Full 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom receives a few front-end styling tweaks, LED door-handle illumination and standard 21-inch cast aluminum wheels.
If you're in the market for an ultra-premium luxury sedan, you probably don't care that you could buy four nicely equipped BMW 750i sedans for the price of one V12-powered 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom. Value isn't a concern in this rarefied segment; rather, buyers want exclusivity and opulence, and they're willing to pay for it in a very big way. The only serious alternative to the Rolls is over at your local Maybach dealer, and if you ask us, those Maybachs look a bit too much like the relatively pedestrian Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Combining a uniquely imposing look and presence with the sumptuous interior appointments you'd expect, the 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom is truly like nothing else on the road.
Thanks to the stewardship of parent company BMW, the Phantom is outfitted with the expected allotment of current technology, including an iDrive-like control interface. But it's the little things that set the Rolls-Royce apart. The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament lowers neatly into the imposing chrome grille when the car is locked, saving it from being ripped off by ne'er-do-wells, a fate that has befallen so many of Mercedes' three-pointed stars over the years. The "RR" logos on the wheel hubs stay stationary while the rest of the wheel spins. The power-closing rear doors not only open rearward (Rolls prefers "coach doors" to the more common "suicide" moniker); they also carry Teflon-coated umbrellas. Options include cabin curtains and a trunk-mounted wine cooler and a humidor, as well as a "Starlight Headliner" that utilizes fiber-optic lights to create the illusion of twinkling stars. Hey, if you're already spending in the neighborhood of $400,000 on a car, we'd say another $7,200 for twinkling stars is money well spent.
Even the base Phantom boasts cavernous rear quarters, but there's also an extended-wheelbase ("EWB") model that adds 10 inches of rear-seat legroom. Note that it costs roughly $50,000 more than the "regular" Phantom, or five grand per additional inch. We'd rather have the base Phantom and a new Porsche Boxster, but there we go again, worrying about value. Many Rolls-Royce buyers will probably ante up for the EWB just so they can specify the optional partition, which is trimmed in leather and features an analog clock.
Unlike past Rolls-Royce motor cars, the Phantom has the modern electronics and design to match its snooty image. BMW has contributed the requisite engineering might while wisely making sure that the Phantom is instantly recognizable as a Rolls-Royce. The Bentley Arnage is a few decades behind in the technological arena, and the Maybach looks relatively ordinary next to the stately Rolls. For the most distinctive luxury sedan on the planet, with beauty that's more than skin deep, look no further than the 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom is a five-seat ultraluxury sedan available in regular and extended-wheelbase (EWB) models. Most expected luxury features come standard, as well as 21-inch cast aluminum wheels, an adjustable air suspension, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and door handles, 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, multizone climate control, heated front and rear seats, driver's memory functions, a power tilt-and-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 an in-dash single-CD player, a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer, an 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 a six-DVD changer.
For an additional fee, Rolls will paint the Phantom and tan its leather in any color you wish. There are also numerous standard leather and wood trim options. Other optional features include two different wheel designs, visible exhaust tips, 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 a DVD-changer rear seat entertainment system with dual 12-inch monitors. Additional by-request-only items 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 making 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the lone transmission. The base Phantom 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. EPA fuel economy estimates check in at 11 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.
The 2009 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
Believe it or not, the Rolls-Royce Phantom has a pretty nice interior. Almost every surface is adorned in beautifully crafted veneer, shiny chrome, soft cashmere or the sumptuous hides of between 15 and 18 Bavarian cattle. The dashboard has so much wood on it that you might mistake it for a clothes bureau. For those who will actually drive their Rolls-Royce, or at least for their chauffeur Willoughby, the instrument panel design is clean and attractive, with classic gauges and simple audio and climate controls. The climate controls are mounted too low on the dash, however, and some may lament that they are not of the typical automatic variety, consisting instead of thumb wheels that rotate from cold to hot.
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 copious room, especially in the extended-wheelbase model. The prominent C-pillars conceal the Phantom's rear passengers, while the rear-hinged coach doors ensure that their egress will be elegant.
The large three-spoke steering wheel and decent weighting inspire confidence at reasonable speeds, but don't expect the 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom to handle like a sport sedan, Germanic DNA notwithstanding. Of course, this is a 5,600-pound luxury sedan we're talking about here, so handling isn't high on the list of priorities. More important is ride quality, and the Phantom's is exemplary -- you could probably drive through a minefield and not disrupt the rear passenger's power nap. The 6.7-liter V12 delivers smooth and nearly silent power at any speed, and the transmission changes gears imperceptibly. There is some wind noise around the A-pillars at highway speeds (a consequence of the Phantom's tall roof line), but it's likely apparent only because road and engine noise are virtually absent.