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Rolls Royce Phantom VIII: Driven

The best car in the world now gets even better

The Spirit of Ecstasy
The Spirit of Ecstasy now sits higher than before

A twin-turbo’d V12 ! Good grief!

This new motor is based more on the Ghost rather than the old Phantom, though it continues to displace the traditionally vast six and three quarter litres. Power is up to 563bhp though the figure to talk about is this. 900Nm. Nine hundred! A mountain that peaks at just 1700rpm. And the motor is so smooth it ticks over at just 650rpm.

Rolls has always described performance as ‘adequate’ and there’s no such thing as a rev counter, the space taken by a Torque Reserve gauge. But there’s such a massive store of power it’d be a shame not to quote figures, clocking 5.2 seconds to 100kmph with a top speed of 250kmph.

The cabin
The cabin features the finest materials and the best craftsmanship

The Perfect ride

Now here’s the really clever bit. Because the dampers and even the anti-roll bars are electric in theory, it can go to full stiffness before the throttle even goes all the way to the carpet and there is zero body roll. But that would just make everybody sick with g-forces. No, the Phantom has been engineered to squat on the rears and deliver this sensation of taking off for the horizon – you feel the incredible build up of power, a giant hand of torque pushing you along relentlessly and inexhaustibly, but it never makes your stomach queasy. That would not be, umm, dignified. And, once you account for the 2.6 tonne weight and the 6-metre length, the Phantom VIII does handle. New to the mix is rear-wheel steering and by turning the rear wheels (by up to 3 degrees) it literally shrinks the car. Okay doesn’t shrink it to a hatchback size, but it makes it surprisingly easy and eager to drive round tight twisty roads. And the gearbox is GPS-enabled, meaning it knows when a corner is coming up and downshifts in anticipation.

It’s a completely different experience than, say, a V12 supercar, that’d leave you breathless and tripping on adrenaline. The Phantom, you drive it with your fingertips. Rolls drivers are actually taught not to slide their palms on the steering wheel, that’s too noisy! It glides from corner to corner, the 22-inch tyres generating astonishing grip (21s are standard), the almost SUV-like driving position affording great visibility, the Phantom leaving you wide-eyed but also calm, relaxed and astonished at what it can do. The V12 motor emits a faint growl that hints at a nuclear reactor somewhere in the near vicinity. On one of the world’s great driving roads I discover another, and equally enjoyable, side to our oft-used ‘The Thrill of Driving’ mantra.

 

The Parthenon grille
The Parthenon grille is now taller and wider than before

“No one needs a Rolls-Royce”

And for emphasis Richard Carter, the global communications boss reiterates, “not one single person needs a Rolls-Royce”. It’s true. A hire car will get you to the airport as quickly, if not quicker. But there’s nothing in the world that delivers the sensation of riding, or more appropriately wafting, in the Phantom. The Phantom is not just any car, it is the car. No longer does Rolls-Royce lay claim to making the best car in the world, but I suspect that’s because there no longer is any debate about it. The Phantom is the Rolls-Royce of motor cars. Heading to the airport, gazing at the Starlight, listening to the sounds of silence, I’m struck by a thought that makes me sad. The Phantom VIII has been 14 years in the making. Does that mean another 14 years till the finest luxury car in the world is rebooted?

 

 


About the author

Sirish Chandran

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