Rolls-Royce's new Phantom is as swift as it is opulent and cushy
Rolls-Royce Phantom: The luxe ride of a Bond villain The regal looking Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII (above) comes with an equally luxurious space for passengers to stretch out in the back. PHOTO: ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARS

Today, I am Oddjob.

Readers of a certain vintage book series may recall the burly manservant to the titular villain in the 1964 Bond film, Goldfinger.

Apart from displaying surreal strength (he could crush a golf ball with his hand) and occasionally tossing his lethal steel-rimmed bowler hat at people, Oddjob also spent part of the movie driving his boss, the bullion-obsessed Auric Goldfinger, through the Swiss Alps, with 007 (actor Sean Connery) in pursuit.

Goldfinger's choice of wheels? A 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III.

And 53 years later, I am retracing Oddjob's tracks on those very same mountain passes. I, too, am driving a Rolls-Royce Phantom - albeit the latest Phantom VIII, which has just replaced the 14-year-old Phantom VII.

Style-wise, the new car remains imposing and regal, and looks like nothing else on the road. The external changes are evolutionary and mainly evident only on second take.

The distinctive bluff front end remains, although the traditional Rolls-Royce "Parthenon" grille is now faired into the surrounding bodywork rather than standing proud of it. The rectangular headlamps are larger and lined with LED running lights. The front and rear windscreens are less upright, with the rear screen flowing seamlessly into a sloping bootlid for a softer, more organic look.

Under the long bonnet sits, as before, a 6.75-litre V12. But it is now turbocharged, not so much for outright power, but to boost low-end torque (there is now a gargantuan 900Nm from just 1,700rpm). Transmitted to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF autobox, it whisks this 2.6-tonne, 6m limousine to 100kmh in 5.4 seconds.

Instead of physical dials, the instrument panel now comprises a 12.3-inch TFT display and a host of electronic driver and safety aids are standard fare.

To Rolls-Royce, noise is an enemy. There is 130kg of sound insulation strategically inserted around the car. Even the inside of each tyre is coated with 2kg of insulating foam to quell tyre roar at the source.

The result? On a light to moderate throttle (which is frankly all that is ever needed), the engine is literally inaudible, the car seemingly propelled by some force other than a combustion engine. Road noise is nearly absent and the cabin is absurdly silent, whether in town or on motorways. The term "whisper-quiet" is overused, but in this case, for once, it is not hyperbole.

The Phantom is surprisingly wieldy too. Rear-wheel steering is fitted for the first time on a Rolls and there is also active anti-roll stabilisation - essentially a thick electronically activated tube at each axle that twists and stiffens to quell excessive body roll.

The steering is light and devoid of feel, but the car responds faithfully and is easy to place. Through hard-driven bends, this giant hangs on gamely and stays on an even keel. Only on tighter urban roads and twisty mountain passes do you become very conscious of its size, in particular its 2m width.

Still, the place to be in a Phantom is at the back. So after my stint as Oddjob, I move to the rear, entering via the vast, electrically operated rear-hinged doors to play the role of Goldfinger instead.

The standard-wheelbase Phantom already offers ample space, but in the 22cm-longer extended version, rear room is simply palatial. The seats adjust, recline and incorporate a massage function, your shoes are buried in the thickest pile carpet and there are electrically operated walnut picnic trays.

The perforated leather headlining is backlit by hundreds of tiny "starlight" LEDs and there is a drinks cabinet with a coolbox, a couple of champagne flutes, a whisky decanter and two crystal tumblers.

And then there is "The Gallery" - a vacuum-sealed space spanning most of the fascia and set behind a panel of safety glass, for you to display a bespoke artwork or sculpture of your choice.

The Phantom rides on air springs as before, but absorbs bumps better than before. Indeed, it wafts unruffled over various surfaces, its cabin an oasis of calm. There is a slight hint of float over undulations, but if anything, it just enhances the impression of riding on a cloud.

This is the most decadent, comfortable car I have experienced. If this is the life of a Bond villain, sign me up.