Rolls Royce Phantom

Rolls Royce Phantom

To Rolls, the introduction of the Phantom II is a series of ‘feature-led enhancements”. To everyone else, it’s a face lift.

And a very evolutionary one at that. Rolls freely admits that it hasn’t altered the look of the Phantom much, and who can blame it? Customers have said they love the look of the old car, so Rolls doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. Plus, if the new car doesn’t look massively different, then recent Phantom I buyers don’t appear “so last year, dahling”.

The most obvious difference is that the round front fog lights have been dropped and replaced by thin strips. This new headlight design has allowed Rolls to fit the latest LED tech, so the lights now peer round corners and are fully speed-adaptive.

And, if you look really carefully, you’ll also see some cameras dotted around the body – parking cameras have never been available on the Phantom before – but other than that, it’s business as usual. It’s appropriately mahoosive. The Phantom was a big brute before , and it still is.

There are mechanical changes, though. The chassis has been slightly stiffened up, and there is a new, eight-speed gearbox. It’s hardly like the old, six-speed gearbox. It was smooth, but it’s now super-smooth, slipping between the cogs imperceptibly.

Other than during during kick-down, you never feel a gear change. Coupled with a new rear differential, this has improved fuel economy and CO2 by 10 percent. Mind you, it sill only manages 19 mpg (with a feather foot), so it’s unlikely any oil company will be too worried about a drop in sales.

Rolls has also added a Dynamic Package to the Phantom Saloon, again in response to customer demand, which costs $18,200. This includes some extra bracing to the chassis, stiffens up the suspension slightly, and alters the gearbox settings. Frankly, I wouldn’t bother. It doesn’t transform the Phantom into a sports car, but it does mean it comes with a modern, thicker steering wheel. Rubbish – a Rolls needs a thin one, just like they always have had.

Other changes include a more up-to-date satnav system – the first-generation iDrive has been changed for the simpler, modern one, and there is now full USB connectivity. As ever with Rolls, this tech is all hidden away, but it needed to be there – the last Phantom was starting to feel dated. The new car doesn’t. It’s up to date, yet still a Rolls.

A necessary indulgence for the super-rich, the Phantom is the ultimate luxury car.

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The Lamborghini Aventador Roadster

The Lamborghini Aventador Roadster

Lamborghini’s design boss, Filippo Perini, is doing a live rendering of the new Aventador Roadster. He talks as animatedly as he draws. “You always have to pay a big bill in terms of design when you do an open car,” he says, as the car’s form magically comes to life, “but on this car, we didn’t kill its proportions – they’re actually better.”

He’s right. Unencumbered by the need to provide any sort of utility whatsoever, Lamborghini has delivered fulsomely on the number one item on its job description: design. The Aventador could have the dynamics of a supermarket shopping cart with a wonky wheel and it probably wouldn’t matter that much to its core audience. This is about the seeing, and being seen in.

With this in mind, Lamborghini opted for Miami’s @ Hotel rather than the Malmesbury Travelodge to showcase the Aventador Roadster. It’s a location that supplies the sort of context a car like this lives or dies by, while rendering critical observations ab out understeer arguably superfluous.

Not entirely coincidentally, Miami is a city squeaking at the seams of money.

no Lamborghini is for the faint of heat or the shrunken of violet, but with the Aventador Roadster, Lambo Clearly wants to reclaim the visual high ground from the Veyron Grand Sport. Ok, so it’s not a folding hard-top in the mold of the 458 Spider or McLaren 12C Spider, and the owner has to imperic his or her fingers physically popping out the panels, but, as Perini demonstrated this has allowed his team to preserve the Aventador’s incredible profile.

The two-piece hard-top is made entirely of carbon fiber, so each panel weighs less than 7lbs, and could double as a decorative wall piece.

The simplicity of the roof nudges it ahead of the Murcielago Roadster’s defiantly Heath Robinson affair, although the removal process is a bit unwieldy, and various bits of latch-and lever-pulling have to be done in exactly the right order, lest you end up looking less-than-Miami-cool. You’ll also have to pack minimally; the panels store away in a compartment in the nose, which done, space is at a premium. Perhaps a slender carbon fiber toothbrush is an available option.

Panels installed or stashed away, the Roadster looks even better than the Coupe, a delirious complex work of industrial art. Inside, it’s as insanely wonderful as ever, all jet-fighter nods and winks, with a start/stop button under a little flap, TFT instruments, and broad beams of leather. It’s also extremely well made, and perhaps unexpectedly comfy.

Of course, there’s a chance you might actually want to drive the thing. There is a downside: the Roadster’s 0-60 is a woeful 2.9 seconds compared to the Coupe’s 2.8. After that, it demolishes all the usual increments with hairy-chested nonchalance, and the top speed is the same at 217mph. At 3,582lbs, the Roadster weighs 110lbs more than the Coupe, and though its torsional rigidity is reduced, it’s wtill very stiff.

Needless to say, the Aventador’s 6.5 litre, 691hp V12 remains an absolute marvel, a hymn to furious naturally-aspirated internal combustion in a world that’s hell-bent on adding turbos and worse still, electrically to the equation. Rumbling along the freeway, roof open, the Roadster is amazingly civilized, and normal conversation is no problem at 80pmh. Tweaks to the spring rates and rebound damping mean that the Aventador’s propensity to porpoise at at motorway speed is gone, and it’s comfortable enough sailing along in Strada mode. Both the Coupe and Roadster now get engine stop/start, and cylinder deactivation has also been introduced. This cuts emissions to 370g/km, and might nudge fuel economy out of single figures, but do you care?

You need a track to really stretch that V12, and California’s Laguna Seca gives you the opportunity to tickle the V12’s 8,500rpm line. Unfortunately, circuit work also serves as a reminder that the Aventador is, um, not a natural athlete. It feels heavy and occasionally, clumsy, and it will – here it comes – understeer if you get greedy on turn-in.

Kill the stability control, and you have a clearer idea of what the chassis is really like. As you’d imagine from a huge car with a min-mounted V12, you need your wits about you. The steering is great, but the car’s throttle response is jumpy, and a satisfying sense of flow remains tantalizingly out of reach.

But the biggest glitch remains the gearbox. Technical director Maurizio Pleggiani admits that the software has been re-calibrated to soften and smooth the action, but fast upshifts are still akin to a thuggish kick in the head. Unless Lambo can sort this out, they’d better get busy with a dual-clutch system, or risk a spell in supercar Siberia.

Or maybe not. The Aventador Roadster is a head-spinningly cool thing, a modern masterpiece of a product design and beautifully well made, too. It costs $480,494, and adds an extra layer of sensory overload to an experience that was hardly lacking in that department. Ridiculously, half a million dollars is arguably almost value for money in the absurd private jet/superyacht/Miami penthouse world a car like this lives in.

The Aventador’s power, pace and appearance inched it into the Veyron’s mega-money realm. And while the 12C and 458 Spider are less expensive and more fun to drive, the Aventador Roadster gets around that by smashing your senses in every possible way.

Roofless Aventador is the best version of Lamborghini’s V12 behemoth, and the perfect 50th anniversary birthday present from Lambo to itself.