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The launch of the Rolls-Royce Phantom on 1 January 2003 was much more than the reveal of a new ultra-luxury car; it signalled the 21st Century renaissance of the world's most famous luxury automobile brand and the first glimpse of a masterpiece that quickly established itself at the pinnacle of automotive excellence.
For the preceding five years, under BMW Group ownership and in the absence of publicity, designers, engineers and skilled production staff had overseen the birth of a flagship Rolls-Royce motor car and state-of-the-art production facility on the Goodwood Estate in Southern England. Without parallel in the car industry, the achievement was all the more astonishing for a brand which shouldered the weight of historic ups (and occasional downs) and for which expectations for the future were rightly high.
From launch, the Rolls-Royce Phantom proved itself a worthy recipient of the famous Spirit of Ecstasy figurine. From Pantheon grille to long rear overhang, the design was clearly a Rolls-Royce. Every angle revealed a bold yet elegant car with road presence that was second to none.
At the car's core lay a ground-breaking, lightweight aluminium space-frame with power supplied by a sophisticated, direct-injection V12 engine, married to a six-speed auto gearbox. And complementing this excellence in engineering was Phantom's beautiful interior, presenting hand-stitched sumptuous leathers, fine veneers and exquisite detailing, a combination that marked the car as something uniquely special.
New Phantom variants were added, starting with Phantom Extended Wheelbase in 2005. In 2007, Phantom Drophead Coupé revealed the ultimate in luxurious open-top motoring, while Phantom Coupé, Rolls-Royce's sophisticated grand tourer, joined the family in 2008. All were warmly received.
A new world - Phantom Series II in summary
Today, Rolls-Royce presents Phantom Series II, a family of pinnacle cars that have been thoughtfully updated with the introduction of cutting-edge technology, enhancements to an already peerless drive-train and improvements in connectivity that reflect the changing world in which we live.
Rolls-Royce Phantom's striking and modern front end best encapsulates the essence of changes that lie beneath, with re-styled bumpers and rectangular light apertures that frame full-LED light clusters. These allow the integration of new technologies like curve light functionality, where headlamp beams are reflected in the direction of travel to provide greater illumination of the road ahead when cornering. And adaptive headlamps, where light patterns change automatically and - of course - effortlessly in response to different driving speeds.
Phantom's already sublime drive-train has also been enhanced. The addition of a new 8-speed automatic gearbox and rear differential perfectly complement the V12 direct injection engine, improving exemplary dynamics, as well as the famous Rolls-Royce promise of a magic carpet ride. Fuel consumption improves by 10 percent on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions fall from 385 to 347g/km as a consequence (388 to 349 for Phantom Extended Wheelbase).
Effortless is a word that perhaps best epitomises the Phantom experience, both for drivers and their passengers. So an improved user interface, as well as the addition of new driver assistance technologies, have been built on the foundation of a new electronics' platform for Phantom Series II. The satellite navigation system, for example, has been fully updated with functions that include 3D map display with landscape topography, guided tours, as well as enhanced points of interest and composite route planning.
Audio visual content, satellite navigation maps and driver information is presented on Phantom's new 8.8 inch control centre display, underlined by eight programmable bookmarks in chrome for optimum convenience in selecting key functions. Front, rear and top-view camera systems, further augment Phantom's ease of use particularly when driving in tight urban environments. When reverse parking for example, rear path prediction automatically deploys on-screen.
These significant changes add further substance to a reputation Phantom has proudly built since launch of the signature Rolls-Royce back in 2003. It is a new world. But it's a world in which the Rolls-Royce Phantom family will occupy a pinnacle position for many years to come.
"We should think of Phantom design as a piece of popular, classical music. Over time this has the possibility of different interpretations without losing the essential melody that we know so well." Ian Cameron - Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Director of Design
Like a piece of inspirational music, the Rolls-Royce Phantom continues to delight an audience. Familiar melodies - classic design cues that can be traced through the model generations - are brought to life by an orchestra of craftspeople working at the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, where attention to the finest detail delights in every car.
Familiar themes begin with the famous Spirit of Ecstasy, proudly adorning each model's Pantheon grille leaning into the wind with fluttering gown, while in side profile all Phantom family members present a long rear over-hang and classic two-to-one wheel to body height.
The thin-rimmed steering-wheel is reminiscent of elegantly engineered multifunction helms of the Phantom II and III, while further cues in the form of bulls-eye air vents and organ-stop plungers further hint at past masterpieces.
But 21st Century design cues also delight owners, as well as those for whom a glimpse of a Rolls-Royce is a rare moment to be treasured. The interlocked double-R Rolls-Royce monogram in the hubcaps, for example, which remain upright at all times. And coach doors with soft close function, which house Teflon-coated umbrellas to provide the grandest form of disembarkation from any motor car, whatever the weather.
Nearly ten years from launch, the design team responsible for creating a modern masterpiece remain at Rolls-Royce. And for Director of Design Ian Cameron, updating a 21st Century classic would start with one priority: a harmonious, timeless design to embrace state-of-the-art technological improvements.
The new, modern front-end for Phantom Series II, perhaps best exemplifies changes that are more than skin deep. Recessed behind new rectangular light apertures and re-designed front bumpers are fully LED light clusters. The signature is an elegant and dramatic bar, capturing the simple elegance of a continuously lit element, a feature complementing Rolls-Royce tail light design. For balance and proportion, this is integrated horizontally across the centre of Phantom's four-compartment headlamp.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé and Drophead Coupé now come with a single piece grille surround, presenting a smoother, more contemporary front end that arch into sculpted front wings, while Phantom saloon features a new rear bumper incorporating a polished stainless steel highlight.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Saloon and Extended Wheelbase wear a new front wing R-R badge with repeat indicator while three new wheel options, including painted, part-polished and polished, add to the range of 21" wheels, the largest fitted as standard to any production car.
"The result is thoroughly modern, yet embraces those traditional design cues. It's a familiar design, but it's lit in a different way." - Ian Cameron
Simplicity of design and the very finest materials contribute to the timeless architecture of any Phantom, where touch points are exclusively wood, chrome and leather and where feet can easily be lost in deep, lambswool rugs.
Arguably the best place to experience Phantom's luxury is from the rear seat of Phantom Saloon where passengers - elevated by 18 mm - are presented with an inspirational view down the long sweep of the bonnet and onto the Spirit of Ecstasy. A reduction in the number of seat flutes in front and rear, from five to three, gives a more modern complement to the car's sumptuous natural grain leather and flutes are also added to Drophead Coupé and Coupé seats for Phantom Series II.
An oasis of calm, Rolls-Royce interiors are the perfect environment in which to relax and unwind in welcoming silence. But they can also be a centre for entertainment. Phantom Saloon's theatre configuration adds two monitors within veneered picnic tables for rear seat passengers which are linked to a multi-media player, mounted in a compartment at the rear of the centre console. The inclusion of AV connectors, a six-DVD changer housed in the lower glove box and USB port in the centre console, means occupants can view separate content wherever they may be seated, front or rear.
The LOGIC7 surround sound system by Harman can create a truly cinematic experience on any journey. Seven individual sound signals are processed specifically for the car and its interior conditions using a combination of speakers that include subwoofers housed within resonance chambers in the space created by Phantom's double floor. A nine-channel amplifier delivers supreme clarity, clearly placing musical instruments, sound effects and dialogue at different depths giving the impression of sitting in row one or 20 of a concert.
At the touch of a button, Phantom's elegant analogue clock flips to reveal a new control centre display. The screen has increased in size from 6.5 to 8.8 inches with enhanced pixel density providing a more refined image, as well as split-menu display for more intuitive access to different functions.
A stylish new chrome controller, discreetly hidden within the centre console and rear-centre arm rests when not in use, is flanked by function keys such as menu, telephone and navigation to allow easier access to infotainment functions.
Eight functional bookmarks are now included beneath the monitor. These can be programmed to present desired information at the touch of a chrome key, for example the preferred orientation for satellite navigation maps, to present favourite television channels, pre-set radio stations or to access Phantom's telephone menu.
All Rolls-Royce Phantom family cars now benefit from improved interfaces and interaction with wireless technology. Finding a restaurant, booking a table, then being guided to its location, for example, comes courtesy of the improved functionality and inter-connectivity of Phantom's new satellite navigation system. Further enhancements to navigation functions include guided tours: at the Home of Rolls-Royce, which is situated next to the historic town of Chichester in England, drivers may choose to select a 45 minute tour taking in Roman Britain.
For Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II the telephone cradle has been replaced by a standard fit smart phone cradle which connects directly into the car antennae. The centre recess now also includes USB, Aux-in and 12V power sockets. Additionally, music can be copied directly onto the car's hard-drive, thanks to the addition of a USB port in the glove compartment.
"Lit in a different way" - new LED light technology
Rolls-Royce has a long history of technological firsts and is now the first car manufacturer to offer full LED headlamps as standard for Phantom models. As well as drawing less power from the engine, the characteristic whiter light provides a clearer view of the road ahead, helping prevent tiredness for drivers during long journeys on dark roads.
New light clusters comprise four compartments surrounded and finished with a polished, stainless steel bezel. Continuously lit, an elegant bar runs through the centre forming Phantom's LED daytime running lamps. LEDS in the top two pockets form dipped lights while full beam illuminates LEDs in the lower two. A separate, rectangular indicator strip sits below the headlamps.
LEDs present the opportunity for technologies that better manage the way light is projected, including curve light functionality and adaptive headlamps. The first uses electronically-controlled reflectors in upper and lower headlamp pockets, to improve the sweep of illumination when cornering. More of the road in the direction of travel can be seen as reflectors rotate by up to 15° in direct response to steering wheel turns.
Adaptive headlamps automatically change beam patterns according to driving conditions. Light is dispersed more widely for driving speeds below 50km/h to enable better views of cyclists and pedestrians. Between 50 and 120km/h the light cone extends and is skewed towards the near side to reveal potential hazards on a driver's side of the road, while for motorway driving at speeds in excess of 120km/h, the beam has a longer range and is more intense. Where windscreen wipers have been operating for more than two minutes in poor weather, dipped beams are automatically illuminated.
The convenient activation of headlight adaption is a further benefit, now being accessed directly via the rotary controller, rather than a switch located under the bonnet. This allows headlight settings to be switched between right-hand and left-hand drive markets, for example when driving from the UK to France, increasing comfort for those used to crossing borders.
Everything about owning and driving Phantom models should be effortless, including manoeuvring in tight urban environments. Today, a new camera system is offered as standard for all Phantom Series II. Cameras are positioned in five locations, two in the curves of the front bumper, two on the underside of each wing mirror and one in the trunk lid.
These combine to present a fish-eye view at blind junctions or to provide ground images with obstacle recognition and reverse path prediction when parking This automatically deploys on the control centre display when reverse gear is selected and highlights the optimum reversing trajectory as well as the location of obstacles, helping prevent scuffs and alloy damage preserving the high value of a client's investment - and the inherent beauty of the car.
Additionally, all Phantom models carry six buttons that sit either side of the centre console's functional bookmarks; the button to the furthest on the right takes drivers immediately to a split image revealing objects at either side at the front of the car.
Originally conceived by the Rolls-Royce engineering team, an advanced aluminium spaceframe retains its position at Phantom's core, serving as the foundation for the car's extraordinary driving prowess. Strong, lightweight and as rigid as a Formula 1 car, the spaceframe has been further reinforced, with the addition of brace bars that enable a dynamic package to be offered as an option for Phantom Saloon for the first time.
Epitomising the Rolls-Royce marriage of cutting-edge technology with fine craftsmanship, each spaceframe is entirely hand-welded, then finished as if it were a precision instrument. Every morning, skilled welders perform a 300mm test to check for atmospheric effects on the material with which they will work. More than 200 box sections of cast aluminium extrusion are then formed to create the frame, which is checked for accuracy to within a millimetre by laser. Finally, the largest computer-guided machining platform in the auto industry sets to work on the complete structure, milling critical points with pinpoint precision.
Precision might also be the best word to describe the manner in which Phantom drivers place their cars through corners. But, of course, handling cannot come at the expense of the famous Rolls-Royce magic carpet ride. Fortunately, thanks to its double insulated floor, the spaceframe only augments inner tranquillity helping eliminate noise, vibration and harshness.
Its inherent safety benefits are also enhanced by other systems controlled by Phantom's ISIS (Intelligent Safety and Information System). This takes readings from sensors located throughout the car and, in the event of an impact, makes up to 4,000 calculations a second to establish its severity, deploying safety systems as necessary. These include intelligent braking and restraint systems such as Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control and seat belt pre-tensioners.
Complementing Phantom's reassuring safety features are changes to front door side pockets. These are now slightly smaller, due to the addition of a crash pad, for more even distribution of forces in a 30° side-impact test.
Drive-train and suspension
"For my team this was a question of what we could do to improve a drive-train that we believed was close to perfection, both in terms of its dynamic performance and outstanding ride characteristics," - Helmut Riedl, Director of Engineering
At its heart, every Phantom family car hosts a hand-assembled, naturally aspirated 6.75 litre V12 engine. This sophisticated direct-injection petrol engine develops 531lb ft of torque (720Nm) more than three quarters of which is available at 1,000 rpm. The torque curve remains largely flat between 1,000 and 3,000 rpm - an important prerequisite for effortless city driving - and moves occupants from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds and onto an electronically limited top speed of 149mph (155mph for Phantom Coupé) where market conditions allow.
Rolls-Royce Phantom's power reserve gauge is another of those trademark Rolls-Royce design cues that always raises a smile. In operation, it casually reveals the enormous power potential at a driver's disposal should he or she require it. But, in most circumstances, Phantom's performance is simply a matter of seamless, effortless progress.
For Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II, Rolls-Royce has improved the drive-train by incorporating a new 8-speed auto ZF-gearbox for all variants. This is electronically controlled to manage the extraordinary power delivered by the V12 power plant. The longer ratio in the new rear differential compensates shorter ratios in some gears of the new 8-speed gearbox, maintaining the same engine speed to augment 'waftability', while improving fuel economy.
The result is powerful serenity. Effortless gear changes come as a consequence of a better match of gear to engine speed, improving efficiency from power generation to where it is needed at the wheels. Fuel economy improves by 10 percent on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions fall from 385 to 347g/km as a result.
Double-wishbone front suspension complements the drive-train, featuring optimised mounts to minimise vibrations through the steering wheel, while multi-link rear suspension complete with anti-lift and anti-dive technology aids stability under heavy acceleration and braking.
Spring dampeners and anti-roll bars maintain comfort without loss of agility while self-levelling air struts compensate for different loads within the car, making continual adjustments as the weight of fuel decreases, giving drivers the ability to place the car through turns with absolute precision and passengers a ride of supreme comfort.
It takes 60 pairs of hands and more than 450 hours to design, construct and craft each Rolls-Royce motor car. At the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood there are around 1,000 employees, including craftspeople working in wood and leather shops, making the world's finest cars. And just two robots in the paint shop to provide a seamless quality of finish. Only the finest materials are used and these are painstakingly prepared so their inherent beauty is displayed to best effect.
Rolls-Royce continues the grand tradition started centuries ago by the coach-building industry: at least five layers of paint and clear lacquer coating are applied to each Phantom, seven if the car is two-tone. Between each layer technicians sand the body by hand. Following application of a final coat, the body is meticulously hand polished for five hours to achieve the glassy lustre normally associated with a grand piano. Through the Bespoke programme, any chosen paint colour can be specified. Initially, this could be chosen by the client through the Phantom iPad App, capturing the colour of a favourite tie or lipstick for example and applying it to their virtual car. In keeping with Rolls-Royce traditions single or double coach-lines can also be applied - by hand of course. Each five metre line takes three hours to apply using only the finest squirrel and ox hair brushes.
Wooden features blend the skills of cabinet makers and boat builders with modern technology. Depending on specification, up to 43 wooden parts are used in every Phantom, each constructed from up to 28 layers of wood. These are interspersed with thin sheets of aluminium for strength and to prevent splintering in an impact. Multiple layers are pressed, bent and hand-finished before craftsmen cut and apply matched veneers, which are subsequently detailed, lacquered, hand polished and highlighted. All veneers come from one log and these are carefully selected and laid out so that the grain detailing is mirrored across the interior of each car.
Inspired by J-class yachts of the 1930s , the beautiful teak-decking in Phantom Drophead Coupé is a fine example of the marriage between Rolls-Royce traditions and the best in engineering. Teak is used because of its hardy properties and resistance to moisture and decay, but special techniques have been developed to preserve the appearance of a fresh, unprocessed finish, the aim being a final deck that closely resembled natural timber. Each deck, comprised of more than 30 wooden pieces, features precisely machined grooves and is protected by a specially formulated blend of oils. As with all woods and veneers used by Rolls-Royce, it is sourced by a team of specialists.
Only the finest hand-selected hides from Alpine bulls are used by Rolls-Royce. The healthy environment and open meadows without thorn or barbed wire result in far fewer natural marks. The leather is drum pigmented to allow the durable Rolls-Royce leather to retain its famous soft and supple feel, giving a rich, uniform colour while maintaining the natural feel, softness and grain. Each of the 450 leather parts that comprise an interior is cut by laser before being hand sewn by the artisans in the company's own workshop.
Rolls-Royce customers expect their cars to be as unique as their own fingerprint and the Bespoke service delivers on these high expectations. More than eight in ten Rolls-Royce Phantom models delivered globally to clients in 2011 included some element of bespoke design from individual paint colours, veneer inlays, tread plates and coach lines, to the most flamboyant and individual of whole vehicle designs.
In 2011 for example, Rolls-Royce designed a car for a Middle Eastern customer that incorporated an intricate and beautiful falcon motif within the headrests. Taking 40 hours of embroidery and using 11 different threads, the design featured 21,000 stitches.
Perhaps one of the most delightful and popular of Rolls-Royce bespoke features is the starlight headliner, which integrates more than 1,600 tiny fibre optic lights which are hand-woven into the leather roof lining to create a beautiful starry sky within a Rolls-Royce Phantom Saloon or Phantom Coupé.