"Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it."
Sir Henry Royce
The Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Chief Engineer and Founder gave us these words over 100 years ago, and they remain the cornerstone of the company philosophy.
When the new Phantom was unveiled in January 2003, it marked a renaissance for arguably the most famous name in the automobile world; a name that has become synonymous with excellence.
'Project Rolls-Royce' began on 28 July 1998, when BMW Group became custodian of the marque. The new Phantom is the result of an intense four-year design and engineering programme that not only produced an entirely new motor car, but also established a new company and a new manufacturing plant in the South of England. At the time it was described as "the last great adventure in motoring".
Classic design elements run throughout the Phantom and combine with 21st century engineering integrity. Exterior styling employs a long bonnet and wheelbase, a short front and long rear overhang, a strong C-pillar and a discreet rear window, all of which give the motor car an appearance unique to the Rolls-Royce lineage.
Generous interior proportions and a commanding seating position give a sense of authority. Rear passengers are seated slightly higher than those in front, allowing an uninterrupted view of the Spirit of Ecstasy. Sat alongside the C-pillar, behind the rear side glass and well behind a conventional saloon arrangement, rear occupants enjoy an unrivalled sense of privacy and security.
Adopting a fundamental rather than an incremental approach to designing a new motor car, the Rolls-Royce Phantom offers leading edge technology, most notably in its aluminium space frame structure. As well as being far lighter than a steel shell of an equivalent size, it is significantly more rigid, to the benefit of both handling and ride comfort.
Central to the design has been the concept of relaxed control. This can be seen in the elevated driving position, the effortless operation of the controls and the refined performance of the engine.
A 6.75-litre V12 engine built to a Rolls-Royce specification by BMW, it offers ample power and huge reserves of torque combined with exceptional fuel economy: headline figures include the 5.7 second sprint from 0-60 mph and the 25.7 mpg (11.0 ltr/100 km) it returns over the EU extra urban fuel economy cycle. Maximum power is 453 bhp (338 kW) with peak torque of 720 Nm (531 lb ft) reached at 3,500 rpm. More significantly, 75 per cent of that torque is available from 1,000 rpm, making the power delivery effortless.
Drive is to the rear wheels via a 'shift-by-wire', six-speed automatic transmission. The chassis has sophisticated double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension allied to self-levelling air springing on all four wheels.
The huge wheels and tyres have been specially developed for the Rolls-Royce Phantom: it is the first car in the world to feature the advanced PAX run-flat tyre system from Michelin as standard. There is also a 21-inch aluminium wheel available, shod with Goodyear tyres and also featuring run-flat technology, which illustrates a more sporting side to the Phantom's character.
Naturally the highest levels of craftsmanship and the best quality materials can be found in the motor car. It takes, for example, between 16 and 18 hides to complete the interior, where the soft natural grain leather is complemented by exquisite cabinetry and fine wood veneers.
But the Rolls-Royce Phantom is not about achieving a single superlative - the biggest, the fastest, the most powerful. Rather, it is about finding the optimum balance of all these attributes and more.
"Rolls-Royce supremacy is the reward of superlative design and meticulous care in manufacture. Its secret lies in the proved excellence of the Rolls-Royce productions in Durability, Trustworthiness, Economy, Speed, Silence and Comfort. Many cars have attempted to specialise in one or other of these points, but the Rolls-Royce is alone in that it embodies them all."
Rolls-Royce sales brochure, 1928
With a Rolls-Royce, superlatives are found in the details. New thinking and attention to detail can be seen in a number of areas of the Phantom - the coach doors designed to make entry and exit as graceful as possible, a retractable Spirit of Ecstasy that hides away at the touch of a button, the Teflon-coated umbrellas housed in the rear doors and the interlinked RR wheel centres, engineered to remain upright at all times.
As well as superlatives, the Phantom is about 'waftability'.
The origins of waftability can be traced back to the turn of the last century. In 1907, a writer from the British motoring magazine Autocar described riding in the Rolls-Royce 40/50 hp as "... the feeling of being wafted through the countryside". Engineers at Rolls-Royce quickly coined the term 'waftability' to encapsulate that sensation.
Waftability is achieved in many ways. Effortless acceleration from low engine speeds is one. Near silence of operation is another. A cosseting ride is a given, as is the refinement and comfort of the interior.
But waftability can also be found in the lines of the motor car itself: standing still, the Phantom looks ready to glide off. It's in the natural operation of the controls and in the minimum demands placed on the driver. The feeling can even be found in the masterly view from the driver's seat, over the long bonnet and front wings to the Spirit of Ecstasy and beyond.
For nearly 100 years, Rolls-Royce has been the icon of motor engineering and design. The name has entered the language as the expression of perfection in a range of endeavours far beyond the motor industry.
The new Rolls-Royce Phantom is entirely in keeping with that long and illustrious heritage and, at the same time, is totally contemporary in its design and technology. Its name evokes the personality of the inter-war Rolls-Royce Phantom I, II and III models, some of the best designed and finest engineered motor cars to bear the Rolls-Royce name.
The Phantom reflects the timeless values of quality, distinction and authority, combining the best of the past with the best modern design, engineering and technology to re-interpret the character of Rolls-Royce in the 21st century.
"Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble."
Sir Henry Royce
Although a genuinely 'blank sheet' design and built on its own unique platform, the Phantom is clearly a Rolls-Royce. But instant recognition goes far deeper than the famous radiator grille and the Spirit of Ecstasy.
Ian Cameron, Chief Designer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, explains: "Our absolute priority was to create a motor car that is clearly a Rolls-Royce even when the radiator grille is not in view. More than this, the new car has to stand apart from all others on the road."
Rolls-Royce design language
Among the features integral to Rolls-Royce design are a long bonnet with a short front overhang and, conversely, a long overhang at the rear. A long wheelbase is essential for excellent interior space and, when married to the proud, upright front formed around the vertical Rolls-Royce radiator and high-mounted headlamps, helps create a car with genuine presence.
Another Rolls-Royce feature is the roofline which increases in depth as it nears the rear of the car where it blends into a strong C-post. The gentle downward curve of the roofline is mirrored by a subtle upward curve, running from back to front, along the bottom of the car. Others include the discreet rear window - which combines with the C-post to offer greater privacy for rear passengers - and the 'broad-shouldered' side profile.
But above all, every Rolls-Royce has to have the correct proportions: the required interior package determines the overall dimensions - height, width, wheelbase and length - and even influences decisions such as wheel size. The correct proportions bring that air of authority integral to the marque and mean that, although many Rolls-Royce models of the past - and, indeed, the new Phantom - are large cars, they have a sense of balance.
Undercover in London
Design work on what was originally known as 'Project Rolls-Royce' began in earnest in early 1999 and progressed in great secrecy, even though the initial designs were created at the heart of one of the busiest capital cities in the world: London.
In a design studio near Hyde Park, known internally as 'The Bank' - the offices were formerly used as a bank - three exterior and two interior teams of designers led by Ian Cameron started work on the new car. Although the front door of 'The Bank' opened onto the street, security was never a problem: drawings and sketches were locked away each night in the old bank vault.
Design influences were never far away. Hyde Park is close to the affluent Mayfair and Belgravia areas of the capital. Here the design team would regularly see the Spirit of Ecstasy in its natural environment.
As they started to shape the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the design team identified what they considered to be significant models from the past, quickly establishing that creating a Rolls-Royce is about finding the right balance of aesthetics and engineering.
For example, the 1930s Phantom II incorporated all the authentic Rolls-Royce design elements - large wheels, a short front overhang, long bonnet and a rising sill line. The latter gives the car a 'take-off' stance, as if the nose of the car is rising as it accelerates away, and is a visual reference to the effortless power encapsulated in the concept of waftability.
From an engineering standpoint, the Silver Shadow, the first monocoque Rolls-Royce, bristled with advanced features which were combined with striking but simple styling. The result represented a bold modernism at launch in 1965, which was greatly admired by the Phantom design team.
From a pure styling point of view, the Silver Cloud from the 1950s was deemed to be the quintessential post-war Rolls-Royce, combining presence with elegance and reserved lines with perfect proportions.
All three exemplify the air of authority expected from a Rolls-Royce and which has been perfectly captured in the Phantom.
The new car has a long wheelbase and long bonnet with the front axle positioned forward of the engine for optimum weight distribution, giving a short front overhang. Its upright stance has been created around the traditional radiator grille.
Its roofline falls gently to the rear as the window drops away to accentuate the dramatic proportions which are balanced by the traditional rising sill.
A generous C-post gives a sense of strength and security while the profile is dominated by the Phantom's huge wheels and tyres. Specially created for Rolls-Royce, the tyre rolling diameter is 790 mm (31 in), making them the largest fitted to any production car. Because the correct proportions have been applied, however, they are entirely in keeping with the motor car exterior design.
The size of the car is a balance between design and engineering considerations. For example, the requirement for a prominent seating position and substantial interior space determined the wheelbase, floor height, width and standing height, which in turn determined the axle position and wheel size. As a result, the new car's wheelbase is 3570 mm (140.6 in) while the overall length is 5834 mm (229.7 in). It is 1632 mm (64.3 in) tall and 1990 mm (78.3 in) wide. The 460 litre/16.2 cu ft (DIN) boot is large enough to take four sets of golf clubs with ease.
From defining the architecture of the car to producing a final design, the process was remarkably short. In May 1999, the Bank studio was augmented by another secret facility, a modelling studio in nearby Holborn, which was given the internal codename 'Bookshop'.
Here each of the three exterior design teams created two design proposals as 40 per cent scale models - large enough for valid decisions to be made, but small enough to be quickly modified. From those six design themes, three were chosen to be modelled at full scale before, in December 1999, the final design was chosen.
The interior concept, meanwhile, was formed following the same design principles that helped shape the exterior. Principal attributes included a feeling of authority over the motor car, with minimum demands on the driver who should remain comfortably in command at all times.
A natural and relaxed driving environment is created by the precise alignment of the driving position which ensures that the driver sits perfectly in front of the steering wheel and pedals rather than with one or the other being unnaturally offset.
As well as a commanding view down the long bonnet and wings to the radiator shell and Spirit of Ecstasy, a Rolls-Royce driver and passengers also enjoy a prominent position thanks to the elevated seats which raise them above most other road users and add to a sense of security. The driver's eyeline is mid-way between that of a conventional saloon and a large 4x4.
Initially, the interior package was created exclusively in a virtual world, using the most sophisticated CAD software and simulation tools available; this allowed swift convergence between interior and exterior packages.
Front interior compartment
The primary objective was to make the Rolls-Royce Phantom incredibly easy to drive, with intuitive major controls displayed in an uncomplicated setting. To give the driver of the Rolls-Royce Phantom the desired sense of relaxed control over the motor car, the electrically operated front seats enjoy an elevated position. Both are fully adjustable with a multi-contour backrest, memory function and three-stage heating.
The switchgear follows traditional Rolls-Royce principles of simplicity and clarity, offering a modern interpretation of traditional values. Great care has been taken to balance the need to access a large number of functions without increasing complexity.
As a result, the major controls will be recognisable to long-standing Rolls-Royce owners, with iconic 'organ stops' still used to control the flow of air to the face-level vents. These have been joined by 'violin keys', similar in shape to the tuning heads on a violin, for minor switchgear. Everyday audio and climate control functions are accessed conventionally.
A column-mounted, electronically controlled gear selection lever is retained, offering the choice of PRND (park, reverse, neutral and drive). A slim, leather-covered, three-spoke steering wheel incorporates controls for the telephone, audio and navigation systems and has an elliptical cross-sectioned rim especially designed to allow a comfortable driving position with the hands at '20 past eight'. The wheel also has a button which allows the driver to access a 'low' mode for the gearbox.
Ahead of the driver is an instrument cluster comprised of three black-faced circular dials. A central speedometer is flanked by a split gauge for fuel level and water temperature, and a unique power reserve gauge which communicates the 'adequacy' of available power (see Driving for more details).
A notable innovation appears in the centre of the dashboard. A veneered panel housing the analogue clock swivels to reveal a monitor for vehicle settings, satellite navigation, on-board television and telephone system. A controller, discreetly stowed in the centre console when not required, allows the driver to access these various specialist functions.
The starting point for the sophisticated ventilation system was to minimise the intrusive effect of direct forceful airflow, by providing indirect airflow for greater comfort. The circular air conditioning and heating controls are familiar items, controlling the six temperature zone interior with individual fan control for all four quarters of the cabin.
Horizontal vents hidden in the instrument panel send a curtain of air downwards to fall gently in the laps of the driver and passenger. Complementing a conventional heated rear window, the front side windows of the Phantom are electrically heated for effective, noiseless demisting.
Rear interior compartment
An early target was to develop a rear passenger compartment unique in every respect. This saw the design team take a fundamental step back and turn conventional thinking on its head. The starting point was to ask a simple question: "What is the best way to get into and out of the rear of a motor car?"
The answer was coach doors, hinged at the rear, which offer many elegant advantages. An ordinary saloon with conventional, front-hinged doors forces passengers to climb out of the rear, but they exit far more gracefully from a Rolls-Royce Phantom with coach doors.
With conventional doors, entry to the rear compartment is normally made backside first: getting in or out is a matter of twisting, turning and ducking. In a Rolls-Royce Phantom, thanks to the coach doors and architecturally rectangular door frame - where the roof is naturally at its highest point – rear passengers simply walk into the car, turn once inside and then sit back in the luxurious surroundings.
Once passengers are seated, the door can be closed automatically, simply by pressing a small button on the C-post. Because they allow the passengers to sit further back in the body of the car, coach doors provide improved side impact protection - so much so that the Phantom has no need for rear side airbags.
Another benefit is that rear passengers are afforded a degree of privacy without necessarily having to resort to darkened windows or curtains. Each C-post contains a panelled quarter mirror which, from within, appears to be a continuation of the side window. And when both front and rear doors are open, they form a protective barrier around a passenger entering or leaving the car.
Despite the obvious safety benefits of coach doors, many legislative obstacles had to be overcome before they could be adopted. Rolls-Royce is the only motor manufacturer in the world to be allowed to build a car with independently opening coach doors. (See Engineering to discover how this was achieved.)
The coach doors house another surprise feature. Within each rear door is an umbrella which is released at the touch of a button. After use, it can be stored even when wet: special drainage channels are incorporated into the coach doors, and the umbrella material is coated with Teflon to ensure that it will not rot.
Inside, the design called for an open, almost flat, rear floor to allow passengers to move easily from one side of the car to the other - to exit the car at the kerb side, for example - and to create an inviting ambience. Maximum rear headroom was also a priority, with a figure of 979 mm (38.5 in) achieved. The result is that you sit in a single, room-like, space, rather than the separately defined areas of a conventional saloon.
Raised 'stadium' seating in the rear allows passengers to sit 18 mm (0.7 in) higher than those in the front, affording an excellent forward view. The long wheelbase helps to create more legroom. Rear seating arrangements are available in two different configurations: lounge and theatre.
Lounge seats have room for three passengers in the rear and are distinctly curved at their outer sides. With no lateral separation, this seating arrangement allows rear passengers to turn effortlessly towards each other on a journey, making it easier to converse and enjoy an intimate environment.
Available as an option is the theatre seating package which provides twin individual seats separated by a centre console that can house personal entertainment equipment, a drinks cabinet or other bespoke items. Each individual rear seat offers the same range of movement as the fronts.
As expected from a Rolls-Royce, the interior features the finest materials found in any car. The leather – on average, 18 hides are used to trim each Phantom - is the softest used in the automobile industry. In texture and feel it is close to anilin leather, such as that used in the apparel industry, yet it is just as durable as traditional automobile leather.
The softness comes from a new drum pigmentation process which permeates the colour throughout the hide. Because the colour is in the grain, the leather retains its natural look and feel and, as a secondary benefit, the process banishes the 'creaking' prevalent in conventional leather seating.
In the past, automotive hides have been stretched and then painted to the required shade. The new process is a significant improvement over traditional practice.
Two types of hide finishes are used in the Phantom - a natural grain leather for seating and a textured 'tipped' leather for door panniers and centre consoles. All the leather-covered features are created using a combination of modern techniques and traditional skills - all 450 leather pieces in the car are cut using a laser guide to guarantee accuracy, but hand stitching and finishing ensures that ultimate quality levels are reached.
No fewer than six different veneers are available for the woodwork: Figured Mahogany from West Africa, Burr Walnut, Birdseye Maple and Black Tulip from North America, and Oak Burr and Elm Cluster from Europe. While shades and ambience differ greatly depending on the wood used, the quality of the craftsmanship remains second to none. The wood is used architecturally, like three-dimensional fitted cabinetry with veneers placed on wooden substrates. Leaves of aluminium are used throughout each piece to maintain shape and ensure excellent crash protection properties.
As a result, passengers in the Rolls-Royce Phantom have the pleasure of touching real wood. Exquisite craftsmanship means that straight grain veneer is featured on all horizontal surfaces, while vertical surfaces have feature grain with a 'bookmatched' mirror finish within each panel and across the cabin. Cabinetry featuring marquetry with boxwood inlays and crown cut veneers is available as an option.
Bespoke cabinetry is a popular choice for the Phantom interior, often in the form of fitted cabinetry – wine coolers, humidors – or in simpler inlays of family crests, coats of arms or the famous interlinking RR symbol.
All veneers used come from fully sustainable managed forests. Importantly, aside from Black Tulip, the veneers are neither bleached nor stained, allowing natural properties and grains to shine through.
Deep-pile carpets are covered with sumptuous lambswool rugs - foot-rests are optionally available - while metal surfaces have either a high-polish Sterling finish, such as the air vents, organ stops and lighting consoles, or a satin finish, which is used on the door-handle surrounds and steering column stalks. The headlining is available in a wool and cashmere blend. Alternatively customers may choose the perforated leather headlining, giving the cabin a more sumptuous feel and matching other interior leather trim.
Light fittings, which can be found in the front and centre roof consoles and in the C-posts, are art-deco inspired; there are two reading lights in the front and twin reading lights for each side in the rear. Ambient interior lighting for night-time driving is provided by LEDs in the roof, while a brighter 'boulevard' setting allows rear seat passengers to see each other - or be seen - without distracting the driver.
The final aspect of the design concerns choice. As well as the six different wood veneers, there are no fewer than 18 exterior colours available, either on their own or with a dual-tone colour for the lower body area.
In addition, two two-tone paint schemes are available. One version has the flanks of the car in a different tone, while the other scheme features the contrast tone on the bonnet, roof and boot lid. Add two different styles of coach lines and there are 68 basic exterior themes from which to choose. However, through the Bespoke programme, customers can currently choose from more than 45,000 possible paint finishes, meaning that their exact colour requirements can be perfectly matched.
Choice continues on the inside where there are 15 different interior colours, creating a total of 19 standard interior combinations.
But whatever unique combination of colours and textures is chosen, every Phantom exudes sophistication and discretion. The comfort, atmosphere and character unique to a Rolls-Royce are as much down to the simple, understated and timeless architecture as to the quality of materials and workmanship.
"There is no evidence of engine power ... until that power is required. Then it comes in a volume and with a fluency that is almost incredible, having regard to any sign of sensible effort in its delivery."
Rolls-Royce Phantom II brochure, 1929
A Rolls-Royce is often perceived as the perfect chauffeur-driven car, where the primary concern is for the comfort of the rear seat passengers. But Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has a fundamental understanding of how the Phantom, and other models in the past, have been and are being used, and the truth is rather different. While there will be occasions when an owner would prefer to enjoy his or her Phantom from the rear compartment, many owners will spend considerable time driving themselves.
From the outset, therefore, the search was for a perfect balance between front and rear accommodation, to make the motor car a pleasure to drive or to be driven in. As a result, the Phantom has been designed to be driven by its owner, and enjoyed by all. The choice of engine, the layout of the chassis and suspension, the ergonomics of the cabin and the exalted driving position have all been determined to satisfy the needs of both the person behind the wheel and the passengers.
Central to the design of the Phantom is the view from the driver's seat. The elevated position gives the driver a feeling of relaxed mastery, of being in control while using the minimum of effort. The view from behind the wheel, with the bonnet stretching out ahead, accentuates that feeling.
The driving position is integral to the Phantom's 'authority' packaging concept, placing the driver in total control by offering a precise alignment between steering wheel, pedals and seat. A naturally comfortable feeling behind the wheel is the result.
Ergonomic features include a large-diameter steering wheel combining traditional Rolls-Royce cues with modern technology: in use it has the lightness and tactility of a precision instrument. The thin-rimmed wheel is wrapped in leather with a hidden joint to make it more comfortable to the touch. The engine is started and stopped via a push button mounted within the ignition panel.
Primary instrumentation is simple, clear and easy to use; more advanced features appear on demand via an ingenious rotary controller operating specialist functions such as the standard satellite navigation system. Each control is perfectly weighted to give the quality feel demanded by Rolls-Royce. Just three black dials face the driver: speedometer, combined fuel level/engine temperature gauge and power reserve gauge.
A tachometer has long been considered unnecessary in a Rolls-Royce; instead, today's Phantom driver is kept aware of how much power is in reserve. For example, at 100 mph, the engine has 75 per cent of its total power capability left.
In the past, power was always deemed to be 'sufficient'. Today, exact power and torque outputs are no longer a well kept secret and the impressive figures developed by the normally aspirated 6.75-litre V12 engine - described in greater detail in the Engineering section - are vital to the driving experience of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Principal among them is the plateau of torque available from a walking pace. The engine, developed exclusively for use in the Phantom, has a peak torque figure of 720 Nm (531 lb ft) but 75 per cent of that is available from just 1,000 rpm.
The result is the guarantee of instant 'wafting' power, regardless of road or engine speed. Effortlessly, seamlessly and almost silently, the Phantom rides on a tremendous wave of instantly accessible torque, whisking driver and passengers at considerable pace but with the minimum of fuss.
In-gear acceleration times give a clear indication of the flexibility of the drivetrain, the Phantom taking just 2.2 seconds to accelerate from 25 to 40 mph (40 to 65 km/h).
Outright performance, too, is exceptional. The Phantom accelerates from a standing start to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds (0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds). It's a figure many sports cars would be hard pressed to match. Top speed has been limited to 149 mph (240 km/h). In North America, the use of all-season tyres limits maximum speed to 130 mph (208 km/h).
Double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension combine to give the driver stress-free access to the Phantom's full performance potential without compromising exceptional ride comfort. The rack and pinion steering gives delightful feel through the wheel and the perfectly balanced chassis, with 50/50 weight distribution, ensures precise handling with excellent feedback of road and driving behaviour.
Naturally, for a Rolls-Royce motor car, such performance is matched by extraordinary tranquillity. Even at speed, the V12 engine emits no more than a distant hum. At idle, it is virtually silent. Engineered into the motor car is a dual-note exhaust: at low engine speeds, a valve in the system closes to increase back pressure, thus reducing the exhaust note to a mere whisper for understated arrivals and departures.
Combined with the synchronised wheel centres, the silence makes the Rolls-Royce Phantom appear to be gliding rather than driving away.
"Strive for perfection in everything you do."
Sir Henry Royce
"I have found the greatest engineer in the world."
The Hon Charles Rolls
Sir Henry Royce was, first and foremost, an engineer. Perfection was his goal and he was never prepared to accept the status quo. That same culture can be found at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars today.
As a result, the Phantom is an engineering-led design, a motor car guided by the philosophy laid down by Sir Henry Royce almost a century ago, which is just as relevant today.
At its heart lies a remarkable driveline assembly - a naturally aspirated 60 degree V12 engine, purpose-designed for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission from ZF.
The engine's capacity of 6.75 litres will be familiar to Rolls-Royce owners from 1970 onwards - the long-serving V8 in the Silver Shadow displaced 6.75 litres - but the levels of power and torque will be quite unlike anything they have experienced before.
In line with the expectations of a Rolls-Royce driver, great emphasis has been placed on providing high levels of torque at low engine speeds - the frantic on/off power delivery of a turbocharged engine is deemed quite unsuitable and out of character.
As a result, the torque curve of the Phantom is predominantly flat. At 1,000 rpm it is already producing a remarkable 560 Nm (413 lb ft) - 75 per cent of its peak figure of 720 Nm (531 lb ft) reached at 3,500 rpm. From 1,000 to 3,000 rpm, typical city driving speeds, these huge reserves of torque mean that every time the driver presses the throttle, the car picks up smoothly and without hesitation. The power unit is rated at 453 bhp (338 kW, 460 PS DIN) peak power at 5,350 rpm. It takes just 5.7 seconds to reach 60 mph from standstill (5.9 seconds 0-100 km/h).
The 'shift-by-wire' gearbox has been tuned to match the characteristics of the engine. Electronic control means that, in normal use, the Phantom starts off in second gear with early up-shifts and late down-shifts.
However, by engaging the kickdown switch, which is integrated into the throttle pedal assembly, the car will set off in first and the full performance of the engine will be released. Similarly, engaging kickdown on the move allows later up-shifts and more immediate response. The gearbox incorporates a 'low' mode, suitable for steep mountain descents.
Mounted well ahead of the passenger compartment for optimum sound insulation - a property also helped by the double bulkhead design - the engine itself is one of the most advanced in the world.
Remarkably compact, the all-aluminium unit has four valves per cylinder, 48 in all, twin overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, four in all, and a long intake manifold for optimum low-end torque. It features direct fuel injection, fully variable valve lift control and variable valve timing.
Direct fuel injection has been used to boost power and torque. By injecting an exact amount of fuel directly into each of the 12 combustion chambers rather than into the intake manifold, greater thermal efficiency is achieved, allowing a higher compression ratio to be used. Sensors monitor the combustion curve in each cylinder, ensuring exact management of the combustion process with no pre-ignition of the fuel which would lead to engine knocking.
To achieve a similar increase in power and torque without direct fuel injection would have meant a larger engine or turbocharging, neither solution being considered appropriate to the Phantom.
Other technically advanced features of the engine include variable valve timing and sophisticated variable valve lift technology. The latter highly efficient system allows the inlet valves to regulate the amount of air entering the cylinders, thus overcoming the inherent inefficiencies of the throttle butterfly, a component that has been an integral part of the internal combustion engine since the beginning. The result is improved fuel consumption at low and steady speeds as well as instant throttle reaction and enhanced smoothness no matter what the engine speed.
Considering the size and performance potential of the Phantom, fuel economy is exceptional: over the EU extra urban cycle, the Phantom returns 25.7 mpg (11.0 ltr/100 km) with a combined figure of 17.8 mpg (15.9 ltr/100 km). The fuel tank has a capacity of 22 imperial gallons (100 litres).
In the way that the monocoque-bodied Silver Shadow ushered Rolls-Royce into a new era almost 40 years ago, so the Phantom does the same today. Even though it is physically bigger, more extensively equipped and structurally more rigid than any Rolls-Royce saloon before it, the Phantom is no heavier: the entire body-in-white weighs just 550 kg.
Torsional stiffness at 40,500 Nm/degree means body rigidity far exceeds that of conventional unibody designs. It is estimated that the Phantom's structure is twice as stiff as that of an average steel-bodied saloon - remarkable given the size of the motor car.
These achievements have been possible thanks to the adoption of a sophisticated aluminium space frame - the largest in the automotive industry - which is then 'dressed' with panels mostly made from lightweight aluminium or composite materials: only the boot lid is of steel.
Its use also means the Phantom is the only vehicle in its class to be built on a unique platform rather than one shared with another model. The space frame concept was identified early on in the project as the best way forward: indeed, the proposed overall package dimensions of the Phantom meant that the only way to achieve the required rigidity while keeping within set weight targets was by using an aluminium space frame.
Comprised of more than 200 extruded profiles and more than 300 sheet metal parts, the space frame arrives at the Rolls-Royce Goodwood facility pre-assembled. It is hand-built by skilled specialists at the Dingolfing plant in Germany, which is the BMW Group's competence centre for aluminium space frame technology. It is the only facility in the world capable of meeting the exacting standards set by Rolls-Royce.
Once completed, the structure - which includes 150 metres of MIG welds in more than 2,000 separate locations - is placed into a machining centre where critical fixing locations are optimised, ensuring door, engine and suspension mounting points are accurate to within +/- 0.5 mm.
The implementation of the coach door design depends on such accuracy. The front and rear doors open independently and, at their closest point, are just 2.7 mm apart.
As the space frame is fully structural, it means the outer panels are simply fastened to the frame itself. The bonnet and rear wings are aluminium, while the aluminium radiator grille, in common with other exterior brightwork, has a Sterling finish.
The doors feature an aluminium skin bonded over aluminium pressure die-castings and sheet metal parts. The front wings are sheet moulded composites (SMC). As well as offering greater resistance to minor traffic scrapes, this material permits transmission of electro-magnetic waves - hence, this is where the antenna for the satellite navigation system is housed. The boot lid is steel, while the instrument panel (IP) carrier is a lightweight magnesium alloy casting - the first one-piece full-depth and full-width carrier of its type.
Cast in Europe's largest tool of its kind, the IP carrier weighs just 7.6 kg yet provides a robust mounting for ductwork, heating and ventilation and safety system sub-assemblies to minimise vibrations. The casting also adds to the already impressive torsional rigidity of the Phantom chassis.
The vehicle package concept brings with it other bonus features and allows the use of coach doors as well as a double floor, providing an area for essential services without intruding into passenger space. In addition, the extra rigidity provides the highest levels of comfort and quietness as well as exceptional passive safety attributes. The architecture of the Rolls-Royce Phantom's rear compartment, and in particular the adoption of independent coach doors, takes passenger safety to a new level.
Before coach doors could be adopted, however, legislation had to be met: rules are in place to prevent the possible opening of the rear door into the path of travel when the car is moving. To achieve compliance, Rolls-Royce had to develop an entirely new electronic safety system. The coach door latch has its own electronic control unit which enables communication between the lock and sensors installed in the door. In addition, an electrically actuated safety lock has been installed in the rear interior door handle.
Above 2.5 mph (4 km/h) the coach door cannot be opened from inside the car while, with an open or partially latched door, the car can only accelerate up to an uncritical speed before it is brought to a halt.
Both front and rear doors have a continuous door stop, thus remaining open at any desired angle. Automatic soft closing, activated by a sensor in the door lock when the door reaches a catch point approximately 6 mm (0.2 in) away from the lock, uses a motor and gear unit to power a rotary latch to close the door completely. Automatic soft closing also operates on the boot lid.
The coach doors also have the benefit of closing assistance from any angle - a switch in the C-post allows rear passengers to close the door electrically without having to lean out of the car. Made possible by the package concept, the double floor offers two distinct benefits: it allows virtually flat flooring in the rear compartment and also permits service functions to be installed unobtrusively out of the way.
The level of the floor, itself a consequence of the preferred driving position, and the inclination of the rearmost end of the propshaft mean it has been possible to reduce the intrusion of the transmission tunnel into the passenger compartment - just 81 mm (3.0 in) remains above floor level. Passengers step directly onto a flat floor rather than over a sill into a footwell.
The space between the floor panel and the underside of the car is filled with wiring harnesses and air ducts. It is also home to a pair of bass loudspeakers which are mounted under the front seats and whose performance is enhanced by two under-floor 16-litre acoustic resonating chambers. The result helps create one of the finest sound systems fitted to any car.
The long wheelbase and rigid body structure help guarantee superior primary ride comfort, but the Phantom has been designed to appeal to the driver as much as to the passengers.
A subframe-mounted, all-new front suspension layout is based on the double wishbone principle, and features a tension link and lower control arm with a high-mounted wishbone. The wishbone has a real pivot, while the tension link and lower control arm have a virtual pivot enabling a small positive scrub radius to minimise steering forces.
The subframe is fabricated from steel tube, diagonally stiffened and rigidly mounted to the body at six points. Rack and pinion steering with speed-sensitive variable rate assistance is mounted to the subframe, forward of the axle.
Oriented towards ride comfort and low transmission of noise, the front suspension also ensures neutral handling and stable behaviour under braking. Exemplary straight-line running is matched by balanced steering loads while a hydromount in the tension link damps out wheel vibration which could otherwise be felt through the steering wheel.
At the rear, multi-link suspension with an integral control arm fulfils the demands for comfort and stability as well as providing the good anti-lift and anti-dive characteristics expected from a Rolls-Royce.
Also mounted on a subframe - aluminium in this case - the rear suspension controls the wheels via four links and features passive rear steer. The suspension arms are aluminium with the lower cast swing arm sitting parallel to the road where it has an aerodynamic effect in smoothing the flow of air from the back of the car.
The subframe is located by four large bushes, which isolate chassis-borne driveline noise and vibration from the structure, and forms the mount for the rear anti-roll bar, which is attached via roller bearings.
The rear differential is suspended by rubber bushes at its front and rear, the rearmost bush having a variable rate characteristic to provide different vibration responses vertically and horizontally.
Air springs on all four wheels help provide the cosseting ride expected from a Rolls-Royce. Automatic level control provides a constant ride height no matter what the payload, as well as uneven load compensation side to side, levelling the attitude of the car if only one of the rear seats is occupied, for example.
The system also allows the driver to raise the ride height by 25 mm (1 inch) to provide extra clearance for ramps. If the driver forgets to reset the ride height, the system reverts automatically once a speed of 40 mph (60 km/h) is reached.
Continuous control for the electronic dampers gives minimum damping forces when the car is running straight on smooth surfaces, but higher forces over uneven surfaces or when cornering. The system monitors both the way the car is being driven and the road conditions 100 times a second, and then adapts the damping forces automatically. Its reactions are so fast that, at 60 mph, the dampers optimise their settings every 12 inches.
An integral part of the chassis is the adoption of run-flat tyre systems - the Phantom is the first car in the world to feature the run-flat system as standard.
As well as obvious safety-at-speed considerations, the major benefit of run-flat tyres is that the Phantom will never have to be stopped in an exposed or dangerous position if a flat tyre occurs - it can simply be driven home or to another safe place to await a replacement. A spare wheel is not carried.
The run-flat capability is at least 100 miles at 50 mph when the car is fully loaded. Because a loss of air might not otherwise be detected by the driver, the system incorporates a tyre pressure alert on the dashboard.
The wheels and tyres themselves are not only unique to the Phantom but are also the largest to be found on a current production passenger car.
Massive 374 mm (14.7 in) ventilated brake discs are fitted at the front with 370 mm (14.5 in) ventilated discs at the rear. The braking system incorporates two-piston alloy callipers at the front and single-piston callipers at the rear, as well as the latest generation, four-channel anti-lock system. An electromechanical parking brake is fitted, which is automatically applied when the gearbox is moved to Park.
As well as electronic damping control and anti-lock brakes, the Phantom benefits from a raft of modern electronic chassis and stability control systems. The anti-lock brakes are supplemented by emergency brake assistance which ensures maximum braking force is applied immediately in an emergency.
Using sensors measuring engine, road and wheel speeds as well as vehicle yaw, dynamic stability control uses the anti-lock brakes and engine management systems to prevent wheel spin and reduce the possibility of a loss of control, while cornering brake control regulates the anti-lock brakes to ensure a chosen course is maintained when braking in a corner.
Safety and peace of mind
The Rolls-Royce Phantom has passed all current and anticipated crash-test requirements. The aluminium space frame gives significant benefits in occupant safety. Front impact loads are progressively absorbed by crumple zones and directed into Y-shaped chassis members and the main understructure. Side impact intrusion is minimised by the double floor, strong side sills and impact beams within each door.
On-board passive restraint systems include three-point seat belts on all five seating positions, belt pre-tensioners and belt force limiters on both front and the outer rear seats and active head restraints in the front.
The Intelligent Safety Integration System (ISIS) uses a decentralised optical network of sensors to permit intelligent triggering of the airbags. Dual-stage front bags are complemented by door-mounted side airbags in the front and window airbags running the length of the interior. No side airbags are needed for the rear passengers as they sit inside the body structure rather than beside the rear door.
In the event of a collision of sufficient force to deploy a front airbag, the main electrical power supply is disconnected to avoid the risk of an under-bonnet fire. As well as the advanced electronic chassis stability and braking controls, active safety features include faster-reacting LED brake lights. LEDs also have the benefit of long, service-free operation. The bi-xenon headlamps incorporate automatic self-levelling and power wash.
A holistic approach to customer peace of mind, as typified by the run-flat system, can also be seen in the power supply, which features two liquid-cooled generators and two separate batteries, one for the main vehicle systems and the second for the starter.
Automatic charge management means that even if the vehicle's entertainment systems are used over an extended period without the engine being run, there will still be sufficient power left in the starter battery to fire the engine. Once the V12 has been started, the generators will recharge both batteries to their full capacity.
If the vehicle is left in storage for an extended period, a charging socket located behind a side panel in the boot allows simple and secure connection for a maintenance trickle charge.
Transferring communication and entertainment data across the motor car's systems is down to the use of advanced multimedia network electronics. Called MOST (for Media Oriented Systems Transport) it uses a ring system of optical fibres, transmitting control commands as well as audio, video and graphics signals.
By using optical data transmission, a high degree of information - 22.5 Mbits/sec - can be transmitted at one time. MOST integrates information from the instrument panel, controller, telephone, navigation, voice recognition, television and audio systems.
"Accept nothing nearly right, or good enough."
Sir Henry Royce
A Rolls-Royce motor car never has, and never will be, mass-produced. More than 260 man-hours go into each Rolls-Royce Phantom, with many of the traditional features - such as the coach lines - still completed by hand.
The Phantom is, however, a 21st century motor car and the finest craftsmanship is augmented by advanced technical solutions: the result is a marriage of traditional skills and modern machinery, of human endeavour and technological achievement.
The complex aluminium space frame, for example, is produced at the world's most advanced facility of its type using measuring equipment accurate to +/- 0.1 mm. A complex material control system links suppliers and logistics, managing all material movement within the Goodwood plant, while the wood and leather workshops there house the most up-to-date milling machinery and laser measuring equipment.
But there is no substitute for human involvement. Ensuring the correct detail in the preparation of the up-to-60 separate wooden interior elements is a painstaking and highly skilled operation that owes as much to craftsmanship as it does to the latest technology. A five-axis CNC milling machine might give the dimensional accuracy required for the interior trim, but cannot ensure the veneer grains and patterns are aesthetically matched.
Similarly, using a laser to guide the hide cutting machinery or computer-controlled sewing machines to stitch the upholstery might be far more accurate than conventional methods, but neither can detect defects in the leather.
Only the trained human eye and the sensitivity of human finger tips can ensure the highest quality hides and finest veneers are used in the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Hand-crafting also allows much greater scope to satisfy individual customer demands. Such is the choice of colours, textures, veneers and equipment that it is highly unlikely that two absolutely identical Rolls-Royce Phantoms will ever be produced, unless deliberately commissioned to be the same, of course.
The Rolls-Royce Bespoke programme takes this theme of individuality even further, with skilled craftsmen capable of creating personalised interior features such as cocktail cabinets or ladies' make-up compartments. While there are 18 exterior colours leading to 68 basic colour combinations, the Bespoke programme allows around 45,000 different permutations.
When recruiting for Goodwood, Rolls-Royce appreciated that there was no substitute for experience, expertise and skill. Such was the enthusiasm for the project that there was no shortage of skilled and experienced applicants: there were 15 candidates for every position advertised locally, in an area with no unemployment problem.
While many of the specialist craftsmen were recruited from within the UK motor industry - perhaps the world leader when it comes to working with wood and leather car interiors - others came from the non-automotive world and were involved with the manufacture of yachts, musical instruments and furniture. All are industries that demand the highest levels of quality and craftsmanship.