Test drive: The Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII

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Updated 22 October 2017
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Test drive: The Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII

LUCERNE: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII was this month driven by world media, including Arab News, in one of the most scenic regions in Europe in the Swiss Alps and around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.
Since its debut in 1925, the Phantom has been the ultimate expression of luxury in the motor industry and the eighth generation scales new heights of beauty and power. The experience of driving and being chauffeured in a Phantom is memorable — especially as the world had to wait 14 years for this eighth generation to emerge.
The new Phantom VIII will arrive in world markets at the beginning of 2018 and some orders will shortly be on their way to the Gulf region.
Prices start at SR1.95 million ($520,000).
The new Phantom is the most advanced Rolls-Royce ever. With a new, almost silent, 6.75 liter twin-turbo V12 engine, the Phantom is an oasis of calm. It has a new aluminum architecture and air-suspension that gives it a Magic Carpet ride.
One unique feature of the new Phantom is “The Gallery” — an unprecedented concept which allows patrons to commission a work of art to be displayed inside the car’s glass covered dashboard.
A few weeks before the media launch, Rolls-Royce unveiled the new Phantom in London with examples from the seven predecessors — all owned by historical personalities. These included models owned by Queen Elizabeth II, Fred Astaire, John Lennon, the Aga Khan and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
The new aluminum frame, dubbed “architecture of luxury” by the company, is 30 percent more rigid than that of the previous generation. This frame delivers more ride comfort, acoustic calm, seat luxury and interior sense of space.

Silence and comfort
Some extraordinary effort went into making the new Phantom “the most silent motor car in the world.” Two-layer 6mm glass was used all around the car; more than 130 kilos of sound insulation and sound-absorbing materials were included; double-skin alloys were also added to the floor and bulkhead of the space frame; and “silent seal” tires with foam layers isolate road noise and allow for quiet conversation within the car.
A further comfort feature is the “Magic Carpet Ride.” Suspension makes millions of calculations every second as it continuously varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system — reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs and camera information. In addition, the stereo camera system integrated in the windscreen to see the road ahead, adjusts suspension proactively rather than reactively up to 100 kilometers per hour. At this high speed, Phantom is 10 percent quieter than its predecessor.
The V12 direct-injection engine provides 563bhp of power and 900Nm of torque at a low 1700rpm. The new Phantom can reach 100kph speed in 5.4 seconds and its top speed is electronically limited to 155mph. In a combined cycle the Phantom achieves 29.1mpg and its CO2 emissions are 319 g/km.
As the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce, the new Phantom carries such features as active cruise control, night vision assist, collision warning, pedestrian warning, cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning and a high-resolution head-up display. It also has the latest navigation and entertainment systems and a WiFi hotspot.
According to Giles Taylor, director of design at Rolls-Royce, “Phantom is the epitome of effortless style.” Taylor integrated the new Phantom’s grille into the surrounding bodywork, resulting in a cleaner flow of the iconic exterior design. A new headlamp design uses the most advanced laser technology that casts light well over 600 meters down the road.

The driving experience
The only choice in a Phantom is to drive or be driven. Entering the car is an occasion in itself. After settling into a back seat, you can close the door with one button automatically. The occupant finds himself cocooned in the finest materials and transported into a serene environment. Only a few people would be lucky enough to sit in the back of a Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII.
Rarer still are those luckier to have a chance to drive the car. Even in the most affluent part of Switzerland, the Phantom turns heads in the streets like no other. Although, Phantom VIII can outperform most cars on the road, it is most appreciated at low speeds. Owners of Phantoms do not rush to catch up with anyone; rather, others wait for them to arrive.
Phantom drivers have command of the road and respect of other car drivers. When Phantom stops for a pedestrian to cross the road or waits for a car to pass, the appreciation turns to gratitude and admiring looks (for the Phantom, not its driver).
Driving a Phantom is a unique experience in any location; an experience for the lucky few who can express their status through their cars and their tastes in selecting the artwork to place in their dashboard “galleries”. Owners will have to wait a few more weeks for that experience.


Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

Updated 18 September 2018
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Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.