An art gallery on wheels

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The opulent new Phantom is a masterpiece in more ways than one

Rolls-Royce has unveiled the eighth generation of its Phantom flagship, which will go on sale early in 2018, almost 15 years after its predecessor – the first BMW Rolls-Royce.

Promising to offer more of everything of interest to a Rolls-Royce customer, it sits on a brand-new bespoke aluminium spaceframe chassis that will underpin an entire generation of Rolls products, including the ‘Cullinan’ SUV slated for launch in 2019 and the next Ghost and Wraith generations. The adoption of the new platform for these latter two cars is significant: until now these ‘volume’ models have had to use adapted BMW 7-series architecture and it says a great deal about the confidence that Munich has in the Goodwood brand’s future that in future no Rolls-Royce will be structurally related to any BMW.

The new Phantom is wider and taller than the last but, perhaps surprisingly, shorter in length and wheelbase, perhaps to provide additional incentive for customers to spend more on a long-wheelbase model that puts an extra 200mm between front and rear wheels.

Power still comes from a 6.75-litre V12 but much modified, not least by the addition of twin turbochargers, boosting power by just over 100bhp to 563bhp. More importantly for a Rolls, torque increases from 531lb ft to 663lb ft, while the engine speed required to develop it more than halves to just 1700rpm. Even so, when you bear in mind there is no shortage of engines with only two-thirds the capacity that have no problem generating far more power than this, it’s clear these are very lazy numbers for such an enormous forced induction engine. Rolls will be instead focused on ensuring the motor is as smooth as possible, with zero perceptible turbo lag.

The Phantom also comes with all-new suspension, allowing much greater wheel travel (likely to benefit the SUV more than the Phantom), but controlled by active anti-roll bars governed by a new 48-volt electrical system. This should have an operating range for the bars from near zero roll to effectively uncoupled. Enormous Continental tyres come with their own in-built noise deadening to add to an astonishing 130kg of soundproofing material in the rest of the car.

The interior design seems merely evolved from that of the old Phantom, until you see that the entire width of the dashboard is made from glass, behind which lie not only the usual screens, dials and displays but also an area in front of the passenger where bespoke works of art can be displayed. Yes, really.

The Phantom will cost about £400,000, but in truth this is a largely nominal figure as adding a further £100,000 in personal commissioning will be simplicity itself. Some cars will cost £1 million.

Rolls says no drophead or coupé versions are planned, but I’d not take that too literally: Rolls made both two-door and cabrio versions of the old Phantom, and with a life cycle certain to extend to a decade or more, there is plenty of time for such cars to make it into the line-up once more.

FERRARI TO BUILD SUV? 

On the subject of SUVs, Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne appears to be back-pedalling somewhat on his stated position that Ferrari would continue ‘to make two-door sports cars, not SUVs or four-door cars’. At a press conference in August he said, “I think that if we allow the Ferrari engineers to reinvent the concept of a vehicle that has some utilitarian features, it will probably happen but it will happen Ferrari-style.”

Exactly what ‘Ferrari-style’ means in this context is not clear, but Marchionne appears to be hinting that whatever car results, it will not be a conventional SUV. Such a car would therefore likely have a coupé silhouette but with the additional ground clearance and raised driving position complete with Ferrari’s extant and highly efficient all-wheel-drive system. Alternatively, it could have a rear-drive powertrain with an independent, on-demand electrically driven front axle.

For Ferrari the big conceptual question concerns the rear doors. On the one hand it’s hard to see how Ferrari can get away without them, even on the fringes of the high-end SUV market. On the other, Ferrari has a proud and hitherto unbroken 70-year history of selling cars with two doors only. The only official four-door Ferrari seen in public was the lovely 1980 Ferrari Pinin concept, which the Old Man wanted to see in production but was dropped after an apathetic response from customers.

VANTAGE BREAKS COVER

Aston Martin has released disguised images of its new Vantage, sister car to the DB11 that will be built on an abbreviated version of the same platform and, like the newly introduced V8 version of the DB11, feature a 4.0 twin-turbo eight-cylinder Mercedes-AMG engine.

The car’s appearance seems to support assertions that, whatever the similarities underneath, Aston Martin is going for much greater visual differentiation between its two core coupés.

Aston Martin has said that the car will be shown undisguised before the end of the year. Clearly its underpinnings mean the 5.2-litre V12 engine currently in the DB11 will slip into its engine bay without modification and there will in time be a roadster, too. What remains to be seen is whether the Vantage will also be offered with a manual gearbox. The DB11 uses an eight-speed automatic that might struggle to match the character of the Vantage, so using the seven-speed double-clutch gearbox already seen in a transaxle application in the Mercedes-AMG GT coupé is a clear option. The engine has not yet been tied to a conventional manual gearbox, though Aston boss Andy Palmer is such a three-pedal fan that he retro-engineered a manual gearbox option for the last of the outgoing Vantage S V12s.

ATS NAME RETURNS

By the time you read this, a name steeped in Formula 1 history will have relaunched as a road-going supercar. At the moment all we have of the ATS GT’s visuals is a teaser image of the logo and an outline of the car’s profile. The ATS was set for launch at the Salon Privé Concours in late August. Just a dozen examples of the supercar will be built initially, making extensive use of carbon fibre in their structure, interior and bodywork. The car will be powered by a twin-turbo V8 driving the rear wheels through a double-clutch gearbox. The source of the powertrain, the performance it will produce and the price had not be revealed at the time of writing.

Automobili Turismo e Sport was originally formed in 1962 by disenfranchised former Ferrari staff including Carlo Chiti, Giotto Bizzarrini and Romolo Tavoni. The team took part in just five GPs in 1963 before folding the following season, although a dozen 2500 GT road-going supercars were produced up to 1965 (thus pre-dating the Lamborghini Miura, which is popularly presumed to be the first mid-engined road car).

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