Some say that life at the top isn't easy. Yet the Rolls-Royce Phantom manages to live gracefully above the rest of the ultra-luxury set—with the only clear competition the Bentley Mulsanne.
Available as a Sedan, Coupe, or Drophead Coupe (convertible), the Phantom stands as the flagship model for the Rolls-Royce brand. In all forms, it's an expansive, substantial vehicle, with massive rear-hinged doors on all models to help call extra attention to whoever is getting in or out. The doors are operated by pushbutton, lest the occupant need lean ungracefully from the vehicle to seal the cabin.
The exterior has a classically-styled and absolutely unmistakable look, with its tall, upright grille, slab-sided proportions, and hideaway Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament harkening back to the company's past while blending that heritage with a more modern personality. And inside, the Phantom is simply the definition of automotive opulence. Full-grain woods, supple hand-stitched leathers, real metal trim, and in all of them, immaculate craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Moving the one-car show that is the Phantom down the road is a 6.75-liter V-12 engine rated at 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. While less forceful than the engine in the smaller Ghost, it's still enough to get the Phantom to 60 mph in under six seconds--and it does it in a serene, unflappable manner. An eight-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifts, imperceptibly so, sending power to the rear wheels.
The Phantom sedan isn't a driver's car. It's meant to be ridden in, driven by a chauffeur. Accordingly, handling and agility aren't among its strengths; at least not without considering its size. At nearly 6,000 pounds and almost 20 feet in length, the Phantom is Suburban-sized. Independent suspension, self-leveling air springs, electronic damping, and feather-light steering give the Phantom more maneuvering aplomb than you'd expect, but only in perspective. Fuel economy is also in line with its size, at 11 mpg city and 19 mpg highway for all models.
Everything you can see, touch, or smell in the Phantom's cabin speaks of quality and substance. The Drophead Coupe model can even be optioned with teak decking around the back that would make most yachts jealous. As you'd expect, all Phantoms provide a very comfortable place to ride, front seats or rear. This is, after all, Rolls-Royce's flagship.
The standard features list on the Phantom is extensive; nearly anything not included can be added on request—for a fee, of course. Custom paint, embroidery, wheels, headliners, upholstery styles and colors, steering wheels, drink cabinets, and nearly any technological add-on you can imagine are all possible. This is the archetypal the-customer-is-always-right situation. The limits are your imagination and wealth.
Even heads of state, bank executives, and stars have to consider safety, and while the Phantom hasn't been crash-tested by the official agencies, it is a substantial piece of machinery, made largely of steel, and outfitted with nearly all of the modern accoutrements you'd expect, including traction and stability control, a suite of airbags, parking sensors, and optional front and rear cameras. Some of the latest in computerized safety features aren't available, however, including lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot detection. Perhaps that's to keep the chauffeur on his toes.
Little has changed since the Phantom was new in the 2009 model year—you can read our first drive of the Rolls-Royce Phantom at our sister site, Motor Authority.
For 2015, Rolls-Royce has made a host of minor tweaks to the standard and optional equipment and trim in all Phantoms. The most interesting is a welcoming feature that lights up the available Starlight Headliner along with the other interior lights when entering the vehicle.
- 2015 Bentley Mulsanne
- 2009 Maybach 62
There isn't much left at the top end of the automotive spectrum when it comes to big sedans and luxury coupes. The Bentley Mulsanne is the closest, although it's not quite as imposing as the Roller. One interesting tidbit about both Bentley and Rolls-Royce is that both have long British heritage, and both are now owned and controlled by German automakers—BMW in Rolls's case, and the VW Group for Bentley. Mercedes discontinued the Maybach brand a few years back, but it is planning a sort of super S-Class that should play in this space once again, or at least near it.