by Karl Furlong
When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, English mountaineer George Leigh Mallory retorted simply with the words, "because it's there". By the same token, if you asked any Rolls-Royce Phantom owner why they decided to spend nearly half a million dollars on a four-door sedan when many other alternatives do the same job for far less money, they'd say that it's because the Phantom exists - if they were being honest, of course. Because with the Phantom, there is no greater automotive peak to conquer. Owning a Phantom is like summiting Everest and coming back down alive, knowing you can bask in the glory that comes with the achievement for years to come. To help stave off the effects of frost-bitten limbs, the Phantom's back seat is the epitome of luxury, with heated everything, massaging function, and outstanding craftsmanship. From the elegant Spirit of Ecstasy ornament on the hood to the coach-style doors at the back, from the sublime ride to the creamy 563-horsepower V12 engine, it's a car that symbolizes status and grandeur like no other. Mr. Mallory wasn't interested in playing second fiddle to anyone or anything else, and neither is the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
The latest version of Rolls-Royce's flagship retains the fine craftsmanship of the outgoing Phantom, but introduces newer technology to the mix. Below the evolutionary exterior styling, the Phantom introduces a new all-aluminum space frame architecture, making it 30 percent more rigid than the previous model. Whereas the previous model used a naturally aspirated V12, the Phantom now utilizes a 6.75-liter V12 with twin turbochargers. The latest driver-assist technologies are also available, such as lane departure warning, pedestrian warning, and adaptive cruise control. Inside, larger color displays are a further modern addition, sitting comfortably alongside Rolls-Royce's time-honored use of upscale materials.
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An evolution of the previous Phantom, the new car commands even more respect. In case you missed the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament on the outgoing Phantom, it now sits half an inch higher atop the gleaming Pantheon grille, which for the first time, has been integrated into the car's surrounding bodywork. Elements like the coach-style rear doors and the available two-tone body coloring are typical Rolls. Features include automatic door closers, a power trunk lid, LED headlights with washers, and mammoth 21-inch wheels.
In case you hadn't noticed, it's not small. Available with two wheelbase lengths, the Phantom's overall length is either 227.2 inches or 235.8 inches. This makes even the shorter version over 20 inches longer than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Phantom's wheelbase is either 139.8 inches or 148.5 inches, while both versions have a width of 79.4 inches. The standard-wheelbase variant has a height of 64.8 inches (nearly six inches taller than the S-Class), while the extended-wheelbase version is a further 0.4 inches taller. The Phantom's weight ranges from 5,644 pounds for the shorter model to 5,754 lbs for the lengthier version.
Rolls-Royce doesn't skimp on options, and the same applies to the choice of exterior colors, which is extensive. Over 70 different shades are available, and customers can choose between a main and contrast color. Standard colors include Graphite, Black Diamond, Belladonna Purple, and Petra Gold, along with selections from the Commissioned Collection such as Lyrical Copper, Magma Red, and Metropolitan Blue. Several crystal finish hues are offered, such as Crystal over Orange Metallic and Crystal over Midnight Sapphire. In short, whether your tastes are more Queen Elizabeth or Austin Powers, Rolls-Royce has an answer for you.
Effortless performance is the order of the day in any high-end luxury sedan, and the Phantom obliges with a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V12 producing 563 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. Sending power to the rear wheels, the big Rolls can reach 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, and the heavier extended wheelbase version is just a tenth of a second slower. A top speed of 155 mph is possible, something that is easily achieved when it's so difficult to hear any hint of external noise. Bentley's Flying Spur is quite a bit quicker to 60 mph, getting there in a mere 3.7 seconds with the aid of all-wheel drive, so the Phantom isn't the quickest luxury sedan you can buy. It was never intended to be the fastest, though, and for what it is, the Phantom's performance is plenty.
Just a single powertrain is offered for the Rolls-Royce Phantom, but it's all the engine this car needs. Displacing 6.75-liters, the V12 gains twin turbochargers to generate meaty outputs of 563 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Like the previous naturally aspirated V12, this powerplant operates in near silence, wafting the Phantom away from traffic lights or past a sea of ordinary cars with ease. With the addition of turbocharging, low-down torque is much greater than before, so the Phantom now requires only delicate throttle inputs to make serene, yet potent, progress. The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is similarly imperceptible in the way it operates.
With its new self-leveling air suspension that constantly makes adjustments based on speed, and even a camera system that can 'see' imperfections in the road ahead, the Rolls-Royce Phantom glides over all manner of surfaces like nothing else. This really is a good couple of notches above even a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which is as much praise as we can bestow on the Phantom. Apart from the bumps that are dispensed with before they ever reach the passenger compartment, it's the lack of noise that stands out: close to 300 lbs of sound insulation has been used, and you can tell. Be it wind noise, mechanical roar, or feedback from the tires - they're all absent. Take to a series of curves, and the Phantom exhibits good body control and a tad more feedback through the effortless electric power steering than before, but nothing about the car really encourages you to do anything but take it easy. Even though it does many things exceedingly well, the Phantom's ability to isolate its occupants from the elements remains one of its most astounding achievements.
Owners won't be bothered, but the Rolls-Royce Phantom enjoys taking big gulps of premium gasoline. Regardless of whether you go for the standard or extended-wheelbase version, EPA ratings work out to 12/20/14 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Despite using a large 26.4-gallon gas tank, the Phantom's range is restricted to around 370 miles.
Getting into a Rolls-Royce Phantom is as much an experience for your derrière as it is for your eyes. Not only are the seats exquisitely trimmed, but they offer outstanding comfort and extensive adjustability. Once seated, the press of a button is all that's needed to gently close the door. With the immersive rear seating and fixed center console option, the Phantom seats just four, but those in the back have exceptional comfort, with access to a whiskey decanter and a lot more. In front, it's just as majestic, with polished veneers, leather, and metal covering every visible surface. Rolls-Royce's power reserve meter takes the place of the more common tachometer, and a thoroughly modern infotainment system provides access to the car's many features. Ahead of the front passenger, the Gallery allows owners to install a bespoke piece of art. It's all ludicrously lavish, and the feature count includes four-zone automatic climate control, a 360-degree camera system, power-adjustable seats with heating front and rear, and a power trunk release. Active cruise control and lane departure warning bring the Phantom into the 21st century, while twin 12-inch HD screens can be fitted at the back.
Depending on the configuration, the Phantom seats either four or five occupants. At the back, a rear bench for three can be replaced by two bigger outboard seats (with a smaller center third seat) or two sumptuous rear seats with a fixed center console. Space is plentiful in both models, but the extended-wheelbase version - with over eight inches of extra body length - provides true stretch-out rear space. All seats are immensely comfortable, including the front two chairs which offer power-adjustment and memory settings. The rear-hinged coach doors provide graceful entry into the vast cabin, and closing them is accomplished merely by pushing a button. The availability of elevating footrests that rise from the floor demonstrates the extent to which Rolls-Royce has gone to pamper occupants.
The plush cabin can be customized in many different ways. There are four interior environments to choose from, ranging from a conservative monotone environment to a more striking contrast environment. Primary, secondary, and even tertiary colors are available, with the standard shades including Black, Navy Blue, and Dark Spice, along with more exciting shades like Armagnac and Ardent Red. The Commissioned Collection sports vibrant colors such as Charles Blue, Mandarin, Hotspur Red, and Tailored Purple. Along with the standard leather, customers can choose from luxurious veneers such as Walnut Burr, Smoked Chestnut, and Oak Cluster, or open-pore paneling like Paldao and Silver Birch. The shooting star headliner will be an option that's hard to resist, and along with veneered picnic tables, the veneer can also extend to the steering wheel.
Measuring 19 cubic feet, the Phantom has one of the biggest trunks you'll find in a three-box sedan, easily outclassing the Bentley Flying Spur in this aspect. Large suitcases and swanky golf bags will fit with ease. Being a Rolls-Royce, even the trunk floor is luxuriously carpeted.
In the cabin, the usual glovebox and a large center console armrest can be used to store smaller items like a wallet, keys, and your phone, while at the back, there is a fold-down center armrest. An even larger fixed center armrest can be ordered at the back, as can veneered picnic tables that fold down from the front seat backs.
If the Rolls-Royce Phantom doesn't already have it fitted as standard equipment, you can add it on as an extra. Out of the box, the world's most luxurious sedan ships with four-zone automatic climate control, soft-closing doors, a 360-degree camera, power-adjustable and heated front seats with massage, heated rear seats, and a power trunk lid. The driver's seat memory system includes power-adjustment of the steering column, too. Rear compartment curtains, rear ventilated seats, and even elevated footrests that pop up from the floor are some of the exclusive options, along with a classy whiskey decanter and rear fridge. The standard driver aids include front/rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. The shooting star headliner, with a series of fiber optic tracks, makes for a truly memorable environment at night, while an available shooting star version of this headliner adds even more theatre to the cabin environment.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom features a digital driver's display, although classic fonts and a simple layout retains an old-school charm. In the center of the dashboard, a 10.25-inch color display controls primary infotainment functions. It's not a touchscreen, though, as everything sits beneath a glass cover, and the screen gracefully vanishes when not in use. Based on BMW's iDrive system, the Phantom's infotainment setup is easy to use with the physical rotary control knob and hard buttons, but there are bespoke Rolls graphics so it doesn't remind you too much of a humble 2 Series. Standard equipment includes satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth, and USB ports, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't offered. The standard sound system can be upgraded to a bespoke Rolls-Royce audio system with 18 speakers, while the rear theatre configuration adds two electronically deployable rear 12-inch screens - these can be controlled using the rotary knob housed within the rear fold-down center armrest.
No serious issues have been reported for the Phantom, which is good news since repair bills would likely be prohibitively expensive. There was a minor recall that affected 2018/2019 models, though, which was for a rearview camera that may not display an image.
Like the Cullinan SUV, the Phantom is covered by the brand's four-year warranty (including the powertrain), not limited by mileage covered. Four years of maintenance is also included.
A quick calculation suggests that if the Phantom were subjected to just two regular crash tests (the standard frontal test and one side test), that would amount to close to one million dollars' worth of car destroyed. Perhaps for this reason, and to the relief of car fans the world over, local authorities haven't crash-tested the shiny Rolls. It's a behemoth equipped with all the safety features you'd expect, though, so we don't anticipate that it'll be anything less than an incredibly safe sedan.
The Phantom comes equipped with all the usual safety gear like tire pressure monitoring, ABS/EBD braking, LED headlights, a hill holder function, front/rear parking sensors, and eight airbags, including side-curtain airbags.
Driver-assist technologies include a 360-degree camera system, front/rear parking sensors, a head-up display, night vision, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning.
The greatest life coaches will often tell their students that we should compete with nobody but ourselves, striving only to be better than who we were yesterday. Similarly, at close to $500,000, it seems that the Rolls-Royce Phantom competes with nothing other than, well, the previous Phantom. This is a truly special vehicle that is equal parts luxury sedan and status symbol. It pampers its occupants like nothing else, floats across the road with silky smoothness, looks as expensive as it is, and now, also integrates the latest driver-assist and infotainment technologies. The driving experience has somehow been elevated over the previous Phantom; this latest version is ten percent quieter than its already hushed predecessor (thanks to 330 lbs of sound insulation), while providing a touch more driver involvement. It's not quite as fun to pilot as the Bentley Flying Spur, but the Phantom's sense of occasion somehow runs even deeper than that car. It's difficult to justify a vehicle that costs this much, but where mere words and logic fall short, the Phantom does all the talking (or is that whispering?) by providing a tranquil motoring experience quite unlike anything else.
Starting at around the $450,000 mark for the standard-wheelbase version, the Rolls-Royce Phantom is one of the most expensive vehicles in the world, and that's before adding in taxes, licensing, registration, and a destination cost of $2,750. Opting for the extended-wheelbase variant will cost in excess of $490,000, and equipping just one of the many pricey options will see that figure exceed half a million dollars. At $259,335, even the Bentley Flying Spur First Edition is significantly less expensive than the Phantom.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom is available in two flavors: the standard-wheelbase variant and the extended wheelbase. Both are powered by the same 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 with 563 horsepower. Rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are standard.
Along with the distinctive rear coach doors, the Phantom also has gigantic 21-inch wheels, LED headlights, front/rear parking sensors, a 360-degree camera system, and a power trunk lid. Inside, the Rolls seats either four or five passengers on leather-upholstered seats. The seats feature heating both front and rear, with rear-seat massaging also offered. Other amenities include a power-adjustable steering column, four-zone automatic climate control, and safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
The extended-wheelbase version not only offers masses of additional rear legroom, but can be ordered with the rear privacy suite, which is a rear privacy wall that separates the rear compartment from the front entirely.
Rolls-Royce provides immense customization for the Phantom, allowing buyers to create a truly bespoke product that is unlike any other Phantom on the road. Inside, the rear theatre configuration provides dual 12-inch screens for those at the back to watch their favorite movies. The Rolls-Royce bespoke audio system can also be ordered. Multiple seating configurations can be chosen, such as the rear immersive seating for two with a fixed center console, massaging, a cooled compartment, and a whiskey decanter. The shooting star headliner, various choices for the dashboard Gallery, and an array of leather colors and wood veneers can be chosen from. On the extended-wheelbase version, the privacy suite totally transforms the experience for rear-seat passengers with a wall that separates the back of the Rolls from those in front. Rolls-Royce is traditionally secretive about the cost of any upgrades, and we imagine many option boxes are ticked without the price even being known, but as an example, the immersive rear seating with the center console will cost in excess of $15,000 alone - roughly the price of a new Honda Fit.
At almost $500,000, value falls right down to the bottom on the list of priorities when purchasing a Rolls-Royce Phantom. For this reason, we'd go all-out and get the extended-wheelbase version with the privacy suite, the Rolls-Royce bespoke audio system, and at least one tacky extra that will make drivers of regular cars cringe: personalized illuminated treadplates.
Sharing much with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Maybach turns up the luxury offering even more. It has a beautiful, massive cabin, is gorgeously put together, and comes with a string of driver-assist technologies that not even the Phantom can match. Oh, and did we mention that even the Maybach S650 - with a twin-turbo V12 - costs less than half that of the Phantom? On paper, then, the Maybach is the more sensible option, but having experienced both cars, the German's appeal starts to dwindle. Where the Maybach can feel simply like a glorified S-Class and, therefore, a tad mainstream in its execution, everything about the Rolls-Royce feels a cut above. The Phantom's cabin is more special, with exquisite materials and a charming design. Fully kitted out, it simply makes more of a statement inside and out, and let's be honest, these cars are as much about comfort as they are about prestige. We'll take the Rolls.
Rolls-Royce entered uncharted territory with its first SUV, the Cullinan. If its raised body style and a bit more off-road capability appeals to you, it's the natural choice between these two. It also doesn't hurt that the Cullinan starts at $325,000, around $100k less than the Phantom. The SUV also uses the Phantom's 6.75-liter V12, and a Black Badge version produces close to 600 hp. The Cullinan's trunk is almost the same size as the Phantom's, so it doesn't have a huge practicality advantage, despite being an SUV. Both cars are exceptionally comfortable to drive, but the Phantom just about has the edge with its more traditional sedan body. Although we view the Cullinan as a successful interpretation of a Rolls-Royce ultra-luxury SUV, we still prefer the look and feel of the Phantom.
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