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The Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII: A modern-day magic carpet ride

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The Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII: A modern-day magic carpet ride
How the eighth-generation Phantom is setting a new standard for the future

"It's not an evolution; it's a significant change in the direction of the brand." With that bold statement, Rolls-Royce's bespoke designer, Alex Innes, introduces the revolutionary Phantom VIII.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom has a storied history spanning nearly 100 years. It's a long-time favourite of celebrities, royalty, and statesmen, all of whom have put their own touch on their personal Phantoms. None more so visibly than John Lennon, who gave his colourful Phantom V a "Sgt. Pepper"-inspired paint job in 1967.

The eighth iteration of the Phantom brings the motoring legend into the 21st Century. Rolls-Royce CEO Thorsten Müller-Ötvös describes it as "greatness in its truest form". The contemporary design sets the standard for Rolls-Royce cars going forward, beginning with an all-new aluminium spaceframe.

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Referred to — rather grandiosely — as the "architecture of luxury", the new frame is lighter, stiffer, and quieter than its predecessors. As such, Müller-Ötvös alludes to it as a real magic carpet ride.

On the exterior, the scene-stealing car boasts sleek, long lines that draw the eye through the body. A slightly tilted grill softens the bold, angular lines of old, and is paired with a clean, minimalist look designed for modern-day sensibilities.

A pioneering new feature, The Gallery, is an unprecedented reinvention of the dashboard. With The Gallery, Rolls-Royce offers customers a hands-on bespoke experience where they can commission artists to create custom works that are built into the dashboard and protected behind glass in a 100 percent dust-free environment. Fancy an original Ai Weiwei or Damien Hirst sitting behind your steering wheel? Rolls-Royce will hook you up.

"Referred to — rather grandiosely — as the 'architecture of luxury', the new frame is lighter, stiffer, and quieter than its predecessors. As such, Müller-Ötvös alludes to it as a real magic carpet ride."

"We're offering to our customers, for the first time, a blank canvas and the ability for them to work with us to curate their space, and introduce favourite artists and preferences of materials," says Innes. "It's a really remarkable thing, not only as a feature, but also in the process of commissioning it."

Customisation has always been the heart of the Phantom. Müller-Ötvös readily admits: "Rolls-Royce as a brand would probably not exist if we weren't able to offer bespoke services." But the eighth-generation Phantom takes personalisation to a whole new level.

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"There's only one limit on our side, and that's when you start touching safety features," continues Müller-Ötvös. "The bespoke factor that has been incorporated into the new Phantom is at a heightened level — better than anything we've achieved before," adds Innes. "It's born out of the intimate relationship we have with our customers."

This is probably the most technologically advanced car available. Apart from incorporating the latest navigation and entertainment systems, such as streaming and Wi-Fi, there are also a number of futuristic safety features including a 4-camera viewing system, night vision, and active cruise control. A four-wheel turning system — a first for the Phantom — means the larger-than-life car can now manoeuvre tight circles. All this is powered by a formidable 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 engine.

"Despite all its technology, the Phantom VII is also the most silent car in the world. The innovative design incorporates a two-layer glazing all over, more than 130kg of sound insulation, and high-absorption material."

Technology updates are the reason Rolls-Royce waited 14 years between the seventh and eighth-generation Phantoms. "There comes a time when it doesn't make sense to just update the car," emphasises Müller-Ötvös. "The technical substance must be perfect... and when it comes to streaming music and videos, or having the latest Wi-Fi technology in the cars, you can't implement that in a structure that's fundamentally 14 years old."

Despite all its technology, the Phantom VIII is also the most silent car in the world. The innovative design incorporates a two-layer glazing all over, more than 130kg of sound insulation, and high-absorption material. The loudest thing you'll hear is the ticking of the purposely timeless analogue clock in the dashboard.

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Inside, the poetically-named Suite is a passenger compartment of distinguished comfort and refinement. Rear seats are angled inwards, allowing guests to have intimate tête-à-têtes. In between, customers can choose an occasional armrest or fixed centre console. Which, incidentally, comes with a drinks cabinet filled with whisky glasses and a decanter, or champagne flutes and an icebox.

Rolls-Royce is looking particularly to Asia with its Phantom VIII, alongside the rest of its products. "China, Japan, India, they're all fundamentally important markets," says Müller-Ötvös. "They're all growing, especially in terms of the ultra-high net worth individuals that are our clientele."

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Much of this stems from pioneering, entrepreneurial young Asians. "There's been a dramatic shift [towards younger customers], particularly when it comes to Asian customers who are, what I would call, globally educated," explains Müller-Ötvös. "The majority — a good 80 percent — are global citizens; they've travelled and lived around the world, and they have cars in London, Beijing, and Dubai."

Without a shadow of a doubt, this beauty of a car is poised to perform well the world over. With cutting-edge technology and art in every facet, the Phantom VIII is a world-class reinvention of an icon.

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