1 Jan 2004
ONLY the third all-new Rolls-Royce sedan in 25 years, the Phantom debuted internationally on January 3 2003 at the company's new manufacturing plant and head office at Goodwood in West Sussex, UK.
Designed from scratch to battle DaimlerChrysler's Maybach 57 and 62 models for the patronage of top-shelf limousine customers, it appeared just four-and-a-half years after BMW Group became the custodian of the Rolls-Royce marque for automotive use (in July 1998) - in the process committing to launch a new company, a new plant and a new car in January 2003.
Taking their inspiration from the Phantom I and II models of the 1930s, the Silver Cloud of the 1950s and the Silver Shadow of the 1960s, designers of the 2003 Phantom incorporated a long wheelbase, short front overhang, a deep C-pillar, long bonnet and that unmistakable grille with The Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.
It is also the result of cutting-edge engineering technology, unparalleled quality and the finest in hand-built craftsmanship – according to its makers.
Phantom occupants enter via what Rolls-Royce calls coach doors, which open from the centre of the car (the rear doors hinged at the back). Combined with a flat floor, they provide easier access to the slightly curved rear lounge seat, which promotes a more social environment. Leather/Cashmere trim and fitted cabins complete the simple, functional interior.
The Phantom is also driver-focussed, offering a high driving position, self-levelling air springs, electronic dampers, double wishbone front suspension and multi-link independent rear suspension.
The lengthy 3570mm wheelbase combines with high-profile tyres to increase ride quality - the latter making the Phantom the first car in the world to feature the PAX run-flat tyre system as standard, which allows the car to run for 160km at 80km/h after a puncture.
Of the other vital statistics, the four-door/five-seat Phantom measures 5834mm long, 1990mm wide and 1632mm high.
There's a big 13.8 metre turning circle, 1685mm and 1670mm front and rear wheel tracks respectively, 100-litre fuel tank and 460 litres of boot volume. Shoulder room (1509mm front, 1431mm rear), legroom (1028mm front, 947mm rear) and headroom (1020mm front, 979mm rear) are also outstanding. But the 0.383Cd aerodynamic drag co-efficient is not.
At the heart of Phantom is a gargantuan 6.75-litre 60-degree V12. Featuring variable valve lift, variable valve timing and direct fuel injection, it produces 720Nm of torque at 3500rpm and 338kW at 5350rpm, with 75 per cent of that peak torque figure available from just above idle at 1000rpm.
Naturally, despite its 2485kg kerb weight, Phantom's performance is hardly muted thanks to the staggering outputs, with Roll-Royce claiming 0-100km/h acceleration of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 240km/h.
Does fuel economy suffer? Not according to Rolls-Royce, which claims a paltry 11 litres per 100km on the EU extra urban cycle and a combined figure of 15.9L/100km.
Australian sales started in January 2004.
The Phantom Coupe launched locally in late 2008 is basically a hard-top version of the recently released convertible version.
It is shorter than the four-door Phantom and has a more modern and sporty look with a laid-back grille and sloping coupe roof line.
As with all the Rolls Royce models the emphasis is on extreme comfort, but the Coupe is designed to be more of a driver’s car and the suspension and steering has been tweaked accordingly.
Power comes from a naturally aspirated 6.7-litre V12 and there is lots of it – 338kW to be exact and there is also a healthy 720Nm of torque as well.
The Coupe is filled with woodgrain, leather and aluminium and everything you could think of that might make the drive a more pleasant experience.
You would expect that too given the Coupe costs a hefty $1.2 million.
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