Rolls-Royce Phantom SWB 6.75 V12 Review
Eighth Masterpiece

Words: CW Wong - Pictures: CW Wong & Ethan Choo
28 Oct 2019
 

The exterior design is as purposeful and commanding as ever, but it is now even more delicate, precise and detailed

The new Rolls-Royce Phantom’s marketing tagline is “Rules Rewritten”. Being the most formal of Rolls-Royce cars and indeed, probably the most formal car out there, Rolls-Royce was keen to loosen the collar a little with this new generation - the 8th of a long and illustrious bloodline. It had to, in order for the super luxury saloon to stay relevant in this age, where it risked feeling old hat with its gargantuan proportions and the decline of interest in saloons in general. So the branding video featured a muddied Phantom being hosed down, a surfboard perched on its roof and a disco party in the rear seats.

Improbable as those scenarios may be, thoughts of the car being too stiff at the upper lip should be put to rest. Today’s Phantom owner could very well be a successful young entrepreneur running his or her technology company from a little shophouse at Keong Saik Road. The clientele has certainly changed and the car has evolved with this in mind.

It is utterly modern and a thorough update of the last Phantom that stayed in production for an astounding 14 years. The exterior design is as purposeful and commanding as ever, but it is now even more delicate, precise and detailed. The panel gaps are now so razor thin that you would scarcely believe the car is still handbuilt.

For me the largest leaps forward have been made to the front and rear design. The headlights are almost angelic in nature, containing laser lights that shine 600 metres down the road. The famous front grille, still made from hand-polished stainless steel, is now integrated into the surrounding bodywork, resulting in a cleaner design. The rear is now more interesting to look at with softer lines and a more shapely tail light; our test unit even came with twin exhaust pipes! 

The side profile is instantly recognisable as a Phantom with its thick C-pillars for privacy and the trademark coach doors. Although the car is already 5.76 metres long in standard wheelbase, I reckon the roofline would flow even better in the extended wheelbase version. It’s a similar story with the 21” wheels; the design is very much capable of carrying off even larger wheel sizes. Overall, Rolls-Royce has kept to the formula, yet made a very tasteful and contemporary uplift to the looks to appeal to new audiences.  

Inside

Being in a Phantom is always guaranteed to be an occasion. It is no exception in the 8th generation. You already feel special when the coach doors open to reveal the interior in stunning detail. The doors close electrically with the touch of a button and you find yourself surrounded by an unfamiliar silence, almost eerie - where is the engine? - and with it your other senses are heightened to appreciate other parts of the lavish interior.

It seems like Rolls-Royce took pains to ensure that almost every inch inside is made of high-quality materials, either fine leather or substantial metal. The fittings are so delicate that I even wondered for a second if the crown of my watch would graze any of the buttery leather.

The real crowd pleaser is what Rolls-Royce calls ‘The Gallery’. Lining much of the front dashboard at eye level, it is like a miniature diorama of the art exhibitions at the National Gallery. The space is protected behind glass and offers a blank canvas for owners to customise. We are told artists have been commissioned to produce priceless works to be placed in The Gallery, and quite literally almost anything else that suits one’s fancy is possible. It is a great idea and something ground-breaking for car interior design. 

Other more conventional features include a drinks cabinet with whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and a cool box at the rear seats. These might pair well with a takeaway from a hawker centre, consumed on the picnic tables that fold down electrically from the front seat backs.

Our press car is specified with “Immersive Seating”, which has a fixed middle console between individual ventilated and massage seats, for even more privacy. But there is even more to it. Close the curtains with a touch of a button, light is all but diffused out and the darkened rear cabin transforms into a mobile movie theatre that makes Gold Class look like economy class. With Bespoke Audio (18 speakers, 1300W output) specified and 130kg of sound insulation, I enjoyed Avatar on Blu-Ray DVD on the high-definition screens as I sat in a seat designed just so that occupants can talk to each other without straining their necks. Utter bliss.

In case you were wondering what brand the speakers were, they are designed and built in-house. Third-party brands were deemed not suitable enough for the standards Rolls-Royce was looking for.

The Drive

Clearly, the designers of the Singapore road network were caught off guard by cars as sizeable as the Phantom. When thinking of a destination one is predisposed to think of suitable parking, for the Phantom takes a third more than the usual size of a lot. Not that real world owners would face this issue as it is likely that they have chauffeurs to handle the parking for them. 

What if a Phantom owner were to take the driver’s seat? Perhaps an unlikely situation, but if they did? This make-believe Phantom owner for a day was initially quite apprehensive behind the wheel because of the Phantom’s sheer girth and length. The steering is also noticeably lighter than the one in the Cullinan, so everything felt a tad more vague and detached. I suppose that is par for the course for a largely chauffeur-driven car.

However, one can certainly tell that the new chassis pays huge dividends in body rigidity. There is absolutely no shudder when I went through the expansion breaks of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge at speed, thanks to the 30% stiffer body compared to the last Phantom. This builds a very promising foundation for a great driver’s car.

With four wheel steering as standard, taking the 2.6 ton car around corners was less ridiculous than you think, even though the suspension is tuned to be a whole lot softer than on the Cullinan, so the car really leans substantially when pushed. It can dance round a curve rather elegantly, but any heady visions of sporty driving will soon disappear as one is limited by the immense pressure placed on the tyres to maintain grip on this leviathan. The weight of the car is also felt on the brakes, which may need more effort than you expect in shedding speed.Unlike the Cullinan which feels as interesting to drive as it is to be a passenger, in the Phantom you’d much rather take the back seat and enjoy the pleasure of being cocooned in a private space shielded from the vagaries of the world, an experience that makes weaving through traffic feel like a pampering spa retreat.

Our Thoughts

With the reputation of being “The Best Car in the World”, The Phantom has a lot to live up to. For passengers, I can think of little else out there that can give a more luxurious experience. The sheer thought put into making the ride as comfortable and as effortless it can be felt with every sensory cue you can pick up while interacting with the car. 

As a car to drive though, Phantom has rather stuck to its old formula. It felt like Rolls-Royce intentionally dialled back steering feel and loosened the suspension so that it can appease those who have loved Phantom for what it is. Somewhere in there is a great driver’s car, so there certainly is immense potential for a Phantom Black Badge, if there ever will be one. For now though, let me climb into the back and continue my movie unabated in hushed privacy.

In Summary

We Like

Great build quality, tasteful update in exterior and interior design, ingenuity of The Gallery and passenger comfort and amenities

We Don't

Car feels rather sedate and unengaging to drive, but there is a driver’s car in there somewhere

Verdict

The ultimate chauffeur driven vehicle, stay in the back seats

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Engine

Engine Capacity 6750cc Turbocharged
Engine Type V 12
Power 453bhp @ 5350rpm
Torque 720Nm @ 3500rpm
Power to Weight 171 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 5.9s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 240 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 6.8 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 8 -speed Auto
Drive Type FR
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type Sedan
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(5842 x 1990 x 1638) mm
Wheelbase 3570 mm
Kerb Weight 2649 kg

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs