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Rolls-Royce Phantom

The Car Connection Rolls-Royce Phantom Overview

Today's Rolls-Royce Phantom lineup counts among it a large sedan in two wheelbase lengths; a coupe; and a convertible model known as the Drophead Coupe. Each offers a classic luxury-car experience, effortless V-12 thrust, and quintessential British styling and charm.

With a base price exceeding $400,000, the Phantom has few competitors besides the equally luxurious, though more understated, Bentley Mulsanne. The Phantom is one of the largest, most expensive cars on the road today. 

The uber-luxury Phantom's height is just four inches less than a Honda Odyssey and its length is six inches longer than a Chevy Suburban. The Phantom can be had in four body styles: sedan, coupe, drophead coupe and an even larger extended wheelbase model. Changes have been few through the 2016 model year, as is customary with Rolls-Royce.

MORE: Read our 2016 Rolls-Royce Phantom preview

Perhaps proving that old is only eventually new again, the retro-styled Phantom was not immediately accepted as a design success when it first came on the scene in 2003. The brash, squared-off look began to take off once trendsetting stars and athletes took to BMW's first attempt at a proper British motoring car. The Phantom is now a favorite among the chauffeured set, especially in extended-wheelbase form, which was added in 2007 and provides an extra ten inches of rear legroom. It's now often found in mega-buck hotel fleets and has sired a pair of two-door offspring.

With a 6.8-liter V-12 engine making 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque, a 6-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 on top of the price of any model. While that surely won't strain their budget much, it might make shoppers more aware of the Phantom's low EPA ratings: 11 mpg city, 19 mpg highway.

The Phantom is not a car for the shy or timid; those who have a distaste for conspicuous consumption need not apply. If, however, you intend to employ a driver, appreciate a mobile drinks cabinet, and enjoy fineries such as teak trim, there's no better car in which to be seen. The Phantom exudes wealth and exclusivity, making a statement wherever it goes.

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, a cooling box, a 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 changed little over its first decade on sale. 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; instead of the suicide-door arrangement of the sedan, the two-doors use a set of rear-hinged openings. 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, while pretty much every Rolls is made to order and therefore unique to its owner.

Rolls-Royce recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Phantom lineup in 2013 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 styling, drivetrains, connectivity features, and other luxury accoutrements to keep things fresh until a successor arrives.

An unusual recall was issued for 2013 models due to a missing anti-misfueling device. In 2014, the Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection was revealed, offering an intriguing set of styling and equipment details, including a unique Maggiore Blue exterior paint color. The Waterspeed Collection Phantom was built in a limited run of just 35 cars.

The latest Phantom offerings include a special Nighthawk package for the Drophead model. Nine will be sold in the U.S., each with black paint, a black interior with red accents, tons of carbon-fiber trim, and a $569,000 price tag.

An all-new version of the Phantom is expected to make its debut for the 2018 model year, bringing with it updates to the powertrain—including a possible plug-in hybrid option—styling, luxury equipment, and more. Power should meet, if not beat, that offered by the smaller Ghost and Wraith models, which currently put out up to 616 horsepower from a 6.6-liter BMW-derived V-12. It's possible that the aging 6.8-liter V-12 will be replaced by a more modern V-12 design. A transmission with at least eight speeds is also a given for the new car.

Rolls is also aiming at the sport-utility market with a new model. It has shown a test mule that uses a shortened Phantom body on an off-road-friendly suspension.

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