- Published: Friday, 28 July 2017 10:14
The all-new Rolls-Royce flagship is the most silent car in the world, but its arrival makes a grand statement about the nature of luxury
ROLLS-ROYCE HAS taken the wraps off the all-new Phantom. It’s the eighth car to carry the name, and its introduction is a reboot of sorts for BMW-owned Rolls: its aluminium “Architecture of Luxury” platform is going to underpin all future Rolls-Royce models.
That means Rolls-Royce will no longer use BMW platforms for its cars, something it made a point of mentioning in a pointed swipe at arch-rival, Bentley.
“Quite contrary to how other so-called luxury manufacturers are trying to realise economies of scale by sharing platforms with mass market manufacturers, Rolls-Royce concluded that the future of true luxury lies in true small-volume manufacture of a dedicated ‘Architecture of Luxury’,” the company said in its press release.
Bentley builds a number of models on architecture from Volkswagen, its corporate owner.
The new approach was decided on after a bit of soul-searching on Rolls' part. “This realisation was a moment of clarity about the destiny of Rolls-Royce,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “Every one of our customers – each a connoisseur of luxury in the extreme – were asking for something more individual to them, not less.”
Rolls-Royce will build Project Cullinan, an upcoming off-roader model, on the new architecture. The next Ghost (a smaller limo than the Phantom), Wraith (a coupe) and Dawn (a convertible) will also be based on the new Phantom’s structure.
The Phantom debuts with an all-new, twin-turbo 6.75-litre V12 under the bonnet. Turbocharging was brought in to add low-end grunt, and the engine generates 900Nm of torque at just 1,700rpm. It’s good for 570 horsepower, and hauls around a body that is both lighter and 30 percent more rigid than its predecessor.
The eight-speed auto is satellite-aided, meaning the car uses GPS and map data to anticipate corners and choose gears accordingly.
Meanwhile, the air suspension system uses cameras to scan the road ahead so that the active dampers can adjust themselves before the car hits them, for a smoother ride.
Rolls-Royce says the new Phantom is the most silent car in the world; apparently the first time engineers tested it, it was so quiet they thought their instruments were out of calibration. Rolls-Royce put a whipping 130kg of sound insulation into the car to keep the noise down.
The car uses only double-glazed windows all ’round.
Finer details abound, such as switchgear made only of metal. Rolls-Royce says special attention was paid to how the door handles feel in the client’s hand, since it’s their first point of physical contact with the car.
Inside, there are allusions to modern and industrial art. The front passenger seats were inspired by the 1956 Eames Lounge Chair.
The dashboard is now an expanse of full-width glass that Rolls-Royce calls “The Gallery”. One half is for instruments, of course, but the portion in front of the passenger has been set aside to let owners display small works of art.
“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, the director of design for Rolls-Royce. “Now, our clients will be able to do the same.”
The Gallery also houses the analogue clock (which Rolls-Royce half-jokingly says is the loudest thing you’ll hear in the car), and the item is customisable.
Arguably, the best seats are in the back. As before, an Extended Wheelbase model comes with more space in the back, but the new Phantom comes with four wheel steering to make it more manoeuvrable at low speed, and more stable at high speed.
A number of seat configurations are available but the priciest of these is likely to be the fixed rear centre console. It’s been improved by incorporating a drinks cabinet with whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and a cooling box.
Rolls-Royce says “effortless conversation” is helped by careful angling of the rear seats to ensure that occupants are able to talk to each other without straining their necks. The better for closing that merger or acquisition deal, one supposes.
Order books for the new Phantom are open, with local launch plans still in the works. Given that each car has a high chance of being made-to-order, it seems unlikely you’ll see one on the streets until 2018. The Singapore price for a Rolls-Royce Phantom will have two commas in it, as before, but the bespoke nature of each Phantom means that what owners eventually pay will vary wildly from car-to-car. Still, as the old saying goes, if you had to ask...