Ah, the Grand Dame of Crewe, now Goodwood, where the new Phantom is crafted. This car’s Spirit of Ecstasy hood emblem can be lowered into the grille by pressing a button on the instrument panel.
The New Phantom is an imposing thing. It bears the hallmark of grand old Rollers in its proportions, but it is a car with a decidedly German sense of purpose. Note the strong roofline, which increases in depth as it bows back to the C-pillar. Also, the fact that the body appears widest at its bottom is a clue to this car’s country of origin.
Short overhangs, 31-inch diameter tires, and an exaggerated frontispiece signal that this is a car for the masters of the universe. Some specifics: 140-inch wheelbase; 229.7-inch overall length; 78.3-inch width; 64.3-inch height. Mere mortals need not apply.
Looks normal enough, this analog clock, but engage iDrive via the controller, and the wood panel in which it sits swivels to reveal a monitor. The monitor displays vehicle settings, DVD navigation, television, and telephone information.
The Phantom’s driving position suggest that this is a driver’s car, as its high seating position (comparable to a Range Rover‘s) is meant to give its driver a feeling of authority over what is truly a massive device. And despite packing all the electronic frippery of BMW‘s 7-series, the Rolls’ cabin is uncomplicated looking, even old-fashioned, with its eyeball vents, column shift, and numerous, traditional Sterling-plated organ pulls. Betraying its kinship with the 7-series is a key-fob/push-button start assembly cribbed from the big BMW.
A view though the rear-hinged coach door onto the closest thing to a sofa in a modern car. The coach doors allow for a graceful, walk-in entry and egress, with the highest point of the roof at the door’s leading edge. Once inside the rear passenger compartment, the doors close via push-button mounted on the C-pillar. That C-pillar is wide enough, and the rear seat positioned aft enough, for the passengers’ head to be completely concealed by it. The art-deco mirror next to the passengers’ heads is provided for subtle glances at your $250 razor cut. Deep-pile Lambswool mats are standard.
The Phantom shows engine performance in a far subtler way than would a mere tachometer. The Power Reserve gauge to the left of the speedometer shows how much engine power remains. Therefore, the gauge needle swings from right to left as power is applied, not vice versa. Cruising at 100 mph, the engine still has 75 percent of its total power capability on tap.
BMW‘s controversial iDrive system from its 7-series sedan reappears here, the controlled deploying from its cubby of leather and maple (or any other of six different “bookmatched” veneers). Here, though, the iDrive controller is finished in sterling, rather than the techno satin-nickel of the 7-series.
Using the Classic (since 1970) 6.75-liter displacement, the Rolls-BMW 48-valve V-12 employs gasoline direct injection technology and variable valve timing and lift. The results are staggering: 453 hp, and 531 lb-ft of torque, 75 percent of it (413 lb-ft) produced at idle, for a 0-60-mph sprint in 5.7 seconds. Fuel economy of 25.7 mpg is astounding for a car that gives most SUVs feelings of inadequacy. The V-12 runs to the rear wheels though a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission.
Push on this knob, and a standard-equipment umbrella springs from the Phantom’s rear door. The location of the umbrella was chosen to allow a chauffeur to emerge from the driver’s seat and in one swift motion, pull the umbrella from the electrically opening rear-hinged rear door and open it over his passenger’s head. The umbrella canopy is Teflon-coated to ensure that it won’t rot, even when stored wet.
Quoth the press kit: “Climate comfort glass, which reduces heat build up by reducing infrared radiation penetrating the cabin, is used throughout with heating elements embedded not only in the rear window but also in the front side windows for efficient and silent demisting.”
Tiny taillights, huge trunk (16.2 cubic feet, or, larger than an X5‘s) are part of Rolls-Royce tradition. A closer look at the inner sill of the opening reveals that this is no ordinary steel behemoth. Those bumps are rivets, as in aluminum, as in the whole car-except, oddly, the trunklid-is made of alloy. This adds rigidity as it reduces weight.