Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII: Why Jeeves Is Pushing His CV On Monster.com
by Martin Green
Rarely have I been as confused about a car as with the new Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. In a world where we have gotten used to coupe-styled four-door sedans with about as much head room in the backseat as a regular coupe (i.e., none) and even off-road convertibles for those who truly want to inhale the scent of pine trees, this confusion is actually quite rare.
But just to be clear, it isn’t actually that I’m confused about what type of car the Phantom VIII, but rather where to sit in it!
A unique proposition
The Phantom VIII is exactly the type of car upon which Rolls-Royce built its sterling reputation.
With the first Phantom launched in 1925, dubbed by the press as “the best car in the world,” the Phantom has been THE car for the rich and famous, crowned heads, and elite dignitaries. Queen Elizabeth II had three models, while perhaps the most famous was the Phantom V belonging to John Lennon, who ordered it in “Valentine Black” in 1965 only to have it repainted two years later by coachbuilder JP Fallon in a psychedelic pattern.
Rolls-Royce was a car that one doesn’t drive; one gets driven in it. And I am not sure if that is still the case with the Phantom VIII.
Times have changed, and these changes almost spelled the end of Rolls-Royce. Its traditional customer base is no longer there: nobility has enough trouble and expenses maintaining historic country homes, while in many countries it is simply “not done” for the head of state to be transported in something as ostentatiously expensive as a Rolls-Royce; Queen Elizabeth II is the fortunate exception to this unwritten rule (one must buy British).
When Rolls-Royce was taken over by BMW, the German brand realized that a change was needed to appeal to a new customer base: successful investors and entrepreneurs, self-made people, the nouveau riche (as they are no doubt designated by Rolls-Royce’s traditional client base). These people have different tastes and different habits, and Rolls-Royce has done a fine job over the last few years aligning itself (see Rolls-Royce Dawn: The Digital Age Arrives For The World’s Most Traditional Automobile).
One of the most notable changes was that instead of being chiefly a chauffeur-driven car, it was now the owner who took the wheel. Rolls-Royces became fun to drive . . . and that became one of the Phantom VIII’s biggest problems.
The times a-changin’ have also brought another predicament for Rolls-Royce: it is no longer the obvious choice for people with means and a chauffeur, who now prefer the backseats of oversized American SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade as well as sleek and very comfortable sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-class, Lexus LS, and yes, even BMW’s 7 series (which even received praise from James Bond (see BMW 750Li xDrive: Advanced Automotive Technology That Even James Bond Approves Of).
These are luxurious cars that offer comfortable, exclusive atmospheres without classically looking too much the part.
What is the best seat in the house?
The back is of course a fantastic place to reside in the new Phantom VIII; it offers plenty of space and comfortable seats. The only comment that I personally have is that you sit on the car, rather than in it, but that is something that is also a bit of a hallmark of Rolls-Royce, which has gone out of its way to reassure potential customers that the backseat of the Phantom VIII is a life-changing experience (as is driving the car).
In the brand’s press materials, Rolls-Royce even refers to the backseat as “The Embrace,” a place where you can cocoon in your own creation of leather and wood, as the Phantom VIII has so many options and modification opportunities that each one of them is in essence bespoke.
So why would one ever opt for the driver’s seat of the Phantom VIII?
Well, first of all, because the new Phantom VIII is the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce built to date. Despite having access to the considerable technology portfolio of BMW, much of which seems to come straight out of a sci-fi movie, Rolls-Royce has until now seemed reluctant to take advantage of this. In part, this was because Rolls-Royce ‘s historical customer base wasn’t that tech savvy, preferring a great car with a minimum of technological “distractions.” With a new generation of clients often choosing the Apple Watch over a Patek Philippe, this is no longer the case.
But when you have technological gadgets onboard, wouldn’t you want to play with them?
Welcome to the future
The driver’s seat is where the majority of the high-tech comes at you through a high-resolution head-up display. This is also the place where you take command of the power plant of the Phantom VIII: a massive, 6.75 liter twin-turbo V12. While it doesn’t drive as engagingly as a Ghost or a Wraith, it is much more rewarding than older Rolls-Royce models.
This is also in part thanks to a more rigid all-aluminum space frame, which makes the Phantom VIII 30 percent stiffer than its predecessor. The only thing you probably won’t like as the driver (especially with that majestic V12 under the hood) is that it is also quieter.
What truly tips the scale in favor of the driver’s seat is “The Gallery,” another creative marketing term for a reinvented dashboard and instrument panel: it consists of a TFT color display with LED backlighting, digitalizing the speedometer, as well as additional information. The electronics are counterbalanced by a charming analog clock.
The central point is, however, what Rolls-Royce did with the rest of the dashboard, for which owners can choose from many different types of leather, wood, metal, and even silk to create an artistic display. Clients can even appoint an artist or designer who will work with Rolls-Royce to create a unique art piece to be incorporated into “The Gallery.”
As the driver, you can enjoy this every time you get behind the wheel. But from the rear right, which used to be the best seat in any Phantom, you are lucky if you catch a glimpse of it when you get in.
This is what makes the Phantom VIII so confusing, yet at the same time also crystal clear.
This Rolls-Royce is an amazing car, but is probably best enjoyed as either a coupe or a drophead/convertible (styles that are currently unannounced but without a doubt under development), when there is absolutely no mistaking which the preferred seat for the owner is.
On top of that, it is likely that Rolls-Royce will make the driving experience a little bit more dynamic, as well as the engine a bit more vocal, and that would truly turn the Phantom VIII into one of the best cars in the world.
For more information, please visit www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com/en-GB/phantom.
Quick Facts Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII
Engine: 6.75 liter twin-turbo V12
Power: 563 Hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 900 Nm @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic with GPS to analyze the road ahead to optimize shift timing
0-60 mp/h: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 155 mp/h (regulated)
Price: Starting at $450,000, but expect to spend significantly more when you start personalizing your car