Short of wearing a crown around town, few visual cues instantly communicate one’s affluence and influence like the Rolls-Royce Phantom – a model that, until last summer, had seen only seven iterations since 1925.
The lag between releases reflects a philosophy of valuing painstaking improvements over incremental additions: “Take the best that exists and make it better,” said the late Henry Royce.
But how do you improve on an automobile that already represents the height of excellence? You create the Phantom VIII.
“When we started thinking about the next generation, it was very clear that the car needed to be seen immediately as a Phantom in stature, presence, design, quality, and materials,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, on a recent drive through the Swiss Alps. “But then we challenged ourselves and, in all dimensions, set new and ambitious targets.”
Müller-Ötvös and I were in the lavish rear compartment of an extended-wheelbase version of the Phantom VIII, a vantage from which it was evident that the marque had accomplished its mission.
Along the road to the Park Hotel Vitznau in the Lake Lucerne region, the backdrop of verdant mountainsides and sublime shoreline complemented the tranquillity of the vehicle’s environment. Much of that tranquillity owes to the Phantom VIII’s nearly 131kg of acoustic insulation, which creates a seemingly soundproof space. Customised foam-layered tires also contribute to the newest Phantom’s 10 per cent reduction in noise at 99 kph.
Attention to detail also demands that the leather seats be made of hides sourced from free-range cows raised at altitude, to avoid imperfections from barbed wire or insects. Yet of all the touches, one new element stands out not only for its elegance but for its unprecedented personalisation.
“This is a truly unique concept, the dashboard behind glass, giving room for a piece of art commissioned by our customers. It has leveraged the idea of bespoke to a new level.”
Commissions thus far for the Phantom VIII’s display have included works by Helen Amy Murray, Liang Yuanwei, and Thorsten Franck. The latter transposed an owner’s digitised DNA sequence onto stainless steel – plated in 24-karat gold.