From the moment work started on the formative concept sketches of the Phantom, it was crucial that the design team, led by Ian Cameron, had an instinctive feel for what makes the unmistakable Rolls-Royce ‘look’.
We can all appreciate the boldness and confidence of a Phantom II or the flowing grace of a Silver Cloud, but it takes a trained eye to assess those lines and see the science behind the shapes. To this end, Cameron and his team scrutinised the company’s greatest creations in an effort to discover the essence of Rolls-Royce. Its design DNA, if you like.
The iconic grille and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot are obvious identifiers, but there are numerous more subtle elements that have an equally powerful effect. The coach doors and striking use of chrome. The gentle, upswept line of the sill – known internally as the ‘waftability’ line – that creates a powerful, poised stance and makes the car appear to be moving when stationary.
With closer inspection, other themes emerge. A long wheelbase is crucial to achieve the classic Rolls-Royce look, as is a long bonnet, but while the front should be bold and upright with a short overhang, the rear needs to be softer, with the roofline blending into a wide ‘C’ pillar (the rearmost of the car’s vertical roof support posts), to give a flowing appearance. Large wheels add an essential sense of proportion: the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars rule of thumb being the diameter of the wheel and tyre is roughly half the height of the car.
‘Our absolute priority, explains Cameron, was to create a motor car that is clearly a Rolls-Royce even when the radiator grille is not in view.’
Now that you’re armed with the secrets of Rolls-Royce design, you can cast an educated eye over the Phantom, and appreciate how Cameron and his team have fused classic proportions with strikingly modernity to create the definitive 21st century Rolls-Royce.
Sitting on top of the chrome plated aluminium grille, the Spirit of Ecstasy is an iconic mascot recognised the world over. Claude Johnson originally commissioned the sculptor Charles Sykes to produce a mascot worthy of his cars in 1911. Sykes is claimed to have used a woman by the name of Eleanor Velasco Thornton as his model, and the resulting sculpture has graced Rolls-Royce cars ever since.
During the conception of the Phantom it was noted that after so many years of use, the original mould for the Spirit of Ecstasy had become worn, losing much of the delicate detailing. The decision was taken to recast the mould, using state-of-the-art computer technology, and old photographs of Thornton herself, to restore the missing detail and definition to the legendary figurine.
There are two wheel and tyre options: the standard 540mm diameter PAX alloy wheel, which is fitted with Michelin’s PAX run-flat tyres (the world’s first application of the PAX system as standard); and the larger 21inch alloy wheel, which runs on Goodyear’s Extended Mobility Technology (EMT) run-flat tyres. In the unfortunate event of a puncture, either system has the capability to be driven for at least 100 miles at speeds up to 55mph, and negates the need for a spare wheel or compressor.
Both types of wheel are available in a number of finishes, either standard silver, or completely chrome plated. The centre caps can either be chromed or body coloured and feature ingenious self-righting RR logos, which remain upright at all times, are standard feature of either wheel design.
A bold and distinctive feature of the Phantom are the rear-hinged coach doors. While they undoubtedly offer an added sense of occasion when entering and exiting the car, the coach doors also perform an important safety function. Side-impact protection is much-improved, both as a result of rear passengers sitting inside the fixed body structure of the car, and thanks to a significant intrusion reduction over a standard rear door configuration.
The door aperture is tall, which when combined with the Phantom’s flat floor and lack of door sills means it is easier to enter and exit the car. Another benefit is a sense of security for passengers, for when both the front and rear doors are open, they create a protective shield from passing traffic.
The unconventional nature of the coach doors posed our engineers some serious legislative challenges. These were overcome with the use of sophisticated electronically controlled door latches, which work in conjunction with a series of sensors to ensure that the coach door cannot be opened while the car is in motion.
We have also incorporated a closing assistance system for the rear doors, which can pull the door shut from any opening angle, allowing rear passengers to close the door from within the passenger cabin at the touch of a button. There is also a soft-close mechanism that pulls all the doors closed through the final 6mm of travel, minimising effort and noise.
Tuned to deliver a supremely comfortable ride, together with taut, responsive handling, the Phantom uses a custom-developed double wishbone front suspension and sophisticated multi-link rear suspension. Together with air springs and continuous electronic damping control, the Phantom maintains a level stance when laden with passengers and luggage. There is also a driver-selectable ride-height adjustment, which raises the Phantom by 25mm, for additional ramp clearance or when driving on poorly surfaced roads. Once the Phantom exceeds 60km/h in this mode the suspension returns to normal level automatically.
The product of our flawless surface finishing process, every Phantom has a total of 5 layers of primer, paint and high-gloss clear coat for an unrivalled shine and depth of colour.
We use state-of-the-art robots in two dust-free ‘clean rooms’ to apply the paint, as they minimise wastage and achieve a more consistent finish than humanly possible. However, we rely on our highly-skilled paint associates to spray those areas of the body the robots can’t reach, and to complete those tasks that require human dexterity and judgement, such as ensuring scrupulously cleaning the bodies between coats, inspecting the final finish for the most minute imperfections, and polishing the paintwork to a flawless mirror finish.
There are 13 standard paint colours, but this number rises to some 44,000 different hues if you enlist the services of our Bespoke team. It is also possible to have a Phantom painted in a variety of two-tone colour schemes, where the top surface – bonnet, roof and boot – or sides are painted in a tone that contrasts or complements the main body colour.
At the heart of the Phantom is its all-aluminium 6749cc V12 engine. Using the most sophisticated engine technology available, including direct petrol injection, variable valve control and variable camshaft timing, it produces impressive maximum power and torque figures – 453bhp at 5350rpm and 531lb ft/720 Nm at 3500rpm – with peerless refinement and unmatched drivability.
Tuned to deliver Rolls-Royce’s legendary ‘waftability’, it gives 75% of its maximum torque at just 1000rpm, the remaining 25% arriving in one, sustained, linear stream as the driver squeezes the throttle.
All this pulling power is delivered to the road through the rear wheels, via a six-speed automatic gearbox. Controlled by a column selector, the transmission uses shift-by-wire technology, which means there is no mechanical linkage between the selector and the transmission itself. With gearshift points optimised for comfort, and pulling away in 2nd gear, the Phantom is engineered to make silky smooth progress through the gears. Though effortless in delivery, the Phantom’s performance is truly spirited, with a 0-60mph time of just 5.7sec and an electronically governed top speed of 149mph.
Power of different kind is supplied by the Phantom’s electrical system. With a two liquid-cooled alternators and automatic charge management of the main battery and dedicated starter battery (both located beneath the boot floor for optimum weight distribution), you can use the Phantom’s entertainment systems without fear of draining the starter battery and compromising vehicle reliability.
Technology has been at the core of Rolls-Royce’s engineering philosophy for more than a century. It’s appropriate, therefore, that the Phantom is built around a highly advanced aluminium spaceframe – the largest of its kind ever made in the automotive sector.
Though hidden from view, it is one of the undoubted engineering highlights of the car, comprising some 200 extruded aluminium sections and more than 300 parts made of sheet alloy. Highly-skilled craftsmen weld the structure together by hand, completing some 150-metres of weld in 2,000 separate locations.
Designed to be immensely strong, for safety, and rigid, to provide a solid platform around which the rest of the car can be built, the spaceframe weighs just 550kgs – considerably less than if it were made from steel.
Clever design means the spaceframe is adaptable, making it possible to build new Rolls-Royce models without the need for a radical re-design. It’s an extremely advanced and efficient piece of engineering. A good example of this is the Phantom Extended Wheelbase, which gains an extra 250mm of rear legroom without compromising the styling or engineering integrity of the standard car.
An impressive and highly effective finishing detail, it takes some 3-hours for our highly-skilled craftsman to hand-paint a single, 6-metre long coachline. Using special brushes, made from ox and squirrel hair, the coachline must be precisely level and an even 3mm in width.
Traditionally painted in a colour to match the interior trim, many customers now elect to have coachlines – both single and twin – in contrasting colours, and sometimes request additional hand-painted monograms or emblems, to further personalise their cars.
Originally a feature first seen on the Bespoke Edition Phantom Black, and subsequently offered as a part of our Bespoke programme, Visible Exhausts are now available as an option.
A subtle but unmistakable hint at the Phantom’s huge reserves of effortless performance, the integrated twin exhausts add a sense of visual purpose without compromising the whisper quiet nature of the peerless Rolls-Royce V12 engine.
Price this car:
MSRP: $408,000 – $408,000
Invoice: not available yet
Source: Rolls-Royce Press Release