The modern-day Rolls-Royce Phantom made its new-millennium debut in January 2003 and became an icon of the super-luxury market almost instantly. After a long and convoluted history that involved Bentley for many years, Rolls was purchased by BMW in 1998. The Phantom was the first car built by the new Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited under the watchful eye of the Germans. By December 2005, nearly three years after its introduction, the 2000th Phantom rolled off the production line. (To put that in perspective, 2045 Ford Mustangs were built between October 19 and October 24 2009.) Number 3000 was built in March 2007.
In 2012, it was time for a major update, so Rolls debuted the Phantom Series II at the Geneva Motor Show. Though it looked unmistakeably like a Rolls-Royce, the new design (seen above) had a new front end with ultra-modern LED lights.
While the design and gadgetry got a major update, the stoic Rolls-Royce V12 engine did not. It makes exactly the same amount of horsepower as it has for several years now (460 hp), and the torque is the same, too (531 lb-ft). But, seeing as this is the twenty-first century, Rolls did manage to improve fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions a bit.
The blocky, heavy appearance of a Rolls-Royce Phantom has not been tampered with very much, despite what Rolls would have you believe. Sure, there are major changes to the bumpers, and they did add the first standard LED headlights of any manufacturer (they seem very proud of these lights). But if you see one of these tanks rolling along in a royal parade or a diplomatic convoy, you will know the Series II Phantom is a Rolls-Royce from the second you lay eyes on it. Why mess with an icon?
The outside may be staid and iconic, but the inside is up-to-date and gadgety as all get out. The nav system not only has a 3D map display, but it also shows landscape topography, in case you're in heels and you can't bear to walk up that hill. Fear not -- Jeeves will drive Madame up the hill. There are chrome buttons in the console that can be programmed as bookmarks for the functions you use most. Rolls wouldn't dream of having a mere back-up camera like some kind of Toyota; the Series II has a top view, a split front view, and rear path prediction. And there's a hard drive in the glove box, since no one, not even Madame, wears gloves anymore.
The wood trim used in the interior is sandwiched with aluminum to prevent splintering if someone dares T-bone the Series II, and the grain is matched on either side of the car. The leather comes from bulls raised in pastures without thorns or barbed wire so that the hides will be unmarred when they're laser cut and hand-sewn at the Goodwood factory.
Of course, the only thing stopping Madame's customization of the Series II is, as with every Rolls-Royce, the limit on her credit card. Bad taste can give the sixty employees involved in creating each Rolls pause, but it will not stop them.
- Engine: direct-injected V12
- Horsepower: 460 hp
- Torque: 531 lb-ft
- Top speed: 149 mph (electronically limited)
- 0-60 mph: 5.7 seconds