Rolls Royce Phantom VIII: Driven

The best car in the world now gets even better

Rear seats

Inside ‘The Embrace’ you are cocooned from everything

The Gallery

“You can now commission art for your car,” says design director Giles Taylor. Not in the ‘art car’ sense of getting an artist to paint your car – of course you can do that too! – but actually installing a piece of art in the Phantom. The traditional cliff-face of a dashboard has been reimagined with a seamless swathe of toughened glass stretching the entire width of a bulkhead. The analogue dials are replaced by a 12.3-inch TFT colour screen with LED backlighting displaying virtual instruments and readouts, at a resolution so high you cannot see the individual pixels. Allied to the BMW Group’s electrical architecture, that is geared up to accept future software updates, it addresses the biggest criticism of the outgoing Phantom, that the tech felt out of date. In the centre of the dash is the infotainment screen operated by a variation of BMW’s iDrive (Taylor baulks at the idea of gesture control) and the rest of the dash is, well, whatever you want it to be. Even the infotainment screen slides out of view for you to admire whatever it is that you installed in The Gallery – porcelain roses, murals on silk inspired by the placid waters of Lake Lucerne, wood work if you’re a traditionalist, your DNA in 3D, printed in solid gold to remind you of your own greatness, knickers of your current muse, you’re only limited by your imagination. Choose wisely though, if you get bored the Phantom will have to be sent back to Goodwood to get rid of all her traces.

The Cliff face

The dash can now be commissioned with an artwork of the buyer’s choice

Personalisation is but a given and no two Phantoms will ever be alike. In fact there won’t be a thing so mundane as a price list in India – after all there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ Phantom. Of course prices will go up, by around 15 per cent, to start at 9-10 crore rupees but a crore here or there is hardly going to matter when Phantom owners live in their own 40-storey buildings. And speaking of customers, here’s a statistic to wilt the mind – the average Rolls-Royce owner is the youngest in the BMW Group, younger than BMW, Mini and even BMW Motorrad. Over dinner at a two Michelin-starred restaurant (what else?) Taylor reveals the average age is now closer to 39 thanks to newly minted Chinese billionaires. Explains the purple shade of the car I’m driving that almost becomes black depending on the light. Oh, we also discovered that Rolls-Royce makes fewer cars than Ferrari and Taylor wants his cars to become even more expensive, even more exclusive.

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