Full 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Review
What's New for 2008
Fiber-optic ceiling lighting known as the "Starlight Headliner" debuts for the 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom.
From royalty to hip-hop tycoons, the rarefied air of ultra-premium luxury sedans exists for those scant few buyers with pockets deep enough and a lifestyle opulent enough to demand a bespoke automobile like none other on the road. Up here in these luxuriant altitudes, there are but two choices: the Maybach and the 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom, both of which start at a price that's at least $80,000 more than the Bentley Arnage and the average American home. However, while the Maybach looks and feels like the nicest Mercedes-Benz ever conceived, it is the iconic silhouette cast by the regal Rolls, combined with its refined BMW engineering and truly special cabin, that make it like absolutely nothing else.
As you'd imagine, most of the features expected in "regular" luxury sedans are found in the 2008 Phantom, but it's the great many special touches that set the Rolls-Royce apart. The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament lowers neatly into the imposing chrome grille when the car is locked to prevent the lovely flying lady from getting nicked. The RR logos on the wheel hubs stay stationary while the rest of the wheels spin. The rear doors not only open rearward (Rolls prefers "coach doors" to the more common "suicide" moniker), allowing for a more graceful ingress and egress, they also hide away Teflon-coated umbrellas. Various optional and customization features include an infinite color selection, personalized monogram seat stitching, cabin curtains, a trunk-mounted wine cooler and a humidor. Finally, the new-for-2008 "Starlight Headliner" utilizes fiber-optic lights to create the illusion of twinkling stars. It's a $7,200 option, but sheer novelty alone makes it worth every penny.
Although the Phantom provides one of the largest backseats of anything on four wheels, the extended-wheelbase or "EWB" model packs on an additional 10 inches of extra length and rear-seat legroom. Since it rings the register at $52,150 more than the "regular" Phantom, you'll be paying $5,215 per additional inch. Sure, you could purchase a Porsche Boxster for that price, but the extra stretch-out space should come in handy when the time comes to take Yao Ming out for brunch. And should you be utilizing the EWB as the world's finest limousine, Rolls-Royce offers an optional partition bedecked in leather, veneer, glass and an analog clock.
Unlike past Rolls-Royce motor cars, the new Phantom line no longer relies solely upon its name and image, whilst the rest of the car is engineered to specs established when the Queen was still in her 30s. Meticulous engineering by BMW has created an automobile that perfectly blends the virtues of a modern German car with the style and panache expected of a classic British luxury cruiser. It makes the Bentley Arnage seem technologically Jurassic by comparison, and the Maybach look ordinary. Even in such rarefied air, there is still nothing quite like the 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom is a five-seat ultraluxury sedan available in regular and extended-wheelbase (EWB) models. Most of today's common luxury features come standard, as well as 20-inch wheels with a run-flat tire system, an adjustable air suspension, bi-xenon headlights and LED running lights, power-closing rear coach doors, a power-closing trunk lid, soft-close power front doors, leather headliner with wool and cashmere accent panels, front and rear parking assist, a sunroof, multi-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, driver's memory functions, a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel and veneered picnic tables in the front seatbacks. Bluetooth, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system, voice controls, Rolls-Royce Assist telematics and a multitask controller with hideaway LCD screen are also standard. The audio system is a 15-speaker Lexicon Logic 7 surround-sound audio system with in-dash single-CD player, glovebox-mounted six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio with a lifetime subscription. The Phantom EWB increases rear passenger leg space and adds rear climate control, reversible footrests and a rear-seat entertainment system with six-DVD changer.
Rolls-Royces are intended to be customized. Most notably, the number of exterior and interior colors are infinite -- for an added fee, Rolls will paint the Phantom and tan its leather in any color you provide. There are also numerous standard leather and wood trim options. Other optional features include 21-inch wheels in chrome or alloy, visible exhausts, an expanded trunk, a front and rear camera system, multi-adjustable power rear captain's chairs, a rear center console, a chilled box for the rear seats, a drinks cabinet, fiber-optic "Starlight Headliner" ceiling lights, rear curtains and DVD-changer rear seat entertainment system with dual 12-inch monitors. Other special requests include customized monogram leather stitching, a trunk-mounted wine cooler or safe, a humidor, a dash-mounted Conway Stewart pen set and a cabin partition for the EWB model.
Powertrains and Performance
The Phantom is powered by a 6.7-liter V12 with 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the lone transmission. Despite its size, the Phantom still accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, while the larger EWB is a few ticks slower. Top speed is limited to 149 mph.
The 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom comes equipped with run-flat tires, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control. Side airbags for front occupants and full-length side curtain airbags are also standard, along with active front head restraints.
Interior Design and Special Features
This may not come as a shock, but the Rolls-Royce Phantom has a rather nice interior, and no matter how nice you think that may be, it's even nicer. Almost every surface is adorned in beautifully crafted veneer, the shiniest chrome, soft cashmere and the sumptuous hides of between 15 and 18 Bavarian cattle. You'll have to look hard to find plastic.
For those who will actually drive their Rolls-Royce, or perhaps for their chauffeur Willoughby, the instrument panel design is clean, with classic gauges and simple audio and climate controls. The latter are mounted too low on the dash, however, and some may lament that they are not of the typical automatic variety. More complex functions like the DVD navigation system are managed by an interface similar to BMW's iDrive system. Its trademark mouselike controller hides inside the center console when not needed, while the LCD screen disappears behind a stylish analog clock.
The rear seat provides plenty of sprawl-out room, especially in the extended-wheelbase model. The prominent C-pillars conceal the Phantom's important passengers, while the rear-hinged coach doors provide them with an elegant means of exit. Plus, with umbrellas embedded inside those doors, there's no excuse for messing up a finely coiffed head.
The large but spindly three-spoke steering wheel feels light in your hands, yet offers good feedback, allowing the big sedan to change direction with ease -- at least when traveling at a relaxed pace. Start kicking things up a bit and it rapidly becomes apparent that the 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom is no sport sedan. That's not a knock on this 5,600-pound vehicle, just a heads-up for those who think anything BMW touches becomes an instant canyon carver. Power from the V12 is prodigious. Pushing the pedal to the floor can be a bit surreal, as you never feel the transmission changing gears and the engine makes little noise. The ride is superb, as it avoids being floaty while soaking up potholes and other road imperfections with nothing more than a muted "thump." You could probably drive through a minefield and not disrupt the rear passenger's power nap. There is some wind noise around the A-pillars at highway speeds (payback for the Rolls' tall roof line), but it is minimal and likely evident only because there is no engine or road noise.