Rolls-Royce Phantom II

14 May, 2012 12:00pm Andrew English

Updates to the Rolls-Royce Phantom aim to make the best car in the world better. Do they succeed?


For style and magic-carpet ride, nothing comes close to a Phantom. The new box has added a degree of economy and performance, although there are still some bugs. It’s probably still the world’s finest car – from the rear seats, if not from behind the wheel.
While they don’t revamp Rolls-Royces as frequently as, say, Renaults, the almost 10-year life of the Phantom is still something of a landmark. Yet longevity is exactly what owners requested. “Our customers don’t want a new car coming to market too often,” Rolls-Royce told us.

So will they be upset by this updated Phantom? It would be difficult to think so; put old and new together and you’d struggle to spot the differences. The main changes are a new ZF eight-speed auto box and rear differential, revised sat-nav, a 360-degree-view camera system, Harman Kardon stereo and some of the most subtle coachwork changes ever seen on a new model.

Under the body there is some strengthening for the aluminium spaceframe chassis, but even the most noticeable change – the adoption of rectangular LED headlamps – is pretty subtle.

So is it much ado about nothing? Not really, as the old six-speed transmission was an Achilles’ heel; it failed to make the most of the 6.75-litre V12 and could be a bit jerky, too.

The new transmission gives a 10 per cent efficiency boost and is generally smoother, but it’s not all good news. Standing-start acceleration is limited, as the software protects the box from the onslaught of torque and the transmission sometimes doesn’t know which ratio to select, particularly when coming out of corners on a constant throttle.

On the whole, however, the new box gives the quantity of gears the Phantom requires to retain its position as ‘the finest car in the world’.

Not that owners of this near-six-metre-long, 2.6-tonne monster would necessarily want to drive it themselves. Dynamically it’s very good, and although the ride is soft, body roll is well controlled and the steering, while slow, is accurate and responsive.

As you might expect, there’s an eerie silence to the cabin, but this gargantuan saloon, with its rear-hinged back doors and double-floor architecture, is really all about riding in the back.

The improvements inside – especially that 360-degree camera and the programmable sat-nav – make the Rolls easier to live with, although it’s still a handful.

The mild redesign of the dashboard, with its 8.8-inch sat-nav screen, has accompanied the sad loss of the retro design and Bakelite buttons. But overall, the updates should attract new customers without upsetting existing ones.

Disqus - noscript

If this is meant to be the finest car in the world so why doesn't it get the finest gearbox in the world. Having spent £388K on this car i expect it to be flawless in every way!!

A gearbox that can neither take the full torque of the engine nor decide which gear it should be in shouldn't be in this car. In fact 453hp and 720nm Torque for such a huge engine isn't a huge amount by 2012 standards.

V12 and 6.75ltrs with just 453 ponies sounds pony and trap to me!! If you can easily squeeze 500hp+ and 600ibft+ from a 2ltr 4pot engine it should be a doddle for RR to make decent amounts of both from this monster engine.

Do Rolls Royce think it'll be fine because it's a roller? Do they think people won't notice these issues or will just ignore and forgive because it's a roller? Clearly RR must think their customers have more money than sense, and as most will be chauffeur driven they won't care one bit if there's a problem!!

It's a bit like spending a fortune on the finest Horse & Cart in the world but the horse has a leg missing. C'mon!!

If i won the lottery tomorrow the answer would be NO!! I don't want one unless it's bloody perfect!!

When I see one of these I don't think 'Wow' or 'What Class', I think 'What a git'. Doing well is one thing. Rubbing everyone elses nose in it is quite another and that is what you are doing by buying a Roller. There are so many well made, subtle, classy cars I cannot think of a single reason why anyone would want something as ridiculous as this.

ghastly monstrosity
and totally elitist """look at me""""

may I just say that i think the Royce is wonderful, as for the unkind comments?

reminds me of being outside a posh hotel and a Bentley Continental rolled up, thuggish looking OIKs with tatts outside the car park making comments about getting a "Scooby" as it was faster and therefore( presumably) a better set of wheels - taste is a personal thing innit? :)

What a fantastic machine!
Howeve,r extremely . much too expensive, although I guess for the target market, the decision to buy one or not, is probably about as serious as whether Joe Bloggs should buy one or two Mars bars in the scheme of things.
Whilst the exterior has been tweaked, I have to say the old one with the round twin fog lights was far more attractive, and went with the car better
The old dash was nicer too on the series one
Why is there still no proper rev counter?
Bit stupid on a car this price.

Rolls Royce have always had imperfections, having a dodgy gearbox is nothing new, the fact that no one really turned their nose up at the old six speed is testament to brand loyalty, the fact that the new 8 speed is better will probably be of no consequence to prospective owners. They will buy this because of what it is, not just because of the new improvements. They have not been truly the best car in the world for decades, but they are perceived to be and that's enough.

Key specs

* Rolls-Royce Phantom II
* Price: £388,150 (as tested)
* Engine: 6,75-litre V12 petrol
* Power/torque: 453bhp/720Nm
* Transmission: 8-speed auto, rwd
* 0-60/top speed: 5.7 seconds/149mph
* Economy/CO2: 19.1mpg/347g/km
* Equipment: Sat-nav, lambswool floor mats, 28 veneers in cabin, climate control, LED headlamps, Harmon Kardon audio system
* On sale: Now