Rolls-Royce moves with the spirit of the times

The iconic marque unveils its upgraded Phantom range

Good news for those who believe Rolls-Royce still makes “the best cars in the world”: the range-topping Phantom just got better, with the arrival of the Series II version.

Launched this week in the south of France, all four models -saloon, extended wheelbase, drophead and coupé (pictured) - have received a combination of major and minor improvements over the outgoing, nine-year-old design, ranging from a new, eight-speed automatic transmission to a redesigned front-end featuring full LED adaptive headlamps that go around corners and get brighter or dimmer at appropriate moments.

The more observant will also notice a new, one-piece radiator grille on the drophead and coupé models, a revised rear bumper on the saloon and three upgraded wheel designs. Inside, meanwhile, the old and decidedly archaic satnav has been replaced by a state-of-the-art version with 3D views and a wider, clearer screen, which is linked to a sophisticated all-round camera system. These features, together with the telephone and audio functions, are operated via a new rotary controller - and there’s Wi-Fi, too.

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Although the cars’ vast weight - 2.67 tons in the case of the drophead - remains the same, a claimed 10 per cent improvement in fuel consumption has been achieved across the range for the 6.75 litre V12 engine, without any discernible sacrifice to the effortless progress that is an essential Rolls-Royce ingredient.

I chose to drive the coupé version, which, even when being hustled briskly through the demanding curves of the winding Route Napoléon, proved unfazed and almost absurdly nimble for such a hefty machine. The interior luxury, of course, continues to reign supreme: it’s otherworldly quiet and cosseting, to the extent that being stuck for an hour in one of the Côte d’Azur’s more impressive traffic jams didn't really seem to matter.

But even with all that time to think, I still couldn’t work out how I’m going to afford a Phantom of my own…

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