Very little — cars this pricey usually have two doors, not four
Looks like: The old Phantom got a lot of subtle, stately changes
Drivetrain: Twin-turbo, 6.75-liter V-12 with 563 horsepower and eight-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Early 2018
Rolls-Royce's flagship sedan, the Phantom, enters its eighth generation for 2018 on a new, all-aluminum platform that the British ultra-luxury brand says will eventually underpin all its cars. Rolls says the nameplate harkens all the way back to 1925, when Sir Henry Royce first coined it. And much coin this will cost: The new Phantom starts at $450,000 for a regular-wheelbase edition; a long-wheelbase variant will set you back at least $530,000. That's territory typically reserved for two-door exotic cars, or maybe an uber-optioned Bentley Mulsanne. Similar money could also fetch a 19-carat diamond ring or original Norman Rockwell, though we suspect anyone with the means for a Phantom already has such accessories.
Those prices exclude a gas-guzzler tax or destination fees. A spokesman for Rolls-Royce told the brand doesn't have destination fees lined up for 2018 yet; they're $2,750 on 2017 models. Shoppers can order the new Phantom now, with U.S. deliveries expected in early 2018.
The new Phantom has a similar profile to its predecessor, with an upright aesthetic that features a flat beltline from nose to stern. The changes are subtle: The iconic C-pillars are still thick, but they flow a little gentler from roof to trunk. The nose has even shorter overhangs, thanks largely to bumpers that tuck nearly flush with the front. The same goes in back, where the rear bumpers — once distinguishable — are also nearly flush.
The Phantom's alloy wheels measure 22 inches, while the nose still features bunker-slit headlights and an imposing slatted grille. The latter unit is stainless steel, with strips of the same material that continue up the hood to encircle the windshield. Rolls' Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament keeps watch, perching a half-inch higher than before. The headlights have bands of lighting to frame the inner bezels, and Rolls-Royce claims nearly 2,000 feet of nighttime illumination.
Stainless steel also encircles the side and rear windows. The taillights get thicker ribbons and a vertical layout. The extended-wheelbase Phantom bears a stainless-steel strip along its side sills. Those sills are also longer, thanks to a wheelbase that's extended 8.6 inches. And at 235.8 inches long, the extended-wheelbase Phantom is yuge — about a foot longer than a Chevrolet Suburban. At nearly 6,000 pounds unladen, it's also a few hundred pounds heavier.
As before, the cabin's shelflike dashboard is as imposing as the exterior profile. If the last Phantom deviated from its straight-laced environs with a slight gauge hood (gasp!), its successor shows no such tomfoolery: The whole dashboard, gauges and all, sits within a single horizontal block. Those gauges are virtual, though the surroundings are still physical chrome. And as we detailed earlier, the passenger side has a glass panel in which owners can commission custom artwork. Yes, really.
In back, the rear-hinged doors open to thronelike environs with available window curtains, champagne flutes and a starlight headliner. All four doors power shut at the push of a button, a feature that's new for the front doors. Rolls-Royce says J-Class yachts inspired the armrests, while the Eames lounge chair of 1956 inspired the wood paneling on the back of the front seats.
Shoppers can get onboard Wi-Fi, fold-down tables, rear screens and a choice of backseat configurations, from a lounge seat to individual chairs with armrests or a fixed console. Subject to late availability, you also can get a newly available "sleeping seat" with a leg rest. The console can incorporate a cocktail cabinet with whisky glasses and a decanter — for Scotch like this, no doubt — and in conjunction with the heated seats, the Phantom has heated front and rear armrests and heated lower C-pillars, should reposing passengers lean their well-coiffed heads in that direction.
Under the Hood
The Phantom 6.75-liter V-12 is new, with twin turbochargers to make 563 hp and 664 pounds-feet of torque. That's up considerably over 2017's naturally aspirated V-12 (453 hp, 531 pounds-feet of torque). An eight-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the rear wheels, and Rolls-Royce says the new Phantom hits 60 mph in around 5 seconds — relatively quick for a car that weighs as much as a Mercedes-Benz S600 with a set of these in the trunk.
EPA mileage figures are pending, Rolls-Royce tells us. The comfort-optimized platform, which is 30 percent more rigid than that of the last Phantom, features a self-leveling air suspension, four-wheel steering and electronically controlled shocks that can react to upcoming road conditions interpreted by a windshield camera. With nearly 300 pounds of insulation alone, the Phantom is purportedly 10 percent quieter than its predecessor at highway speeds. Even the tires have unique foam layers inside to reduce noise. Put it all together, and Rolls-Royce claims the new Phantom is the world's quietest car.
Safety tech includes panoramic around-view cameras, a driver-alertness system, night vision, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings and collision warnings with pedestrian and cross-traffic alerts.