Goodwood Test: Rolls-Royce Phantom 2023 Review
Is there any point reviewing the Rolls-Royce Phantom? It would take a colossal miscalculation by the company based at Goodwood for its flagship super-limo to be anything other than supreme in the world of motoring.
But, as several brands have shown over the years, that such a miscalculation is actually possible. Rover was once a bastion of high-quality British motoring, and that’s the company that marketed the Cityrover. So now that there’s a facelifted version of the eighth-generation of Phantom, let’s just double check that they haven’t messed it right up.
- Immense quality
- Undetectable gearbox
- Effortless performance
We don't like
- No touch screen
- BMW infotainment spoils the facade slightly
- Facelift brought minimal updates
The Rolls-Royce Phantom’s design follows the principle that the first Phantom made after the BMW takeover was the best thing it had ever designed, so let’s not ruin things now. The facelift is absolutely unnoticeable – what Rolls call the Phantom Series II now has a new small garnish above the grille (whatever that means), revised headlights and new wheels – and to be honest even the changes from Phantom 7 to Phantom 8 were pretty hard to see.
The face is pure Rolls-Royce, the giant grille, the humongous bonnet, the stature that’s actually up there with some SUVs, it’s all the hallmark of the company once based in Crewe. Changes into the Mk8 were few, but did exist. Those lights are more sophisticated LEDs, the arches stand slightly prouder forward – legacy of the 103EX Vision 100 concept that celebrated the company’s centenary. The major change was the first addition of suicide doors to a Phantom.
Performance and Handling
The onrushing necessity for electrification is affecting even Rolls-Royce, but for now has been swerved on the flagship. The upcoming Spectre will showcase what Rolls can do when it needs to abandon petrol, but the Phantom still clings on to its 6.75-litre V12 engine. It’s about the size of a VW Up! so 543PS (400kW) doesn’t seem like an awful not, but that’s because, for reasons of pure waft, the Phantom is tuned for torque not power. That means a hefty 900Nm (664lb ft) delivered at barely above tickover (1,700rpm). Top speed is reigned in at an almost unseemly 155mph.
Performance can only be described as effortless. The Phantom has the most assisted steering I have ever experienced, probably wise in a car of around three tonnes, and any kind of forward motion comes with a complete lack of fuss. Even the eight-speed automatic gearbox does its business so serenely that you have to strain to notice its work in the slightest.
Should you decide to ask the Phantom deliver every last dreg of power, a slick or cold road can find the smallest amount of traction loss at the rear, but it’s snuffed out as fast as it begins. Keep your foot in and the sound of a massive V12 working will swell a little, not enough to intrude, but just the right level to tell you the car is delivering all its promise.
Even at speed the cabin is whisper quiet and the Phantom's ability to stamp out any sign of judder through the cabin from the worst road is a little bit scary, like meeting an overly human-like AI for the first time. That ability is enhanced by the fact that the Rolls-Royce Phantom actually scans the road ahead to check for bumps and corners, so it can set its damping as required. The weirdest thing is just how impressive the Phantom is at speed. It could never be described as nimble, but even through snakelike roads and tight lanes of Sussex the Rolls feels like it can always carry whatever momentum you wish.
One of the boldest steps Rolls-Royce has taken with the eighth Phantom is to keep the interior almost exactly the same as it has always been. There are no touchscreens in the big Roller, everything is controlled through i-Drive selectors, and the system has a 10.25-inch central display trapped behind some Perspex that can be stowed away at the touch of a button.
The quality of materials inside is astonishing, leather and wood are treated with the highest respect before being slotted into the Phantom, and the levels of customisation that customers are confronted with are, frankly, baffling. The dash is the same rough design as always, that means a bunch of switches and dials, all of which have the kind of action that makes you want to keep moving them for no apparent reason.
My only complaint perhaps comes back to that policy of evolution. The lack of touch screen and total focus on old-school experience are wonderful, but given the way that Bentley has made strides in its interiors over the past decade, standing still feels bold for Rolls-Royce. We probably shouldn’t worry though; it knows its audience.
Technology and Features
The big screen up front is obviously the first place to look. It is a pure i-Drive system, and not the latest, but has been reskinned for Rolls-Royce use. It’s crisp and easy to navigate, but sometimes you do remember that in a £350,000 car you’re using the same system as someone might have in their previous generation 1 Series.
In the back there are screens for the passengers, each bigger than the one in the front, which will display TV, media and driving information, and which are also controlled by rotary dial. Then there’s the customary champagne cooler and more. The interiors of a Roller are so dependent on the owner that technology will change from car to car. But the climate control is still adjusted through a dial of hot to cold, rather than anything as gauche as specific temperatures and there’s a 360-degree parking camera these days – a lifesaver.
There is no doubt that the competition has upped its game since the seventh-generation Phantom blew us all away at the start of the century. But Rolls-Royce hasn’t stood still. A constant programme of small refinements means that the Phantom retains its place at the head of the race for perfection.
There is, even today, nothing that even comes close to matching the Rolls-Royce Phantom for luxury. There’s nothing around that has carpets you could lose your keys in, nothing that dismisses a road in the way this does and nothing that makes you feel quite so remote from the troubles of the world like the Phantom. But then there is still nothing that really comes close to its price point. It’s a hard thing to really say, but this is perhaps the only car that is genuinely worth the price of a reasonably large house.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
|Engine||6.75-litre V12 petrol|
|Power||571PS (420kW) @ 5,000rpm|
|Torque||900Nm (664lb ft) @ 1,700rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive|
Reviewed by Ben Miles