Next to a $50-mill Gulfstream V jet, a Rolls-Royce Phantom still provides the most luxurious, most hedonistic, most decadent means of wafting from A to B. Since its debut in 2003, apart from one or two minor wrinkles, the Phantom sedan has remained just about perfect. So it’s appreciated that for 2013, those minor wrinkles have been spray-starched and ironed out with the arrival of Phantom Series II. Of course, we’re talking evolution not a revolution here – revolution is not the way Rolls-Royce rolls. But the styling and mechanical tweaks are just enough to keep the Phantom at the pinnacle of the list of the world’s One-Percentiles as their luxury ride of choice.
The most obvious change comes at that majestic front end. Gone are those much-maligned porthole-like headlights in favor of new slim ’n slender rectangular LED units that now match the style of the larger driving lights above. Those, coupled with a new, slightly more rounded bumper design, new, sleeker-looking forged 21-inch alloys, plus a subtle, yet significant change to the frame of that Greek Temple-esque grille – it’s now formed from a single piece of stainless steel—show the neighbors you’ve upgraded to the latest model. Inside changes are fewer but equally welcome. A big criticism of the Phantom has been the overly small nav screen. That gets ditched in favor of a Cinemascope-like 8.8-inch monitor and array of new cameras to show pretty much a 360-degree view of the lurking paparazzi. And back in 2003, a six-speed automatic was the bee’s knees.
But since then the world has moved on. Hence this new Rolls-Royce Phantom gets the latest eight-speed from ZF, which adds to the refinement and responsiveness to the driving experience. Talking of driving experience, for those few who pilot their own Phantom, there’s now the offer of an optional Dynamic Package. It adds additional strengthening crossbars to the aluminum spaceframe, stiffens the suspension, recalibrates the transmission for quicker responses, and even adds a thicker rim for the wheel. Do we hear the name Bentley here? It’s hardly necessary. For its size, the Phantom is amazingly agile and athletic. That big 6.7-liter BMW-sourced V-12 has the thrust of that aforementioned Gulfstream on takeoff—standstill to 60 is covered in under six seconds – while the steering is surprisingly precise and involving. And braking power is quite sensational. And we haven’t even talked about the stretch-out comfort, the refinement, the craftsmanship, the utter sybaritic joy of being transported in this remarkable machine. Best car in the world? Yep, we’d go with that.
LIST PRICE: $403,970 sedan, $475,295 extended wheelbase
ENGINE: 6.7-liter V-12
HORSEPOWER: 453 hp @ 5,350 rpm
TORQUE: 531 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
0–60: 5.8 seconds
TOP SPEED: 149 mph (limited)
WEIGHT: 5,644 lbs
LENGTH: 179 inches (estimated)
TIRES: Front: 255/50R-21, Rear: 285/45R-21
PRO: Subtle upgrades reaffirm its unrivaled status
CON: Now tough to be seen driving last year’s model