Electrification, the death of the internal combustion engine, autonomous cars - these are the buzzwords everyone is talking about in automotive circles.
Then there is Rolls-Royce, which has just revealed luxury, luxury, tech and more luxury in the eighth generation of its famous Phantom. Don’t expect an electric motor, or any form of electrification for that matter, at least not yet. At its heart beats a 6.75l twin-turbo V12, but even the engine with its 420kW and 900Nm is not the real talking point. The Phantom is all about luxury, excess and success. It is about floating through town with the Spirit of Ecstasy ahead of you like a butler keeping the riff-raff away.
“It is a creation of great beauty and power, a dominant symbol of wealth and human achievement. It is an icon and an artwork that embraces the personal desires of each of our individual customers,” says Rolls-Royce CEO, Torsten Muller-Otvos.
The new Phantom will arrive in SA early in 2018 and will be built on a brand new platform. Rolls could have used the Cluster Architecture from the BMW 7 Series, but instead it went on its own, with an all-aluminium spaceframe it calls, the “Architecture of Luxury.” Are you getting the luxury theme here?
The platform will underpin the upcoming Cullinan SUV, as well as the next generation of the Ghost, Wraith and Dawn. It is not only lighter, but is said to be 30% more rigid for better handling and comfort.
It is the most technologically advanced Phantom ever, with an improved “Magic Carpet Ride” air-suspension system to ensure that passengers do not spill their champagne while travelling over pesky bumps in the road. Like the Mercedes S-Class, there is a stereo camera to scan the road ahead and prepare the suspension, although Rolls calls it the “Flag Bearer” after that nice chap who used to walk in front of your car in the early days of the automobile with a red flag to warn people to get out of the way.
Look closely at the design and you will see the famous grille is integrated into the bodywork for the first time. There are new headlamps which include laser lights. The side profile features short overhangs, while the rear has lines that pay homage to the Phantoms of the 1950s and 60s.
But we need to get back to that luxury and it starts with the opening of the coach doors, or rather the closing. Rolls calls this simple action “The Embrace.” Touch a sensor on the door and it closes, although Rolls would like to think that this is not something an owner would do themselves, but rather a chauffeur or valet - close your own door, how common.
Once inside, you are not in the cabin or the interior, you are in “The Suite.” The embrace theme continues here though, with designer Giles Taylor wanting the owner and passengers to feel cocooned in the car, to experience calmness and tranquility.
Occupants sit on the highest quality leather seats, inspired by the famous Eames Lounge Chair and can look up at the starlight headlining. There are rear picnic tables and infotainment screens, theatre screens in Rolls speak. Rear passengers can sit in a Lounge Seat, Individual Seats or even the Sleeping Seat. There is the option of a fixed rear centre console that incorporates whisky glasses and a decanter, champagne flutes and a coolbox - Rolls couldn’t come up with a classy name for coolbox.
The dashboard features “The Gallery”, a piece of glass that runs the full width of the dashboard. Taylor had an idea to allow works of art inside the Phantom and owners can commission their own artwork for The Gallery as part of the almost endless bespoke possibilities for the model.
In contrast to the art, the dash also features two 12.3-inch displays for instrumentation and infotainment. The Spirit of Ecstasy controller dial has been enhanced, as has the system it controls.
It is all very opulent, very luxurious and very expensive, although Rolls-Royce SA is not divulging pricing at this point. This is partly because it would just be crass but mainly because there is no such thing as a standard Roller, with the company predicting that luxury motoring will return to the bespoke coachbuilt era of the early twentieth century.
It is also to avoid those of us in the market for a family hatchback exclaiming “how much?!” But of course secretly, we want one. Or maybe we just want the money you would need to buy one. Probably the latter.