Farewell to the Phantom, as Rolls-Royce Readies a New Flagship

All future models to be based on lightweight aluminum.

by on Feb.25, 2016

It's the end of the road for the Rolls-Royce Phantom, with a new flagship planned for 2018.

If you’ve been saving your pennies and now have enough to buy a Rolls-Royce Phantom, you better move fast. One of the world’s most luxurious automobiles — and, at a base price of $386,000, one of the most expensiveis about to go out of production.

The current version, anyway. But the Rolls Phantom isn’t going to vanish entirely. A new version of the sedan will make its debut in 2018, and it will mark some major changes at the British-based automaker. Helped by German parent BMW, Rolls-Royce intends to switch all future models, starting with the eighth-generation Phantom, from steel to lighter aluminum frames.

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The goal is to come up with a “contemporary and beautiful Phantom enhanced with cutting-edge technologies and design innovations,” explained Rolls CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes.

The fact that the current Phantom is slated for retirement should come as no surprise. It’s been 13 years since it made its debut – as BMW assumed ownership of the brand and former partner Bentley fell into the orbit of German rival Volkswagen. That’s about twice the traditional luxury lifecycle. In decades past, super-premium models tended to stick around longer, but the pace of change is speeding up, as Bentley is demonstrating with the newly revealed update of its top-line Mulsanne.

Rolls saws it won't replace the Phantom Drophead.

(Rolls-Royce begins development of new SUV. Click Here for the inside story.)

There are actually three versions of the Phantom, including the sedan, coupe and drophead coupe – or convertible. Only the sedan will be reborn.  The current models won’t go quietly. The Brits plan one last hurrah in the form of a special collectors model dubbed the Rolls-Royce Phantom Zenith. Only 50 of these coupes and convertibles will be produced before Phantom production is halted in November.

“As the name promises, Zenith will be the pinnacle; the best of its kind; the highest standard achievable by which everything else is judged,” said Rolls design chief Giles Taylor. “Zenith will be the sum of all the best features of Phantom Coupé and Drophead Coupé, with a few surprises added. We expect huge demand for these 50 fine motor cars as we shall not look upon their like again.”

Among the special features on the Zenith models will be a “Tailgate Hosting Area,” a drop-down tailgate with special seats for outdoor events. They will get unique instrument dials, laser-etched armrests, and even a one-off treatment of the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.

Rolls isn’t saying much about the plans for the next-generation Phantom, but the switch to an all-new, aluminum platform should shave hundreds of pounds of weight off what is today a hefty behemoth. Facing increased pressures from global fuel economy and emissions rules, the Phantom VIII is likely to make other changes, with much of that to come under the hood – or, if you prefer, the bonnet.

Rolls-Royce abandoned the 102EX battery-car concept when potential buyers turned thumbs-down.

There has been some talk about an electrified option. Former partner, and now rival, Bentley is working up a plug-in hybrid drive that will make its debut on the new Bentayga SUV. Eventually, that system will work its way into other Bentley models.

Back in 2011, Rolls revealed the 102EX, a battery-electric prototype based off the outgoing Phantom VII. A weak response from luxury buyers led the British marque to abandon the project. But the company could very well revisit its electrification options as it gets ready to launch its own utility vehicle.

Actually, call it a Sport-Activity Vehicle, according to Mueller-Oetvoes. And that suggests it will make use of some of the off-roading know-how – and possibly some technology – from the BMW toolbox.

(Aston turns to new Chinese partner for battery-powered Rapide. Click Here for more.)

As with Bentley, a full electric or plug-in driveline could be expected to be shared across the line-up, possibly including the Phantom VIII. Automakers not only have broad emissions and mileage standards to cope with but may face additional restrictions in cities like London, Paris, Hamburg and Copenhagen, all of which are considering future restrictions on automotive traffic. One option would be to bar vehicles that could not operate in zero-emissions mode while on central city streets.

We hope to learn more about plans for the next-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom before its 2018 launch.

(Click Here for a first look at the Maserati Levante SUV.)

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