The Phantom is not only the ultimate status symbol, it’s the Holy Grail of handcrafted luxury automobiles. Its decadent design is derived from an aluminum structure that rides atop an air suspension for euphoric comfort. Prodigious power is provided by a 563-hp twin-turbo V-12 paired with an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. An interior tailored for kings can even be adorned with a custom-artwork dash. Its dizzying array of tech includes night vision and a distinct laser-light system.
The Phantom VIII is the first car to sit on Rolls-Royce’s new aluminum spaceframe platform, officially known as the Architecture of Luxury, which will underpin all future models including the upcoming Project Cullinan SUV. The exterior design has undergone a less revolutionary transformation when compared with the outgoing model, gaining more curves and a radiator grille that integrates into the front of the car better than the last Phantom’s freestanding chrome Parthenon. But despite some modest reduction in exterior dimensions, the Phantom VIII has lost none of the VII’s ability to shock and awe, especially in some of the snazzy two-tone paint finishes that Rolls-Royce chose for the cars used for the media launch in Switzerland.
Switching to the driver’s seat immediately emphasizes just how tall the Phantom is, an effect exacerbated by its high windowsills. Motoring the seat to a position that gives a good view forward to the distant edge of the hood—and a chance to ogle the proffered backside of the Spirit of Ecstasy—puts your eyes close to where they’d be in a full-size SUV. The steering column is short on adjustment for rake, encouraging an arms-out, chauffeur-like driving position rather than an unseemly slouch, and the seats definitely are the sort you sit on rather than in.
Although the looks are an evolution of the Phantom VII's styling, there are some striking features that immediately set the new generation apart. Up front, the Phantom VIII has the largest version of the iconic Pantheon grille ever fitted to a Rolls-Royce. Unlike its predecessors, the grille is now fully integrated into the front of the car, making it feel part of the car rather than furniture bolted to it. The front is taller and steeper, and the larger body panels at the front contribute a bold, aggressive face.
Much of that aggression softens toward the rear, though, as coach lines and creases alike fade to nothing, leaving a smoother, more elegant shape. This helps the new Phantom transition to a less bulky back end where its boat-tail-style body tapers into a less imposing rear.
Overall, simplicity and reductionism have been the watchwords to create a cleaner and less fussy exterior, whilst still looking imposing.
At the sharp (but blunt) end sits a new twin-turbocharged 6.8-liter V-12, developed from the 6.6-liter unit fitted to the more modest Wraith and Ghost. The new engine matches the 563-hp output of its fractionally smaller sister and represents a 110-horse improvement on the outgoing Phantom’s naturally aspirated 12. But the real headline is the 664 pound-feet of torque—an increase of 133—available from just 1700 rpm. This is marshaled through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and sent exclusively to the rear wheels. Engineers considered offering all-wheel drive but discounted it as not being sufficiently refined. To ensure that things don’t get too exciting, the torque output is limited in first and second gears.
When it comes to the interior, you might find that, somehow, Rolls managed to really bring some serious change into the fold for this generation and has made the Phantom more modern than ever. The interior of the Phantom VII was really more of an acquired taste with its overly flat and uneventful face, those weird, minivan-line glass panels in the A-Pillars, and a center console that reminds of something you might see in a van. It’s not that it wasn’t elegant, it was just really dated for a model with this kind of credentials. But, that problem is no more, as Rolls really did go above and beyond. Ultimately, this reorganization and general refinement has allowed for a much cleaner look while everything is much closer together and easier to access by both the driver and the front passenger.
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