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Rolls-Royce reveals its $450,000 Phantom VIII

Published:Thursday | August 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Rolls-Royce has unveiled its new Phantom, the flagship of the British luxury brand.

In introducing the Phantom VIII, Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Torsten Muller-Otvos called the eighth-generation vehicle an icon, an artwork, "a dominant symbol of wealth and human achievement" a car fit for "a connoisseur of luxury in the extreme".

Originally launched in 1925, the Phantom is one of the longest-running automobile nameplates in the world and one of the most recognisable.

For its latest iteration, Rolls-Royce kept the car's powerful, beefy look and distinctive grille, but made significant design and technological changes. At a media preview last month in Hollywood, Muller-Otvos said the company created the Phantom VIII which starts at about US$450,000 to be "a completely new Phantom ... and not a face-lifted seventh-generation".

Among the upgrades: a new 6.75-litre twin-turbo V-12 engine; an all-aluminium spaceframe underpinning that is lighter, stiffer and quieter; a slightly higher profile in the front; and a shadow-box-like dashboard that Phantom owners will be able to commission into a work of art (for instance, by displaying porcelain flowers behind the Gorilla Glass).

There's also a feature called 'The Embrace', which Rolls-Royce describes, "As the patron settles in to the car, an assistant or valet steps forward and lightly touches the sensor on the door handle so it whispers closed of its own accord, enveloping the occupant in 'The Embrace".

There's no limit on how many Phantom VIIIs will be made, though Rolls-Royce produces few cars annually to remain exclusive. In 2016, it sold just north of 4,000 vehicles, its second-best year ever.

In an interview, Muller-Otvos said Rolls-Royce's customer base has shifted "dramatically" younger recently, and said the brand is cognisant of the need to appeal to its new clientele.

"The worldwide demographics of ultra-high-net-worth individuals is massively changing," he said. "They are year by year getting younger and younger and younger. We have witnessed that and we have even forecast that, and if you don't cater for their needs, then your brand might get old-fashioned and might die at a certain point in time."