How much does true luxury cost these days? Well for nearly half a million dollars, you can buy yourself a truly luxurious car that can offer you the best speed, interiors and latest digital technology, but which of these will give you true luxury?
What do I mean “true luxury?” Well, let me break it down for you. A large luxury sedan is something like the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Audi A8. Getting behind the wheel will have you pampered and feature the latest and greatest technology. BUT, the interiors aren’t entirely sumptuous and when you hit some bumps you will feel them.
True luxury vehicles are cars that are conceived on what seems like another planet. Everything is, simply, the best and the vehicle reflects that in every measurable metric.
Though other marques may be social media mavens or produce the most memorable Super Bowl commercials, there’s only one that can sit atop the throne and have brand equity that places it number one in the luxury domain. Think: What other brand has attained the status of being top-notch and can be applied to any other inanimate object? How many times have you heard about another product that it’s “the Rolls-Royce of…’x’?”
This neatly brings us to our subject, the Rolls-Royce Phantom — in this instance, the Series II.
The Phantom is the flagship nameplate, which now features a standard wheelbase sedan, a long wheelbase sedan, a convertible and the rarely seen coupe. It was the first new Rolls vehicle produced under BMW ownership and was launched in the early 2000s.
When you’re confronted with the properly massive sedan you truly understand the gargantuan nature of this automobile. It’s the size of most luxury sport-utility vehicles; however, it is relatively narrow which is good for navigating busy urban centres.
Up front you’ll find the large, trademark grille that bestows a Roller. Of course, the Flying Lady does her pop up trick upon unlocking the car and it hides when the vehicle is off. From the façade back you’ll note strong lines that embody elegance and presence.
If you didn’t realize what you were getting into before, when you pull the handle of a Phantom you’ll definitely know this is not your ordinary luxury vehicle. The door weighs a lot and requires effort to open it. The good news is if you’re a rear seat passenger you have a button to press and hold to close the suicide door. I hope you didn’t think all of that wood, leather and metal amounted to nothing.
Plopping down behind the enormous and thin steering wheel, you’ll note that the bottom of the wheel — not the top, like in sportier vehicles — have thumb grips. Clearly this is a clear message that the Phantom is to be ridden in. Getting more comfortable, you’ll also realize that the seats are simple. There’s not a ridiculous number of adjustments and there’s good reason for this: they’re comfortable as is.
Probably the element that gains the most attention is the plush carpeting. I have been in many sumptuously appointed homes but nothing has ever had a carpet like this. Bentley and Jaguar have nothing on this. It’s thick and soft to the touch. It feels almost criminal to be placing your feet on the carpets but c’est la vie.
If you have the joy of going for a cruise in the back seat you’ll soon appreciate how the thickness of the carpet makes your ride that much better and comfortable.
Looking at the switchgear, it’s all bespoke and quirky as you’d expect in any British automobile. Things aren’t located where one would expect. The seat controls are hidden in the armrest and the Park Distance Control (PDC) and Boot — trunk — switches are found in the ceiling’s control pod.
The infotainment unit is BMW’s iDrive just the graphical user interface (GUI) has been “reskinned.” It’s sort of funny because the rest of the cabin is simple and elegant, yet BMW‘s iDrive can be complex and confusing to some. Personally, I have grown to like it over the years and I find it logical. There’s just a two week learning curve for novice users.
I could go on for another 1,000 words about the high quality leather and remarkable wood veneers that Rolls-Royce uses in the Phantom, but frankly, I don’t want to bore you with my car geekiness. Let’s move on to the driving experience.
There’s no other way around it, though I’ve driven just about everything under the Sun, nothing compares to the Phantom. Everything about the Phantom is so far removed from even the best large luxury sedans that it makes you feel as though it was intended to be a real car and everything else is simply a go-kart.
The 6.75-liter V12 motor that produces 453 horsepower and 531 lb.-ft. of torque is eerily quiet and will never even come close to interrupting an in-cabin conversation. If you inspect the glass you’ll note it’s double-pane and it helps make wind noise virtually non-existent.
Though the Phantom weighs in at over 5,800 pounds, it has more than enough power. Zero to 60 comes in 5.7 seconds, which is quick for any automobile. On the freeway, surprisingly, it doesn’t do as bad as one would suspect lugging around all that weight as the torque easily gets you past any slow pokes. One thing I found interesting is that when you really push the “go” pedal, the vehicle doesn’t lurch forward with rude manners, it elegantly wafts along.
During my time with the Phantom, it chalked up 13 mpg. Though cliché, I am pretty doubtful anyone in-market will care.
My specific tester was equipped with the Dynamic Package, which provides extra strengthening to the Phantom’s chassis, stiffens the suspension and recalibrates the transmission. By pressing the Sport button, you’ll feel all of these things take effect as the steering gets a bit more weight to it, the eight-speed automatic transmission gets more aggressive and, overall, the car hunkers down for speedier travel. It’s not intrusive to passengers but it provides the driver with much-needed confidence to move the luxury-tuned barge at speed.
Its ride quality is most accurately described as feeling akin to a floating carpet. You can tell that it must be one of the company’s highest priorities in research and development, and that nothing is allowed to compromise it. Even over railroad tracks there is no perceptible feeling of bumps though you hear the vehicle travel over them. You simply forget they’re there.
While I typically look forward for a drive from my northern New Jersey home into my Manhattan or Jersey City office, I have to admit it can be bumpy and pain inducing at times — especially after this year’s rough winter. That wasn’t the case in the Roller. When I first picked up the Phantom I trekked down to the office at 8:00 a.m., which is the WORST time to travel in the New York tri-state region. Though I sat through two hours of traffic, I arrived at my destination completely relaxed and carefree. Following that, I had a great day of productivity. This is why a car of this calibre makes sense. Never have I ever experienced such a carefree experience. Not in a Bentley, an S-Class or any other high-end luxury auto.
To sum up the experience, it can be crystalized as a traveling living room. Except it’s probably built better and is more comfortable than any living room you’ve been in. Now I “get it.”
While Rolls-Royce is a company that has expanded into a variety of new models, and offers more sporty and tech-enabled vehicles, it remains true to its heritage of building the best luxury auto produced. There’s a reason why those interlocked R’s are recognized across the globe: the company earned it.
– The ride quality is unlike any other vehicle I’ve travelled in — it’s easily the most comfortable, isolated ride
– The V12 powerplant is an engineering marvel as it can power a near three-ton auto with ease and grace all the while being remarkably quiet
– Nothing says presence and class like a Rolls-Royce
– I did hear a very slight rattle from the passenger side of the auto that became annoying
– When you arrive in a Rolls-Royce, it is an event — if you don’t like attention, this isn’t the vehicle for you
– It’s price isn’t for the faint of heart, if you have to ask you cannot afford it — for the curious, its base price is set at $402,940.
Though some like to make the argument that you can acquire a large luxury sedan for a fraction of the price and get the same satisfaction, they’re wrong. Dead wrong. That’s called settling. Simply put, this is a vehicle that’s built to be the best for the best. If that’s how you set a benchmark, you need not look any further as this vehicle is completely extraordinary compared to all else.