The ride offered by the new 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom feels like you’re being whisked about in a sedan chair carried by beauty queens stepping on marshmallows while wearing extra-large and comfy bunny slippers. No, that’s too harsh, too Kia K900. The Phantom ride is more like angels who are graciously but softly flapping their wings after constructing a road made entirely of goose-down sleeping bags, hovering over it on their gossamer wings, suspending your Phantom by silken threads pulled directly from the boxer shorts of Liberace.
It’s hard to describe. I struggled for words as I drove my Phantom there in the desert east of Palm Springs, a town that knows a good Roller when it sees one and where Liberace certainly would have felt at home. Or the Sultan of Brunei, or Dom DeLuise or whomever this magnificent craft was made for. Even Rolls-Royce struggles to describe its own magnificence.
“The icon for icons,” it humbly suggests. “Engineering and technology perform in harmonious collaboration … delivering a magnificently graceful drive … The loudest sound is your heartbeat …”
It seems to be calling out to you, inviting you, "Right this way gov'ner."
The silence — oh yes, I had almost forgotten about the silence. Engineers put forth “incalculable effort” (that’s “incalculable” in SAE, metric, imperial and Whitworth-socket measure) to make this Phantom the quietest ride in all of the Commonwealth, most of the former colonies, and in the once freistadt of Bavaria where the company's owners live. There are 130 kilograms – 287 pounds! – of sound-deadening material throughout, six millimeters (0.24 inches) of 2-layer glazing on the glass, and “silent-seal” tires with sound-swallowing foam liners, all working to make the new Phantom 10 percent quieter than the last one, which was already about as quiet as Charles Rolls’ tomb.
The all-new, all-aluminum space frame helps, too. The Phantom is the first to get this new cage but it is scalable so that it can be used to "cosset" every future Rolls-Royce, including the next Ghost, Wraith, Dawn and the Cullinan SUV. It makes the whole rig 30-percent stiffer than the previous Phantom.
The engine, which is either “completely new” or “updated,” depending on what you’re reading, is a 6.75-liter twin-turbo direct-injected V12 making 563 hp at 5000 rpm and 664 lb-ft of torque starting at 1700 revs. It is mated to a ZF eight-speed transmission that uses both a camera and GPS to know what the road ahead is going to do and, if it’s going up, uses that data to downshift. Oh man.
During a recent BMW press-a-palooza at The Thermal Club where there was everything short of an original BMW-powered Helios motorcycle on hand, I somehow talked my way into taking a Phantom out “for a short drive.” I got a half hour, shared with another writer dude and the generous Rolls representative. That was where I felt that self-levelling, air suspension making its “millions of calculations every second.” It’s the first thing that overwhelms you when you get behind the wheel of this 5,644-pound silent aluminum safe house.
Then comes the power from the big V12 – it’s profoundly tractable, like a steam locomotive only far more refined. Rolls lists 0-60 at 5.1 seconds and top speed at 155 mph — well beyond the speed you’ll need to chase down and flatten trespassers on your estate.
The whole thing is downright otherworldly.
Then I swapped seats and got in the back, where someone of the stature of a Vince McMahon or a Meat Loaf, or some dude who owns his own country and ain’t exactly feeling magnanimous with the people’s tax dollars, would sit. There were buttons everywhere: one to close the privacy shades, one to open them, one to raise the footrest, one to lower it, one to fold down the picnic tray, another to fold out the TV screen. There was a “Starlight Headliner.” There were armrests “inspired by a J-Class yacht.” There was supposed to be a secret storage nook for whiskey glasses somewhere, but I couldn’t find it in the 15 minutes or so I was back there. Regardless, as Baloo the Bear would have said had he been there, “This is living.”
But there are drawbacks. They’re only making 1000 of them a year and this one stickered for $643,000 as-tested. Is it worth it? Hell yes it’s worth it. Get your priorities straight, man.
It’s true, if you look around on the Rolls-Royce website, you can find “Pre-Owned” Rollers starting in the low-$200,000 range. But what kind of aristocat are you, anyway? Pony up the cash for the real deal.
On Sale: Now
As Tested Price: $643,000
Powertrain: 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12, 8-speed automatic, RWD
Output: 563 hp at 5000 rpm, 664 lb-ft at 1700 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,643 pounds (mfg.)
0-60 MPH: 5.1 seconds (mfg.)
Pros: You can use the word «bespoke» all the time
Cons: You have to have your own economy to afford it