Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has taken the wraps off the much-anticipated new Phantom. This eight-generation motor car has been given a bespoke new architecture, seen a complete redesign replete with a personalized gallery and promises to be the most technologically advanced car in the British luxury maker’s portfolio.
There has been a great deal of hype leading up to this unveil, for the Phantom represents the very height of motoring luxury. Its custodian is aware of the pressures in presenting a product that performs this task for the modern patron. Yes, there are more expensive, flashier cars on the market, yet since its introduction by Sir Henry Royce in 1925, the Phantom has been the ultimate choice of transport for the world’s most influential, powerful and glamorous.
“We started this project five years ago,” Giles Taylor tells me as I meet him for a preview ahead of the global reveal. To set the mood, the creative director for Rolls-Royce took his designers to Westbourne Grove in my neighborhood of Notting Hill, the pretty west London street lined with pastel colored Victorian homes, independent shops and boutiques. He removed the team from the safety-net of the automotive world to engage in a dialogue with the broader creative community. Here they met with architects, designers, craftsmen – people who represent the world of modern British luxury. They looked at buildings, visited exhibitions, sat in local cafés and mulled over creative ideas. Then they returned to Goodwood and began sketching.
Designing the new car required an acute understanding of the complex world of modern luxury for the Rolls-Royce’s highly discerning customers.“It had to have an effortless elegance, be the epitome of style, have great poise, a gentlemanly sense of fair play,” offers Taylor. He pictures the sort of sophisticated guest who, long after they have departed a party, leaves a distinct impression.
At the core is a new all-aluminum spaceframe architecture, which Rolls is calling the “architecture of luxury”. Some 30 per cent more rigid than the one it replaces, it ensures the car delivers a superior “magic carpet ride” – generous cabin space, driver and occupant comfort, perfect acoustics – qualities that customers have come to expect of their Phantoms. The next Ghost, Wraith and Dawn will ride on this very architecture too. The two-layer glazing around the car, more than 130kg of sound insulation and the use of high-absorption materials should also add to the feeling of sanctuary inside.
The new car is classic Phantom in sculpture. From the side view it retains the 2:1 proportions, with a short front and long rear overhang, an upright front and a flowing rear. The side frame finisher is a large single piece of soft hand-polished stainless steel to accentuate the elegant stance of the car and preserve the wide rear area’s sense of privacy. On the extended wheelbase model, a single polished stainless steel strip is placed on the sill to distinguish the larger model.
“The side view design theme of Phantom recalls the elegance of Phantom V,” explains Taylor. “By separating the front wing line from the waist line, we introduce a sense of movement and this line circles back under the car inferring a lighter, fleetness of foot.”
The new grille has been sculpted with hand-polished stainless steel. It is integrated into the surrounding bodywork, sits a little higher than on the previous model as does the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot – elements that are influenced by the futuristic 103EX concept study. The new headlamp graphic is frosted inside and houses a ring of daytime driving lights as well as an advanced lazerlight system that casts light of up to 600 meters ahead at night.
At the back, the design evokes the beautiful flowing rears of the 1950’s and 60’s Phantoms. The rear glass, defined by a crafted stainless steel frame, is more raked and the rear lines are sleek, whilst a subtle scallop on the rear roof line hovers above the occupants for added headroom. The jewel-like back lights have the double RR badges etched and they crease in the bootlid to join the more pronounced stainless steel boot lid finisher. The wheels are essential to the Phantom’s proportions and at 22-inches, these are the largest alloys ever employed on a Rolls-Royce.
Exterior design is important of course, but the Phantom is rarely self-driven so it is the cabin that needs to deliver the ultimate luxurious environment. The sense of effortlessness of entry is essential to this car, says Taylor. He calls his approach “the embrace”, a concept informed by the 103EX where technology is hidden until summoned; spaces and surfaces are clean so the eye rests on the customized art gallery.
“The Gallery” is a novel idea debuting on this car. Spanning the width of the dashboard, it offers customers the chance to curate their own exhibition – it is a stage for self-expression. The glass is a standard on all models and sits on the fascia behind which you can commission what you wish – from a painting, to sculptures made of feathers, jewels, all of which are meticulously tested to make sure they are compliant with automotive standards.
The chauffeur would still be met with the driving functions and a digital screen emerges when the engine switches on, rising in the center and, bar the US because of regulations, vanishing when off. The rear seats are stacked like a theatre so the back occupants can have full view of the artwork.
Rolls sees this as a new approach to personalization whilst simultaneously highlighting the marque’s involvement with the arts. It also adds an analogue touch to the car. In the preview, I saw work in collaboration with a goldsmith jeweler, a renowned Chinese artist and a nautical designer. One artist recreated the impression of silk in water with one single piece of metal twisted, milled and molded to look like it is floating. It really does add another element to the often technical motor car interior.
As one would expect from a Rolls-Royce Phantom, the interior environment is refined with all elements crafted from the finest materials. The seats are newly sculpted and hand-crafted to deliver extra comfort, the famous Eames Lounge Chair, a symbol of mid-century modern, informs the sweep of wood paneling across the back of the front seats and the J-Class sailing yacht was referenced as a design inspiration for the armrest. Other features include high-gloss, tactile wood paneling that can be commissioned for the door interiors, center consoles, dashboard and picnic tables, as well as the largest “starlight headliner” ever witnessed in a Rolls-Royce.
The new Phantom also benefits from a completely new engine. With a mission to create the quietest motor car in the world, a silent engine was required and that meant more low-end output at lower revs to ensure that silence. So expect a new, 6.75-liter V12 petrol engine with 563bhp teamed with eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
“As this next chapter in the Rolls-Royce story opens, the new Phantom points the way forward for the global luxury industry,” says chief executive office Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “It is a creation of great beauty and power, a dominant symbol of wealth and human achievement. It is an icon and an artwork that embraces the personal desires of each of our individual customers.”
The new Phantom is expected to be priced around $450,000 (£340,000) when it goes on sale in late 2017.