2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom II road test
Rolls-Royce flagship is still world-class standard setter, brushing off competition with ease
The new Rolls-Royce Phantom II is, at first glance, very much like the original. And without wanting to suggest something as trivial as a mid-life facelift, there's still no mistaking the Phantom for any other car on the road. It has, still, the imposing presence that makes people stop and stare, 13 years after it was launched.
Back in 2003, the Rolls-Royce Phantom was not a lone player in the super-luxury car market. Mercedes had launched its Maybach, pitching it head-to-head with BMW-owned Rolls-Royce. Both reckoned they could sell 1,000 cars a year. Both struggled. Now Maybach is history.
The Phantom II gets one or two obvious changes over the original, including new LED headlights that, to our eye, look modern but don’t really suit the shape of this Rolls-Royce. The seats (leather hides from Alpine bulls, naturally) now have three flutes instead of five, which, it is said, makes the interior look more modern.
The real changes are hidden from view. The new eight-speed automatic transmission gives smoother changes and improves fuel consumption. The sat-nav is all new, as is the way you control it, though if another of your cars is a mundane BMW 7 Series there will be no surprises. There are cameras all round, which give a bird's-eye view to help in tight manoeuvres.
And, more than any other motor car, there’s the option to personalise the Phantom to your heart’s desire. No one buys a Phantom II for US$402,940. That’s simply the starting point for specifying your very own personal Rolls-Royce.
Eight gears make a difference
The transmission maybe new but the V12 is the same. Not that any change was needed here – 460 hp is ample power for any car, even one that weighs 2.6 tons. The Phantom will gather pace in a quite unseemly manner if you really ask the most of it.
The gear change is via a lever on the steering column, just like in olden times, but it’s easy with acclimatisation. Though the transmission does have eight speeds, there’s no real sense of this or of the gears changing, such is the smoothness of operation.
There is an option to select a more responsive mode of gear operation – others, but not Rolls-Royce, would call this the Sport setting – which makes the Phantom livelier.
Wafts like nothing else on the road
With any car there is a compromise between ride and handling. Get one perfect and the other will suffer, that’s the general rule of thumb. Unless, that is, the manufacturer develops inordinately complex computer-controlled suspension, as we see from some of the prestige brands.
The Phantom II goes some way down the hi-tech route, but not the whole distance. There is air suspension that adjusts to varying passenger and fuel loads, and some other well-honed technology.
The result is a fabulously smooth, sophisticated ride for occupants that wafts them to their destination. Balance this, though, against the somewhat yacht-like yaw if you attempt some rapid cornering. Yes, the Phantom does hold the road in bends but you should never forget this is a limousine, not a sports sedan.
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