Tour the shiny new Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II: the US$700,000 Mercedes-Maybach rival can be done up in silk with bespoke artworks, with picnic tables and blackout curtains – and isn’t electric

The 2023 Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II. Photo: NetCarShow
When carmakers are spending billions to produce and promote electric vehicles, it actually stuns a little when someone unveils something that’s unapologetically un-pluggable.
The 2023 Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II.

That phrase aptly describes the 2023 Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II. The longest-running nameplate of the 116-year-old brand, Rolls-Royce’s flagship sedan boasts a 563-horsepower V12 engine, 12mpg in the city and a price tag that, for most buyers, will approach US$700,000 (gas guzzler tax included).

Its opulent braggadocio will be booed in some social sets, and its infotainment systems fall a hair off the mark in general finesse, compared with those of industry leader Mercedes-Maybach, but Phantom II well maintains Rolls-Royce’s status at the pinnacle of luxury on four wheels. More than a car, it represents an entire lifestyle. You won’t just feel special when riding inside the Phantom’s vaultlike confines; you’ll feel superior.

So what’s it like exactly? We take a look at all the luxurious amenities and features …

Monarch minded

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) has a market price of about US$700,000.

Phantom II proffers few changes from its previous generation, apart from revised headlamps with 820 tiny bezel-cut stars surrounding them, new wheel options and a slightly shifted grille. The focus here is on letting clients do pretty much whatever they want to make the car feel like their own.

You can commission your own art or the art of a favourite artist for the dashboard; you can order the interior done completely in silk if you like. Now, that is very old-school cool. Uplighting on the Spirit of Ecstasy masthead (US$4,950), elevated footrests (US$6,300), refrigerated champagne cooler (US$3,500) and picnic tables in the rear covered in wood veneer of your choosing (US$4,100) are some of the more conventional options.

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The dark emerald green Phantom I drove 470km (290 miles) from Los Angeles to Las Vegas last week weighs in at US$650,000, which includes such things as a US$14,500 “rear theatre configuration” and US$1,650 “commissioned collection umbrellas in cashmere grey” (actual weight: 5,643 pounds). Its Gotham skyscraper grille advertises to all that it owns the road; 22-inch forged black disc wheels (a US$13,000 option) recall the dark deco cars mobsters drove during Prohibition. Unapologetic, indeed.

Outsize proportions

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) has been described to have outsize proportions.

“Is that your Rolls parked out front? That’s a real tank!” a neighbour texted before I left for Vegas, a destination with an apt landing pad: the Wynn Las Vegas hotel (I’ll explain why).

Yes, its outsize proportions – 5.8 metres (18.9ft) from front to back, or about a 0.3 metres (foot longer) than an F-150 – preclude it from being stationed in anything so proletarian as a standard parking space. You’re going to want a U-shaped driveway and an oversized garage, preferably separate from the main house, for this. I’m thinking a converted stable sounds about right.

Very roomy back seats

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) features plenty of headroom and legroom in the back.
On the plus side, a 206cm (6ft, 9-inch) acquaintance in Vegas says he had all the headroom and legroom he needed, both behind the wheel and in the back seat. NBA pros, take note. Vegas, in fact, proves a logical place to drive what a Rolls-Royce spokesperson says is the last internal-combustion-powered Phantom that Rolls-Royce will produce. The person declined to comment on whether the next generation will come with an electric drivetrain, or even a hydrogen drivetrain, as Oliver Zipse, BMW Group chief told me on October 18, could happen in Rolls-Royce’s future. But with the buzz surrounding the launch of the all-electric Rolls-Royce Spectre, and the company’s promise that by 2030 it will make only EVs, it’s an easy guess that Phantom will soon follow suit.

Bespoke features

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) offers bespoke add-on features and services.

Besides the fact that the essence of Las Vegas celebrates accumulating and exhibiting wealth, the city lies amid some of the best two-lane desert drives in the American West, with Death Valley, Valley of Fire and the towering Hoover Dam, all within striking distance.

Wynn Resorts, whose properties include hotels in Macau, the world’s single biggest owner, with 35 Phantoms, according to Rolls-Royce; Wynn attracts a clientele that can easily afford – and expect – such a palatially styled car. These are the kind of people who have two, three or more Rolls-Royce vehicles in their fleet, with a brand-wide average age of 43 (that number is astonishing, considering that the average age of a luxury car buyer across the industry is the mid-50s). So far, every single order of the Phantom II has been heavily bespoke, a spokesperson tells me, with the value of the car increasing at least 20 per cent or even doubling with the add-ons.

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King of the road

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) is very suitable to drive in Las Vegas.

Phantom unfurls itself most regally on the road to Vegas. Driving on Interstate 15 past Barstow, California, it glides through the desert in serene silence, like a ghost ship. It keeps the noise down to 60 decibels inside the cabin, according to my phone app, compared to 90 decibels or so in a regular sports car, thanks to Rolls-Royce’s legendary sound-deadening efforts in everything from the lining of the cabin walls to the inner spaces of its tires. Most of that hum comes from the road, not the engine. The only way to get it quieter would be to make it electric (I guess we have only to wait).

This gilded barrel of a car easily moves from 50mph to 80mph (80km/h to 130km/h) and higher, so much so that at some number above 80mph that I will not share with you, I have to remind myself to slow down. Good thing, too: I watch a roadside highway patrol officer pull over a white SUV for speeding just after I’ve surged past it. Whew.

What could be improved?

Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) drives quietly, like a ghost ship.

Some notes for those who are as nit-picky as me: I wish the ample rear pillar didn’t block my view of that SUV; I might have seen the police officer sooner out of the corner of my eye. The pillar includes privacy blackout curtains on each side (US$8,200) that would, at the touch of a button, close off each window in the rear cabin, along with the rear window. This would further impede driving visibility, but makes a great hideout for passengers.

I wish the steering wheel were better to grip: a little thicker and rounder to hold rather than flattened at the edges; it is made to evoke the thin, boat-like steering wheels of Phantoms past, but at this point it feels dated.

The dashboard of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023).

I’ll also gripe about the many layers – I counted seven – of the interface I must click through to engage the messaging seats function. Those should be obvious one-click tabs. And I’d move that handsome analogue clock in the dashboard, from its way-off-centre spot that’s difficult for the driver to see, to the middle of the dashboard, underneath the infotainment screen.

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Conclusion: the new Rolls-Royce Phantom II is sublime

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II (2023) has been highly praised.

From its sleek engine prowess to the elite comfort of the interior, I’m hard pressed to find fault within its confines. It lives up to its promise as the world’s best rolling cocoon of traditional, uncompromising excellence. As we move toward electric power, it’s also one of the last.

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Luxury cars
  • Rolls-Royce’s flagship sedan boasts a 563-horsepower V12 engine, 12mpg in the city and a 60 decibel noise level offering ultra privacy in its vaultlike confines
  • This 2023 edition and rival to Mercedes-Maybach has some extravagant add-on features like a champagne cooler, Spirit of Ecstasy masthead and elevated footrests