faired in with the surrounding bodywork for a more contemporary look. Still grand, less dated.

However, Rolls-Royce admits that the fully dressed and trimmed Phantom is heavier than the car it replaces – and deliberately so; because adding chassis technology, refinement measures and on-board luxury features, as Rolls-Royce has, can’t be done without weight coming along as well.

The Phantom has all-independent suspension (double-wishbone front, five-link rear) that sits below standard air springs and adaptive dampers, and alongside both four-wheel steering technology and active anti-roll bars. It carries sound and vibration-deadening measures deployed in ways you won’t find in any other production car, from within the tyres themselves upwards - and this accounts for more than 130kg of mass all on its own.

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The car’s 60deg aluminium V12 engine is also new, displacing precisely the same 6749cc as the old Phantom’s atmospheric V12, but using twin turbochargers to supply 563bhp and 664lb ft of torque from just 1700rpm. Overall, that allows a 25% improvement on the torque-to-weight ratio, which a car like this needs more than most, compared with the old Phantom.

As for the car’s styling, it’s intended to be slightly less formal and marginally more modern than that of the previous Phantom while retaining the defining aristocratic air that marks the car out so clearly.

The famous ‘Pantheon’ radiator grille of Phantoms past has been toned down so as to sit within the surrounding bodywork instead of proud of it, but it also sits higher than on the previous model. As part of the Series II design makeover, it gets a slightly raised upper edge, a new horizontal chrome bar connecting the headlights on each side, and backlit illumination for extra after-dark impact.

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Elsewhere around the car, the Series II revision programme brings the Phantom new headlights (with star-themed decoration), and new alloy wheel designs (you can have milled stainless steel if you're not keen on the disc-style wheels of our test car). Dark chrome trim finishers are also now offered for the car's grille, bonnet and windscreen surround brightwork, in response to customer demand. 

Overall, the latest Phantom takes the most historical inspiration from versions of the 1955-originating Silver Cloud bodied by coachbuilder James Young.


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Whether you’re entering the Phantom by the front or the rear-hinged coach rear door, you open it with a large and tactile stainless steel door handle. Both front and rear doors will now close automatically behind you at the touch of a button (previously, only the Phantom’s rear doors did that).

The same motor mechanism doubles as an intelligent stay for each closure, keeping it at precisely the angle at which you left it on your way in and out, until you’re ready for it to close; as if it were being held by an invisible chauffeur.

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In the interest of thorough testing, I braved a motorway services drive-through. Thankfully, it wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t reverse out when I realised my folly.

Whether Phantom ‘patrons’ (a word Rolls-Royce prefers to owners, customers or drivers) choose to drive or be driven, they’ll settle into an environment of such richness, grandness and comfort that very few other cars in the world really compare. After you stride on board, you step backwards into the car’s back seats, as if being ushered into some vintage carriage, where you’ll find greater leg and head room, as measured by us, than in either a long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class or a Bentley Mulsanne. That, it should be noted, is before the option of adding another 220mm to the car’s wheelbase and associated cabin length with the Phantom EWB, should you want to. Clearly, you’re extremely unlikely to need to.

There are four options available on back seat orientation: a standard rear bench with a folding armrest and a middle seatbelt; two individual seats and a larger fixed centre console; a special two-seat ‘lounge’ rear bench; and a set-up with one of the chairs capable of motoring flat into a ‘sleeping seat’.

Our test car had the standard set-up, but even here the layout felt extraordinarily special, the outer seats being angled inboard slightly so as to make for easier conversation between passengers. It also had regular leather upholstery, though Goodwood has chosen to move with the times and offer an alternative to leather with the Phantom Series II - if only for the rear chairs and surrounding cabin, where a silken textile made partly from bamboo fibres can be had in place of hide.

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Around you when seated in the back, you'll find mirrors integrated into the broad C-pillar panels (so-designed in order to give you somewhere to hide from the paparazzi in transit to your movie premiere), which allow you to check that your evening dress looks neat. You’ll find crystal champagne flutes and a chiller integrated where the ski hatch might otherwise be.

Up front, the driving position is loftier than you may expect, but chiefly only because this is such a large car and needs to be kept in proportion. The driver sits at a steering wheel that’s probably three or four inches larger in diameter than the average saloon’s, whose rim is a little thicker than it was in the 2017 Phantom for an enhanced sense of tactile connection with the vehicle. In front of you is a beautiful glass-encased ‘gallery’ dashboard that includes a fully digital instrument screen garnished with chrome dials.

Rolls-Royce makes bold claims about the authenticity of the Phantom's cabin’s materials, insisting that every knob, button, surface and switch that looks like it’s steel, glass, wood or leather really is the material your eyes tell you it is. And in almost every case, that’s believable. Our test car’s Dark Amber veneer panelling was a particular highlight, especially on its rear picnic tables, and its polished steel air vents likewise.

In a handful of places – the window switches and some of the ventilation controls – what looks like metal doesn’t feel totally convincing as such, but the Phantom’s overarching standard on material quality, both on the eye and under the fingertip, is breathtakingly good.


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Rolls-Royce isn’t a company that rushes to integrate the very latest in-car entertainment systems, principally because treating on-board technology discreetly is key to the production of the brand’s all-important 1920s ‘golden age’ luxury identity. The cabin feels like an oasis away from the strains of the modern world more than anything.

That’s why the car’s BMW iDrive-style rotary infotainment controller comes in a console you can fold away; why the car’s main multimedia screen also motors out of sight when not in use; and why the rear multimedia screens are concealed behind its stowed picnic tables.

Not that the Goodwood manufacturer can afford not to cater for modern tech-savvy tastes – which is why the Phantom comes with an on-board 4G wi-fi hotspot and the full suite of BMW Group web-connected music and media streaming options, and, in our test car’s case, a TV tuner. Series II cars get Goodwood's Rolls-Royce Connected networked software, which integrates with its Whispers control app on your smartphone - and via which you can send destinations to the sat-nav remotely, or check on your car's location and status.

You can, in short, interact with the outside world as much or as little as you want from the back seat of this car.

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Although it has been written on countless occasions that the loudest thing inside the cabin of a moving Rolls-Royce is the ticking of the analogue clock on the fascia, it’s not strictly true here.

That’s not, however, because there’s sufficient noise ingress in the Phantom to drown out such a thing – far from it. It’s because the clock in this car doesn’t ‘tick’ at all. It has no second hand. And even if it did, you can bet it’d be truly in keeping with everything else about this car – by being the quietest-operating in-car time-keeping instrument you’ve ever encountered.

The move to electromechanical steering from hydraulic has been executed almost perfectly.

The Phantom’s mechanical refinement is genuinely incredible and totally exceptional. Sitting in the front seats as we habitually do to measure a car’s noise level, just a few feet from an idling 6.7-litre V12, you’ll genuinely struggle to hear that engine at all. It isn’t that it’s quiet: measured at 34dBA, it’s as good as silent, since the ambient open-air hum of most modern urban environments will register higher than that on a noise meter.

At a 70mph cruise, the Phantom produces just 60dBA of cabin noise, split fairly evenly between distant road noise and gentle wind rustle, with the engine almost inaudible except when it’s called on to knuckle down. Both the Bentley Mulsanne we tested in 2011 and the Mercedes S350 Bluetec we benchmarked in 2013 produced fully 3dBA more (and remember, at that level, half a decibel of extra background hum is enough to be noticeable).

When you open one of the Phantom’s double-glazed windows at that speed, you feel like you might have inadvertently cracked the pressurised cabin door on a cruising private jet. ‘Splendid isolation’ is a concept that could have been coined for this car.

For the driver, the car’s pedals are perfectly metered for spiriting the car into motion in genteel fashion, and stopping it again with totally flawless control and utter discretion. Few cars are as easy to drive smoothly as a Phantom once you’ve grown used to its sheer size.

There is real power and urgent acceleration available too, of course; a progressive swell of pace building gradually, but deliberately, in proportion to the position of your right foot, which gets the big car surging forwards quickly long before the revs rise too high. There is no rev counter here by which to check how hard the engine is working.

In full flight, the car squats on its hindquarters a little, but less than you might think, and raises its voice just loud enough to reveal the immaculate mechanical pedigree of that engine. When required, the Phantom can hit 100mph from rest in less than 12sec, and go from 30mph to 70mph through the gears in just 4.4sec. That’s scarcely believable for a 2.8-tonne super-luxury car – and faster in both cases than the Ford Focus RS we performance tested in 2016.


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If this is the world’s most luxurious car, exactly how – you may be wondering – does it ride?

Your interest may be particularly high if you know that, in sticking to a philosophy it has had since the previous Phantom, the latest version runs on an interesting type of run-flat tyre. The car’s Continental Seal+Silent tyres have foam-lined sidewalls that double as noise isolators, as well as automatically sealing a puncture – and they have much softer sidewalls than conventional run-flats.

So, would you know? Well, over a test that lasted several days and extended for close to 700 miles in all, few testers had much but the utmost praise for the car’s rolling comfort, which is uniquely soft and comfortable. While, as we’ve already covered, the Phantom's noise isolation is better than any big saloon you could compare it with, the car also cradles its body above its wheels with a suppleness that’s doubly clever.

Turn-in handling response is slow but beautifully linear, making the Phantom surprisingly precise on a winding road.

The Phantom prevents you from even being aware of many of the imperfections in the road surface (like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8, it uses a camera-based processor to proactively adjust the suspension in advance of crossing bumps), but it also conjures an almost imperceptibly loping, singularly laid-back, soft and supple rolling character that quite brilliantly seems to represent the idea of the grandest of limousines.

The genius here, then, is not that the Phantom’s suspension can perfectly prevent you from feeling the lumps and bumps you’re travelling over at all – because nothing on four wheels could. It’s more that the supremely supple, ever undetectably adjusting, long-wave gait of the car so perfectly embodies your expectation of how the most luxurious car in the world will feel.

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That success, it should be noted, is recorded in spite of a couple of objective reservations about ride isolation. There's just a hint of excitability from the Phantom's suspension over ruts of a certain lowish profile and highish frequency; the odd thud over the sharpest edges, too. Both traits are common to many air-sprung cars, but in the Phantom, where especially soft ride rates have been chosen, sharper edges can intrude on the car's pervading aura of calm as they clunk through into the rear cabin. Given the car's so quiet the vast majority of the time, when this happens you can't fail to notice.

However, the gentleness of the car’s ride lope feels every bit as opulent in the Phantom’s back seats as it does when you’re sat equidistant between its axles in the front – and it’s no doubt in part because of the distance between those axles that no single bump seems to be able to affect the front and rear wheels simultaneously.

From the driver’s seat, meanwhile, the Phantom is so much more engaging and enjoyable to drive than any car with this brief has any right to be. While it communicates loud and clear, between one road surface and the next, how quickly you should drive it in order to deliver the utmost tranquillity for your passengers, it’s also well capable of keeping its body under a semblance of control at brisk road speeds. This isn’t a ‘one-speed car’.

Best of all, it lets you know in several ways – steering effort, body control, handling response and more – the instant your prevailing speed is taking you beyond that initial zone of effortless and level body control and ride composure, and seldom really begins to wallow or heave to extremes either.

Considering this is the most luxurious car in the world, it tolerates being driven to the limit of grip with good grace. Although most owners won’t care about track handling, they’ll have more than a passing interest in how controllable their car might be when avoiding an accident, or how much reserve is engineered into its cooling or braking capacity. There’s no cause for concern on any of those fronts.

Our scales revealed a nearly perfect weight distribution, which contributes to limit handling that remains adequately controlled (although there’s plenty of body movement) and controllable for as long and as far as its always-on stability control is prepared to be pushed.

For the juvenile and curious among us, there’s no way to make the car oversteer, even in very slippery conditions, unless you go to extreme measures to disable the electronic aids. But in the extreme wet, the car’s sheer stability and capacity to cut through standing water are both mighty.


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‘A competitive price’ isn’t something Rolls-Royce owners expect of their cars, fewer still Phantom owners. Many, we’ve heard – when finally informed how much their bespoke, personally commissioned cars will actually cost – even insist on paying more.

Considering the status this car confers, the wealth of which it speaks, the ultimate in luxury briefs that it serves, and the uncompromising engineering that has been employed to make it, does it matter that it costs £40,000 more than the old Phantom did, or 50% more than its nearest rival? Probably not one jot. The Series II car added £33,000 to the car's entry sticker price, which now sits just below £410,000 – but if you have to ask…

It’s unlikely to do such mileage but a Phantom is forecast to retain 58% after three years and 36k miles – no bad result.

And if you are overly concerned about how much your Phantom will cost to run, or how easy it will be to own, you may be interested to learn that residual value forecaster CAP does indeed quote on the car, and expects it to be worth 55% of its original showroom price after a three-year, 36,000-mile ownership period (our standard terms, as unlikely as they are to reflect Rolls-Royce usage).

Still, Phantom owners, you suspect, are keepers. And, if only because it means they’ll be obliged to stop less frequently on the ride from their city duplex to their country pile, they might be pleased to hear that, driven fairly reservedly, their 563bhp, 2780kg Rolls-Royce can return better than 28mpg when touring, and so cover almost 400 miles between 90-litre fuel tank fills. Sandringham to Windsor and back again, with a quarter of a tank in reserve.

From a usability standpoint, the sheer size of the car does impinge on the variety of journeys and occasions for which you’d use it. But for owners with car collections typically running into double figures, that’s not the hurdle it might otherwise be.

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Sequels are rarely better than the books, films or shows they succeed. And yet the functional superiority of this Rolls-Royce Phantom over its super-luxury peers may be even greater than the margin by which its predecessor led its field.

The Phantom surpasses by some distance what its direct rivals offer in almost every way that’s critical for a genuinely luxurious car: on mechanical refinement, outright space, lavish richness and easy drivability. There is the occasional moment of rudeness from its ride isolation, but it comes only on nastier surfaces, and as a result of Goodwood's preference to make this car feel so waftily opulent on ride comfort the rest of the time - which is a preference whose ultimate effectiveness we're happy to endorse.

The Phantom has an ostentation and sense of occasion far in advance of anything else on four wheels, yet that was true of its predecessor. But it also seems even better aimed at the tastes and preferences of its customer base than its predecessor was; it has an even deeper and more easily accessed reserve of silken performance to plunder; and it has added greater dynamic flexibility and range without having compromised the supreme highlights of its utterly singular and special driving experience.

Thinking like a millionaire remains a challenge for the modern motoring journalist, and I'm not sure I could find a great deal of use for a car as aristocratic as this even if it was mine. But I'd always adore driving it – which says a lot for Goodwood's close dynamic attention to detail, I think.

With the technological advances others are making and the way the car market has changed of late, there is perhaps now just enough room to debate whether this car is quite the very best luxury conveyance in the world, but it remains the grandest - and arguably still the greatest too.

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Rolls-Royce Phantom First drives