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The newest version of Rolls-Royce's flagship model sets new standards for opulence and luxury whether you're driving it or being driven in it

Our Verdict

Rolls Royce Phantom 2018 review hero front

The eighth-gen Rolls Royce Phantom is the second of the company's modern era. Is it still a world-beater?

  • First Drive

    Rolls-Royce Phantom 2018 UK review

    The newest version of Rolls-Royce's flagship model sets new standards for opulence and luxury whether you're driving it or being driven in it
20 March 2018

What is it?

This is nothing less than the pinnacle – the very epitome – of motoring luxury, so declared this publication on the occasion of the eighth-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom’s international launch last October.

It’s not so hard to believe, is it? Rolls-Royce claims to have reduced cabin noise by as much 75% over the old Phantom, which itself was no heavy metal concert, and it has supposedly improved the driving experience, too. That’s of more significance than you might imagine, given the surprisingly high proportion of Phantom owners who actually take to the sizeable three-spoke wheel of their cars.

We’ll come onto the hardware in a moment, but first, the design, which is recognisable from the previous generation car. That wasn’t such a pretty thing, but, when it came to all-round imperiousness, it was a match for the Natural History Museum, and that hasn’t changed.

The new Phantom is perhaps a mite softer in its geometry and is notable for the tightness of its shutlines and the growth of its hand-polished 'Pantheon’ grille, which is also more smoothly integrated into the surrounding bodywork. For the record, the Spirit of Ecstasy now sits half an inch further from the road.

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Having already sampled the Rolls-Royce's new flagship abroad, we’ve rather looked forward to getting the Phantom on UK roads, not least because Rolls-Royce makes some whopping claims about its ride quality. The suspension apparently makes ‘millions’ of calculations every second, reacting not only to physical inputs but also information from a windscreen-mounted camera. The eight-speed gearbox also uses satellite data to prepare for the road ahead, and there’s a layer of foam within the vast tyres to ameliorate roar.

This, we suppose, is precisely what you’d want to hear if you were spending roughly £400,000 on a car, but is it borne out on the road?

What's it like?

Often when we talk about cars that ‘stir the soul’ there’s an atmospheric screamer of a combustion engine spinning to the heavens involved. That or a chassis of such exquisite poise that it tickles the synapses in a way that has to be experienced to be believed.

Achieving any good level of stirring with boring old refinement is a much harder task and far rarer to witness. It can be equally gratifying, however, and that’s the case here, with a twin-turbo V12 that idles low enough to have you checking for signs of life, at near 650rpm.

Once aboard, you push a button to shut off the outside world, which explains the absence of an obvious door-handle. Step-off in the eighth-generation Phantom is then so absurdly serene that it can actually make you feel giddy, like when you’re not sure whether it’s the train you’re watching or the one you're sitting in that’s beginning to glide away. Throttle response is perhaps a touch lethargic, but you’ll forgive it that.

On the move, that six-and-three-quarter engine is so impossibly distant that it may as well be connected to the car in front via an extra long propshaft. The engineering brief was probably to hide its existence altogether, and so you don’t get a tachometer, only a reading of how much power you have left in reserve.

Drive sensibly and you’ll make ample progress without ever leaving anything less than seven tenths as back-up, although mashing your foot into the inch-and-a-half-thick pile of the carpet will make 60mph come up in 5.1sec. That’s quick enough to leave our current favourite hot hatch, the Honda Civic Type R, for dead and evidence of more than 660lb ft of torque from just 1700rpm.

British roads versus all-new Phantom, then – hardly a fair fight? In general, no, not really. This car debuts a fresh, more torsionally rigid all-aluminium spaceframe platform for Rolls-Royce. From it are hung air springs with adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars. There’s also four-wheel steering, which in this instance is less about realising the last word in agility than it is making this 5.76 metre-long car tolerably manoeuvrable on tighter roads.

You quickly realise that the broad, flat seats are a statement of intent. There’s precious little bolstering because the expectation is that you’ll never need it. Endless modes for the steering, suspension and engine are also wonderfully conspicuous by their absence, and so you settle into driving the car in the precise manner in which it would like to be driven. That is with an economy of gesture and a heart rate commensurate with the ultra-low idle of the engine.

The steering is accurate enough to place the car with confidence on smaller roads (everything short of a dual-carriageway is ‘smaller’ for this car), but it’s delightfully light and the wheel is thin-rimmed. That encourages you to plot your course with the gentle precision of fingertip efforts, guiding the car by calmly anticipating the road ahead, just like your driving instructor said to.

If there’s one thing about the new Phantom that really takes your breath away, though, it’s the sense of detachment from the world. There’s a feeling that you wouldn’t need to raise your voice inside even as vortices began to flow from the Spirit of Ecstasy. You perceive the outside world in the same way you perceive a scene in a film – from a different dimension.

Should I buy one?

You could argue that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has a more cultured secondary ride than the Phantom and the Bentley Mulsanne is a bit more clinical in its vertical suspension movements. There’s no doubt these cars offer greater appeal for the driver, too, and are substantially less expensive to buy.

The paradox is that even as the person at the wheel, you won’t ache to be back in those cars like you will the Phantom. Its anechoic properties are unrivalled, and with 130kg of sound-deadening materials, it possesses an ability to make motorway speeds feel pedestrian in a way that is genuinely spooky – and addictive.   

Simply, if four-wheeled indulgence with an almost unlimited budget is the brief, the Phantom’s fitness for purpose is unimpeachable and unmatched. Sheer opulence aside, the ride comfort, composure and refinement engineered into this gargantuan all-new chassis are spellbinding at times.  

The controls, both physical and digital, are also presented in such a way that only the ones you actually require are at hand at that moment, and nothing more to needlessly complicate matters. In a world of cars that seek to do everything for us, this is an uncommon and tremendously welcome trait. Factor in a fabulous array of materials and the Phantom is old-school but not old-fashioned, for which you’ll love it.

There’s rather lot more to Phantom VIII than we can say here, and so a full road test beckons. Rest assured that with one or two minor caveats, on which we’ll duly elaborate, it hits new heights for luxury at a time when that quality is being delivered more convincingly than ever.  

Rolls-Royce Phantom

On sale Now Price £360,000 Engine V12, 6.75 litres, twin-turbocharged petrol Power 563bhp at 5000rpm Torque 664lb ft at 1700rpm Gearbox 8-spd auto Kerbweight 2560kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.1sec Fuel economy 20.3mpg CO2 318g/km Rivals Bentley Mulsanne, Mercedes-Benz S-Class


Join the debate


20 March 2018

Good God. I like wood trim in cars, but this is way over the top. The spoke elements on the steering wheel in particular. I am sure a more tasteful treatment is available at a price though!

20 March 2018

Very true.  The wood trim is disjointed and in particular the position of the air vents with the big blank space atop is annoying.  Spatial composition has lots of room for improvement.

20 March 2018
When did European car companies lose the ability to draw attractive cars? This thing is hideous, even by Euro standards.

21 March 2018
jason_recliner wrote:

When did European car companies lose the ability to draw attractive cars? This thing is hideous, even by Euro standards.

When they had to increasingly take notice of and cater to Middle Eastern, Russian and Chinese (and American) tastes.

20 March 2018

Sounds like a truly remarkable car. But both outside and inside, the previous generation looks right in a way that this second generation car cannot match. In isolation it may only be a slight adjustment here, a slight change there, but cumulatively it's a significant weakening of design integrity.

20 March 2018

Agreed, the original was a truer articulation of the "Art Deco" design principles.  Softening the details does it no favours.  The chromework around the rear quarter window is messy.  Also have you noticed the inconsistent shutline between bonnet and grille?  The curvature appears greater on the former, leaving a noticeably wider gap in the centre, behind the Spirit of Ecstacy.  Also, the leather on the rear headrest looks to be rucked.  Very poor for a handbuilt car supposedly of unmatched quality.  You wouldn't find those defects on a Kia!

20 March 2018

The headrests have additional cushions over them which have a great deal of ‘cushion’ hence the kind of ruffle on the leather. The actual headrest behind them won’t feature that. It’s intentional, not a defect. 

21 March 2018
Daniel Joseph wrote:

The chromework around the rear quarter window is messy.  Also have you noticed the inconsistent shutline between bonnet and grille?  The curvature appears greater on the former, leaving a noticeably wider gap in the centre, behind the Spirit of Ecstacy.  

Yes, the window chromework with its many visible joints is messy.

The inconsistent bonnet panel gap is disgraceful (pre-production prototype?)

The rear bench is now without the grand sweep of the previous version which curves round to become an end panel like a wing chair.

The instruments are no-class ugly.


20 March 2018

Absolutely agree.  If this is pinnacle of design and attention to detail, I'm in the wrong millenium.  Why the strange proximity of the centre grille louvres, not matching the spacing of that of left and right ?  Those asymetrical obvious slots in the rear seats ?  Which btw look like real granny sofas.  The very sharp front body corners, not matching the rest of the shape or progression of lines.  The rear looking like a London taxi having landed centre on a modified pick-up.  No, it really doesn't work for me. 

20 March 2018

Theres a colour mismatch between the wood above the glovebox and the centre console and that headlining is very tacky. Overall, it just doesnt look as good as the previous one. I doubt any of the stupidly rich customers will care about any of my points or any of the others people have mentioned though.

XXXX just went POP.


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