The Rolls Royce Phantom and Ghost are highly regarded luxury cars known for their incredibly smooth rides. Each of these well-reviewed Rolls Royce sedans features an air-cushioned suspension that adjusts to account for the character of the road.
While this exclusive, proprietary technology is in many ways successful, it does come with some drawbacks. From warning lights to outright failure, many Rolls Royce owners have been forced to grapple with related problems.
Even in cases where the trouble remains superficial, having a defective air suspension can be difficult to deal with. If I were to sell my Rolls Royce while the air suspension warning light was shining, for instance, the expected proceeds would be reduced.
Most Rolls Royce air suspension issues can be fixed without much delay or expense. Understanding the nature of the problem and how to resolve it can provide peace of mind to just about any Phantom or Ghost owner.
Air-Filled Struts Take the Place of Conventional Shocks
Even in the luxury segment, most modern cars feature fairly traditional suspensions. That typically means relying on hydraulic shocks that absorb bumps and coil springs that regulate their return.
While suspensions that include such systems can be quite effective, they have inherent shortcomings. Steel springs contribute a bouncy, unsettled feeling to the ride quality of vehicles that use them.
Rolls Royce went a different route with its Phantom and Ghost, opting for the improved cushioning of compressed air. Pumped up to high enough levels of pressure, strategically contained air can support the multiple-ton weight of a luxury vehicle.
Two Problems Most Often Afflict the Rolls Royce Air Suspension System
While even the harshest critics admit that the Rolls Royce approach produces a superior ride, many of the company’s most loyal fans have been forced to confront a downside. Both the Phantom and the Ghost fairly frequently exhibit suspension problems attributed to the design of the system itself.
The most common reason for a failing air suspension is a leak that lowers pressure levels. That will leave the automatically controlled compressor struggling to keep the sprung weight of a heavy, luxury-class vehicle floating on enough pressurized air.
In more serious cases, the compressor itself can fail, sometimes because of being overworked in this fashion. When that happens, a Rolls Royce will suddenly ride like a vehicle ready for the junkyard.
Owners occasionally also experience problems related to the sensors that allow the air suspension to adjust itself in real time. Fortunately, these issues are typically so easy to fix they rarely end up being noteworthy.
Two Problematic but Generally Excellent Cars
There has been so much talk about the air suspension weaknesses of the Phantom and the Ghost that some buyers have written off these vehicles entirely. A significant part of the reason for this level of awareness and concern, though, is simply that Rolls Royce has such a strong reputation for reliability.
That makes any problem that affects Rolls Royce vehicles likely to seem more prevalent and serious than it actually is. While it is difficult to pin down the numbers, there is reason to believe the Phantom and Ghost are otherwise highly reliable vehicles.
Given that most air suspension problems can also be solved fairly easily, both cars remain worthy of consideration. Drivers who opt to roll the dice a bit, after all, will enjoy class-leading ride quality along with plenty of other benefits.