It’s hard to ignore the possibility that Messers Rolls and Royce are today spinning in their graves as German-owned BMW, the famous Rolls-Royce marque firmly in its grasp, launches an all-new, largely German-built Phantom model, writes just-auto.com deputy editor Graeme Roberts.


Far from the days when virtually every panel was lovingly beaten into shape and every last nut and bolt hewn from the raw ingot by time-served craftsmen in a time-warp British factory, the new Roller and its V12 engine will be substantially made at a German BMW plant and shipped to a new environment-friendly facility at Goodwood in West Sussex for painting, trimming and final assembly.


The Phantom will surely be well made, drive beautifully and its relatively few well-heeled buyers – say 1,000 a year – may not care how or where it is made but you can surely forgive the purists for shedding a tear or two at the passing of yet another British institution.


Yet one can also admire BMW for taking just four and a half years to launch a new company, a new plant and a new car, and persuade, without the help of an existing customer list, a number of early buyers to sign up, sight unseen.


Engineers and others reportedly spent a fair bit of time talking to owners of older Rolls-Royces and soaking up as much Olde Worlde British history and culture as was thought necessary.


BMW, naturally, says the Phantom, entirely new from the ground up, “captures the essence of the world’s most famous car brand, interpreted in an utterly modern way. Influenced by the guiding principles of Sir Henry Royce, ‘Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it,’ the design and engineering teams began with a blank sheet of paper”, the press blurb says.


We’d love to hear Sir Henry’s opinion…


Certainly it’s ironic to hear BMW, a company whose radial aeroplane engines were once lined up in stiff opposition to Rolls-Royce’s famous Merlin V12, claim to have designed a car with cutting edge engineering technology, unparalleled quality and the finest in hand-built craftsmanship with light-weight aluminium space frame body, a V12 engine which develops tremendous power and torque and a style, inside and out, which is every inch a British Rolls-Royce.


BMW stresses that its designers immersed themselves in the heritage and design principles which had made Rolls-Royce world famous and found particular inspiration in the Phantom I and II models of the 1930s, the Silver Cloud of the 1950s and the Silver Shadow of the 1960s.


Features like a long wheelbase, a short front overhang, a deep C-pillar, a long bonnet and a particular stance, which made those cars look as if they were lightly accelerating even at a standstill, were fundamental design elements and were incorporated into the new Phantom – quite apart from the famous grille and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.


On the inside, there’s still the finest leather [though there is no mention of the famous Connolly brand], Cashmere trim and fitted cabinetry and rear access is now via rear-hinged coach doors, which are easier for James to open. Combined with a flat floor they allow passengers simply to walk in to the rear, turn and sit down. A slightly curved lounge seat helps to create a social environment, BMW notes.


BMW stresses that this is not simply a re-skinned 7-series and points to such differences as the traditional Rolls-Royce high driving position.


Self-levelling air springs, electronic dampers and multi-link rear, double wishbone front suspension combine with the long wheelbase and high profile tyres to give a claimed ‘perfect’ combination of ride and handling.


The large wheels and tyres have been specially developed for the Phantom which is the first car in the world to feature the advanced PAX run-flat tyre system as standard, which allows the car to run for 100 miles at 50 mph after a puncture.


The purpose-designed 6.75-litre V12 engine accelerates the Phantom from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds (0-100 kph 5.9 seconds) and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 149 mph (240 km/h).


A useful break in tradition is to actually state the engine’s output. Peak torque is 720 Nm (531 lb ft) at 3,500 rpm with 75% developed at just 1,000 rpm. Maximum power is 460 PS (338 kW).


Variable valve lift, variable valve timing and direct fuel injection help produce claimed excellent fuel economy for a car of the Phantom’s size and power. On the EU extra urban cycle it returns 25.7 mpg (11.0 l/100 km) and a combined figure of 17.8 mpg (15.9 l/100 km).


Special features include the electrically retractable Spirit of Ecstasy radiator grille mascot, which can be lowered out of sight whenever the Phantom is parked; the wheel hub centres, bearing the interlinked double-R logo, which remain upright – a publicity photographer’s dream, that – and umbrellas stowed within each rear door, an idea possibly filched from Skoda’s Superb.


The Phantom is now on sale, priced at just over £208,000.