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Car Review

Driving the New Rolls-Royce Phantom Is an Exercise in Serious Luxury

After more than a decade, the historic brand is relaunching its flagship sedan. The result is a $450,000 hunk of power and opulence.
The new Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Photographer: Yann Gross for Bloomberg Businessweek

Reaching 7,976 feet above sea level, Switzerland’s spindle-thin Furka Pass is one of the highest mountain roads in the world. Its sheer edges are so abrupt they make professional drivers sweat. The climb is suited for something small and athletic, such as a Porsche 911, or the Aston Martin DB5 James Bond drove here during an epic chase scene in Goldfinger. It’s not typically where you’d land a 5,754-pound, 20-foot-long coach that’s meant to be enjoyed from the back seat.

Yet that’s exactly the spot Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. chose to introduce its latest effort, the eighth version of its Phantom flagship sedan. For the first time since 2003, the carmaker has orchestrated a complete update on the model—only the second time it’s done so under BMW Group ownership. The Phantom is the marque that John Lennon and Elvis Presley drove, the one Queen Elizabeth commissioned as her preferred mode of travel. First designed in 1925 by Henry Royce himself, it’s the oldest automotive model still produced today. Last year, Phantom sales generated about 15 percent of Rolls-Royce’s revenue in the Americas; it’s the company’s single-biggest money-making series.