There’s a new king-of-the-hill, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos being named the world’s richest man, ahead of long-time moneybags and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. With Forbes estimating his fortune at $90 billion – even with free shipping – we just might have the perfect car for the online entrepreneur.
After a surprisingly long, 14-year run, Rolls-Royce is finally giving its flagship Phantom “saloon” car a complete makeover, the new model being unveiled at the British marque’s Goodwood factory today.
Few cars have been around as long, the original Phantom debuting way back in 1925, and with its waterfall grille and “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament, few are as readily recognizable. Only the eighth version of the Phantom since the nameplate was launched 92 years ago, the new model offers plenty of lavish features designed to appeal to the world’s richest and most discriminating motorists – from the new 6.75-liter V-12 engine to the “Embrace” it offers rear seat passengers.
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As you’d expect of the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII, it is “completely new,” explains Chief Executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös, not just a gussied up version of the old sedan. Calling it “a dominant symbol of wealth and human achievement,” Müller-Ötvös declared the new Phantom perfectly suited for “a connoisseur of luxury in the extreme.”
How extreme, Rolls-Royce isn’t saying yet, but the outgoing model starts at about $420,000 – and that’s assuming a buyer was willing to get a basic Phantom. Well over half of the vehicles it sells undergo some level of customization, according to a Rolls spokesman, even more when you’re talking the flagship Phantom. Some buyers have gone to radical extremes – a Mideast sheik installing telescoping rear seats making it easy to go bird hunting without technically having to step out of the car. Such touches have pushed prices up towards the million dollar mark.
If you’re big on dollars but short on ideas, no problem, Rolls already has some options in mind, starting with what it has dubbed “The Gallery.” It is, the maker explains, “an unprecedented new concept in luxury. Reinterpreting the motor car’s dashboard for the first time in 100 years, patrons will be able to commission a truly individual work of art that spans the width of The Gallery in their New Phantom.”
At first glance, you might not realize this is an all-new Phantom. The basics are quite similar, starting with the almost vertical grille and front fascia, capped by that signature hood ornament. The new Phantom VIII also retains the familiar suicide-style rear doors and large rear pillar.
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If anything, some of the design cues are lifted from last year’s Rolls-Royce 103X concept, though unlike that prototype, and the gen-7 Phantom, the new model’s grille flows smoothly into the surrounding body panels. And there are a few subtle details you might miss, starting with the ring of daytime running lights that surround new laser headlamps. That system is able to project lighting almost 2,000 feet ahead of the vehicle.
Under the skin, the 2018 Phantom adopts a new, lightweight aluminum spaceframe that Rolls is calling the “Architecture of Luxury.” It will be used as the platform for all of the British marque’s future models.
Power, meanwhile, now comes from an all-new, twin-turbo 6.75-liter V-12 that will deliver 563 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic. One of the more interesting details revealed by Rolls is that the ZF gearbox has been linked to the saloon’s navigation system to aid in automatically selecting the right gear to be in at any moment.
Like so many of today’s high-line cars, the Phantom VIII attempts to strike a balance between traditional comfort and a more high-tech interpretation of luxury.
Consider the feature the company calls “The Embrace.” In a statement announcing the new model, Rolls explains that, “As the patron settles in to the car, an assistant or valet steps forward and lightly touches the sensor on the door handle so it whispers closed of its own accord, enveloping the occupant in ‘The Embrace.’”
The new Rolls flagship also tries to strike a balance between being a driver’s car and the pinnacle of chauffeur-driven elegance. A significant number of customers will spend much of their time in the palatial back seat where they can choose from either “lounge” seats, individual buckets or a “sleeping seat” package.
The new Phantom will feature the requisite navi and infotainment technology, a WiFi hotspot and a broad array of driver assistance technologies, such as a surround-view camera, infrared night vision and more. There’s also a large, high-resolution head-up display for the driver.
The original Rolls-Royce Phantom I debuted in 1925 and was the product of a secret program that the company codenamed “Eastern Armoured Car.” In the wake of World War I, it was meant to suggest a military vehicle, possibly based on what Lawrence of Arabia was known to rely on when he wasn’t riding a camel through the Arabian desert. With its 7.7-liter straight-six engine capable of a steady 80 mph, it was an instant hit.
While Rolls has offered a variety of different models and nameplates since then, none have come to symbolize the brand quite like the Phantom. And the new model will remain its flagship going forward.
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