Ah, it’s the new ‘best car in the world’…
Since the first Phantom appeared in 1925, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has had its ups and downs. When the current car appeared at the stroke of midnight on January 1st 2003, the company even called it ‘the last great automotive adventure’.
Maybe that should have been penultimate, because we’ve just driven the new car, and as internal combustion most likely won’t be around in another 14 years’ time, this really could be The One.
Rolls-Royce reckons the Phantom is the barometer by which everyone else in the world of expensive luxury goods measures themselves, so the bar isn’t just raised here, it’s bejewelled and platinum-plated. You know when someone claims to be ‘the Rolls-Royce of watches/furniture/granite-kitchen-worktops’? Well, this is the Rolls-Royce of Rolls-Royces.
They sure took their time. Worth the wait?
Like the Range Rover, that other fabulous four-wheeled luxury totem, it would be unseemly to replace the Phantom every seven years. And uneconomic. So climbing behind the wheel of the all-new car – and it is a bit of a climb – is a special moment indeed.
The dashboard has been ingeniously reconfigured as an art gallery, the structure itself has the implacability of Mount Rushmore or the pyramids of Giza, and of course there’s Eleanor, the Spirit of Ecstasy, pointing the way forward from the prow of the longest bonnet in the business. More than ever, taking the helm of the Phantom is palpably not like driving other cars. It’s like flying without actually getting airborne.
Its size sounds a bit intimidating…
It is, to begin with at least, and as ever it’s a while before you feel totally confident about positioning the behemoth on the road. But some interesting things have gone on here. Many owners – patrons, as Rolls rather loftily describes them – actually like to drive themselves, so there’s a renewed emphasis on attributes you might not associate with a car as big and luxurious as this.
Feedback, for example. The old one didn’t really do so much of that, preferring to keep you at arm’s length from the ghastliness of the real world, its crumbling roads, and failing political ideologies. This one is still highly diplomatic, but in addition to the fabled magic carpet ride, there’s more dialogue.
The wheel is a tad thicker than before, and there’s fully electric power steering, but the mode of operation remains the same for the chauffeurs among you: slide the delicate little column stalk into ‘D’, apply the merest suggestion of pressure to the throttle pedal, and ease away in such a manner as not to rustle the copy of Pork Belly Futures Digest that’s being mulled over in the rear compartment. Otherwise you’ll be mulling over your P45.
Does the Phantom, ahem, handle?
Actually, it does, or more accurately it can, should you elect to lean on it. But even with a (heavily revised) version of Rolls’s 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 – it’s 6.75 litres in capacity here, and makes 563bhp – it feels inappropriate to trouble the power reserve gauge any more than is strictly necessary (no rev counter in here, of course). Which, given that you’re surfing along on a huge wave of torque, 664lb ft from 1,700rpm, is mostly never.
The essence of a Rolls-Royce is a driving – travelling – experience that is beyond even that summoned up by the plushest Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series. You don’t notice things as humdrum as gearchanges (the Phantom uses ZF’s silken eight-speed transmission), and you only notice really awful road surfaces. If you’re in the back, you don’t notice much at all. Which is the point: in a Phantom, silence isn’t just golden, it’s omnipresent.
Source : https://www.topgear.com/car-reviews/rolls-royce/4dr-auto/first-drive
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