By Keith Buglewicz
One could say that the 2016 Rolls-Royce Phantom is the flagship of the entire automotive industry, not just Rolls-Royce. In sedan, coupe or convertible form, there's nothing else that gives its owner the same sense of luxury, indulgence, and opulence as the Phantom. Even in today's world, where everything is "artisanal," the hand-built construction of the Rolls-Royce Phantom would be considered overkill by the most dedicated hipster. With a price that starts at more than $420,000 and skyrockets from there thanks to the Bespoke individualization process, its competition isn't other cars, but condos, yachts, fine jewelry, art...you get the picture. If you find yourself capable of buying one, the V12 engine, exquisite ride and opulent surroundings are like nothing else.
If you want everyone to know that your money supply is as inexhaustible as water, then the Rolls-Royce Phantom is the best way to prove you can have, and get, anything you want. It's the closest thing in the world to buying royalty.
Despite the price, the Phantom is not the quickest, most powerful, or most technologically sophisticated luxury car. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS are all more modern, and for the same price you could buy all four.
The Phantom Zenith Collection of Phantom Coupe and Drophead celebrate the end of the Phantoms with bespoke-instrument dials, a special Spirit of Ecstasy figurine, a Tailgate Hosting Area, and armrests laser-edged with depictions of the original launch locations of the two cars. No, we're not making up that last one.
Your chauffeur will likely find the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan satisfying to drive, if not particularly engaging. While you're living it up in the back seat enjoying the quiet and serenity...
... that is the brand's hallmark, Jeeves will take note that the 453-horsepower V12 gets the massive 4-door to 60 mph in less than six seconds, but offers isolated steering and suspension feel. If you plan on driving yourself in the Phantom Coupe or Drophead convertible, you'll note that their smaller size and slightly sportier tuning make them a bit more engaging, although note that even in these two models, the emphasis is on luxury cruising. The term "land yacht" perfectly describes the Drophead, not just because of its teakwood rear deck, but because in the same way there's no better way to get around on water, there's no more elegant way to get around on land.
We're suckers for interesting doors, and the Rolls-Royce Phantom offers rear-hinged doors that add an air of class and timelessness to this massive luxury car. They also close at the touch of a button, an elegant solution considering the absurdly long doors on the Coupe and Drophead.
RETRACTING HOOD ORNAMENT
People are jerks sometimes, and some aren't above stealing the hood ornament off a fancy car. To combat this, the Rolls-Royce Phantom hides its Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament when the car is parked, with it retracting into a special compartment inside the grille.
Behind the simple design of the Rolls-Royce Phantom interior is old-world craftsmanship. The standard layout includes a minimalist iDrive controller for the infotainment system and therefore a surprising lack of knobs, buttons and switches. That lets you take in the hand-stitched leather, intricately laid wood and soft carpeting inside. The sedan can be equipped with a bench or individual seats for two in back, while the 2-door models have two rear seats. But beyond that is the extensive customization possible, from custom leather colors, types and embroideries, to a Starlight headliner that uses optic fibers to simulate a starry night.
The 2016 Rolls-Royce Phantom is an enormous automobile, from the 18-foot-long coupe and convertible, to the more than 20-foot length of the Phantom Extended Wheelbase model. The Phantom Drophead Coupe convertible draws inspiration from J-class yachts of the 1930s, as evidenced by the massive rear deck made of teakwood. The wheels are a special design that keeps the famous "RR" badge in the center level when at speed. Then there are the rear-hinged doors, which look especially extravagant on coupe and convertible models as the driver and front-seat passenger enter and exit.
A "standard" Rolls-Royce Phantom may not exist, as each car is customized to suit its buyer’s taste. However, the jumping-off point for all that includes an 8.8-inch color display, a Logic7 Surround Sound system and a central control module for infotainment features. There are standard LED headlights, and a multi-camera system gives drivers a bird’s-eye view of the car when in reverse. Lambs-wool carpet and fine leather coddle passengers. Oddly, mainstay technology such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control -- available in the less expensive Rolls-Royce Ghost and even a Kia -- are absent in this $400,000 ultra-luxury car.
If you order from the Rolls-Royce Bespoke division, you can't alter the sheet metal, and you can't compromise the safety of the car. Other than that, the sky's the limit, quite literally, as you can even custom-design the placement of the fiber optic "stars" in the Starlight headliner. There are numerous options and customization levels, like trunk-mounted umbrellas and mother-of-pearl inlays, and "normal" things like a rear-seat entertainment system or a Dynamic Package for the sedan. However, the Phantom doesn't offer the satellite-aided transmission and night-vision system from its Ghost and Wraith siblings, or semi-autonomous driving features available on Mercedes S-Class.
There's only one engine choice for the 2016 Rolls-Royce Phantom, no matter what model you choose: a big, naturally aspirated V12 engine driving the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. That 453 horsepower sounds like a lot, and it pushes this massive sedan from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, while the coupe and convertible can do it in 5.6 seconds. That's pretty solid for something this massive, even if plenty of other cars are quicker. A "power reserve" gauge shows the car using just 10 percent of available power while cruising at 70 mph. Sedan and convertible Phantoms are electronically limited to a top speed of 150 mph, and coupes go up to 155 mph.
453 horsepower @ 5,350 rpm
531 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/19 mpg
Since you asked, a 2016 Rolls-Royce Phantom short-wheelbase sedan has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $423,000, while the long-wheelbase sedan costs $497,500. If you want two doors, it'll be $454,600 for the coupe, and $497,100 for the Drophead convertible. It's easy to elevate that price by tens of thousands of dollars -- one rear-seating option costs nearly $40,000, and the Dynamic Package adds nearly $17,700 -- and that's before you head over to the Bespoke shop for your individualization. It's the most expensive sedan you can buy, and one of the most expensive cars period. Normally we'd suggest checking the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to get the best deal, but c'mon, you aren't going to haggle here. If you're buying a Phantom you likely won't worry much about depreciation, which is good, since it's likely to lose $150,000 in just a few years' time.