First drive: 2012 Rolls-Royce Phantom in Dubai
When we got the call to come drive the “new” Rolls-Royce Phantom models in Dubai, I had to think hard to remember why they were calling them new models. Then it hit me that Rolls-Royce did launch “new” models of their Phantoms, if only with minor changes. The Phantom Series II may just be a facelift, but the new tech added brings the flagship up to modern standards.
External changes aren’t particularly obvious. The headlights have been reshaped, now with full LED lighting. The front bumper, and possibly the wheels, are a bit different. That’s about it really, but then again, a huge overhaul to a classic shape weren’t really needed. Both the Phantom sedan and the Phantom Drophead coupe can continue unchanged for a decade more.
Inside, there is a larger dial-controlled screen between all the real wood and leather, a system that we recognise as lifted straight from parent-company BMW. The interior is sizeable and fairly spacious, but you couldn’t help but think it could’ve been larger inside, considering how massive the car is on the outside. It’s all beautifully trimmed though, very traditional, very classy and very expensive.
Slipping behind the wheel of the Phantom sedan first, we were dwarfed by its size. As we drove off, the car didn’t seem that hard to drive, since we were used to piloting certain oversized SUVs. The seating position is pretty high, at almost the same level as crossover SUVs, so the road ahead is clearly viewed. Most other cars try to stay out of the way anyway.
We didn’t do much more than cruise the highways. The steering is light and loose so you have to get used to the complete lack of feedback, while the brake pedal is overly light so you have to press it more than you think you should to get it to stop. This is definitely not a car to drive fast.
And yet, the engine is overly powerful for such a limo, making 453 hp from a direct-injection 6.7-liter V12, now mated to an 8-speed automatic. While we can’t confirm it does the 0-100 kph run in a claimed 6 seconds, it certainly feels fast.
It also feels a wee bit floaty on the highway, apparently on purpose to retain the feel of old Rolls-Royce cars, but at the same time, it also felt a wee bit firm on certain road surfaces, a side-effect of having such low-profile tyres on such huge 21-inch wheels. And while the car is eerily quiet at legal speeds, there’s no defying physics as the wind noise just starts to become noticeable at 140 kph, which is the typical speed for cross-country runs.
Jumping into the Phantom Drophead Coupe right after the sedan felt like a relief. The coupe is shorter in length and generally feels like it belongs in the “car” lanes, rather than sharing competing in size with trucks. The interior feels relatively more cosy thanks to the chopped roof with the “glittering” headliner lighting, complemented by a back window that hardly offers any visibility via the centre-mirror, but there is still enough space in the rear for adults.
Sharing the same engine as the sedan, the Phantom Coupe also seems to feel less floaty on turns, with sharper steering response and better body control.While we didn’t do anything untoward, we got the feeling that you can chuck it around a bit without worrying about tilting like the Titanic.
We ended the day at a restaurant in the Meydan hotel that’s so fancy and possibly so expensive that there were no other customers there on that weekday, so our small Rolls-Royce troupe had the place all to ourselves. It was a taste of the life that a typical Rolls-Royce owner would lead.