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Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II: Classic luxury keeps up with the times (photos)

Under BMW, Rolls-Royce has created an exceptional luxury vehicle with the Phantom. For its first update, Rolls-Royce makes few stylistic changes, but updates the underlying technology significantly.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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After BMW acquired Rolls-Royce, the company relaunched the Phantom in 2003 as the quintessential luxury vehicle and the flagship for the brand. Showing a renewed interest in the highest level of craftsmanship, Rolls-Royce created a new cast of its Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. Now Rolls-Royce updates the Phantom, terming it the Series II, with technology changes throughout.

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Standard on the Phantom Series II are LED headlights, now occupying square enclosures. Using LED headlights allows new capabilities. These lights use motorized reflectors to illuminate corners, and even change the illumination pattern depending on the speed of the vehicle.

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The body style of the Phantom remains essentially unchanged, but Rolls-Royce changed out the transmission for an eight-speed automatic, another contribution from BMW. This new transmission improves fuel economy by 10 percent.

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A concept adhered to by Rolls-Royce engineers is the car's ability to "waft," to feel as if it is floating over the road. But that did not prevent the company from adding a dynamic handling option with a stiffer suspension and performance-oriented transmission programming.

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The engine remains the BMW-sourced direct-injection 6.7-liter V-12, producing 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. This engine is powerful enough to push the 5,644-pound Phantom to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.

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Rolls-Royce continues the use of carriage doors on the Phantom, providing equally easy access to front and rear seats. Large C pillars serve to give rear-seat passengers a modicum of privacy.

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Rolls-Royce takes advantage of new BMW camera technology, giving the new Phantom a top-down surround view, essential for such a massive car when maneuvering in tight spaces. The rear-view camera now includes trajectory lines, which show the predicted path of the car based on wheel turn.

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Major cabin electronics updates include a larger, 8.8-inch LCD, which shows BMW's latest generation of topographical- and satellite-view maps in the navigation system.

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