Rolls-Royce Phantom History
2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom CoupeEnlarge Photo
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The Rolls-Royce Phantom is the brand's flagship sedan, built for the hyper-luxury market. It's a piece of rolling artwork, and each Phantom is meticulously hand-built and opulently equipped. While the Phantom doesn't have a true competitor, the Bentley Mulsanne and the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz S-Class make for interesting alternatives.
For more information, including specifications, see our 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom page
Today's Phantom lineup counts among it a large sedan in two wheelbase lengths; a coupe; and a convertible model known as the Drophead Coupe. Together they offer a classic luxury-car experience, effortless V-12 thrust, and quintessential British styling and charm.
The Phantom's design has been a bit of a late-bloomer; when first introduced in 2003, this blunt-front, boxy sedan with suicide-style doors wasn't universally well received by designers, the affluent traditional customers, or the public in general, but after a couple of years, as a younger generation of influential celebrities were seen in Phantoms, the retro-conservative design started to come into its own. The extended-wheelbase model, which was introduced for 2007, adds ten inches of legroom and is the way to go if you have a driver and a long garage.
With a 6.8-liter V-12 engine making 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive, the nearly 5,800-pound Phantom can still dash to 60 mph in well under six seconds—in, it must be added, a sort of spooky silence, with only the slightest low-pitched whoosh. The unobtrusive powertrain feel is matched with a confident but strictly uninvolved driving experience all around. This isn't a car you really want to hustle down a curvy canyon road near its limit; for the weight of the vehicle, there isn't a whole lot of available grip, even though it's stable and brakes are confident. Entry and exit in the sedan are easy, thanks to the wide-opening door setup, with the rears hinged at the back
Buyers of the Phantom will also pay a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax with any Phantom. While that surely strain their budget much, it might make shoppers more aware of the Phantom's low 11 mpg city, 18 mpg highway EPA ratings.
If you're worried about conspicuous consumption, the Phantom should probably not be your vehicle of choice. But if you have a full-time driver on staff, want classic appointments like teakwood trim and a drinks cabin, and it's important that you're seen in one of the world's most exclusive automobiles, there probably isn't a better choice in the world than the Phantom.
Rolls-Royce's bespoke ordering system allows a customer to essentially order any build configuration among a list of thousands of features and combinations—or completely concoct their own new features for a hefty price. Possibilities include a starlight headliner, cooling box, wood-veneered instrument panel, seat piping, and the aforementioned drinks cabinet, among many others.
Aside from the extended-wheelbase models and a few feature changes, the Phantom sedan has changed little, but it was joined by both the Phantom Drophead Coupe (in 2008), and Phantom Coupe (in 2009). The Drophead Coupe, which starts at $448,000, and the Coupe, at $405,000, have about the same dimensions as the sedan but have a rear-opening front door. Both can fit four if needed, and offer comparably deft performance and an equally plush ride. For those with a desire for even more exclusivity, a number of special editions have been offered.
Rolls-Royce recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Phantom lineup with the launch of a Series II edition at the Geneva Motor Show. The full range--sedan, coupe, and drophead coupe models--received updates to their styling, drivetrains, connectivity features, and other luxury accoutrements to keep them fresh until a successor arrives. That replacement is said to be in the works for 2016.
An unusual recall was recently issued for 2013 models due to a missing anti-misfueling device.