The “Spirit of Ecstasy” is the “Ecstasy of the Spirit”
Let’s make it clear from the beginning: It doesn’t matter if you are a boring aristocrat or a young ramping IT tycoon. If you have $520,000 to spend on a car, a 6 by 3 Mt Garage, if you don’t mind getting noticed and want to hear your heartbeat when you drive, the Phantom is your car. They say that you need to be driven by your ‘James’ or they will think you are the Chauffeur, but I couldn’t disagree more. Maybe in the evening after a few drinks at the Opera, ‘James’ can drive me home, but otherwise, the pleasure of sitting in the driver seat, switching that engine on and driving away is second to none.
We have extensively driven the new Phantom, and we fell in love with many things about her.
To say the Phantom ‘massive’ is an understatement. It stands out from the crowd more than any other luxury vehicle, even more than any SUV. Her ‘obesity’ is instead quite graceful, despite being very intimidating. The front grill is taller than my house gate, but it’s much prettier and the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’, also called Emily in tribute to the secret love between a Baron and the Model Eleanor Thornton in the early 1900s, is an ornament that enhances the beauty of its face. From the side, because of the elegant thinner tail, it looks pretty, even if this is not a compliment you would use to describe a pompous Queen.
“It’s like walking down the street with Rita Hayworth“
There are not many other cars that make people turn their heads that way. It’s a status symbol on wheels that immediately captures the attention of everyone and triggers their imagination. “Who’s driving it?” “Who’s inside?” You immediately feel at the centre of attention and receive big smiles from people that wouldn’t even say hello to you in an elevator. It’s like walking down the street with Rita Hayworth. After they take a picture of her, they would ask, “who’s that guy holding Rita’s hand?”. Yes, you get that type of attention; and honestly, I loved that. I had my three days of celebrity life. The Phantom opens doors in silence and smoothens up roads with a look.
Rolls Royce says that the loudest noise you should hear is the beat of your heart when cruising in a Phantom. I like to listen to Beethoven when I drive it, but in between concerts, the silence I hear is unique. From the exclusive Continental 22in tyres, specially produced for this car, to the general insulation, the alignment of all the panels, the materials and the maniacal attention to durability, this car reaches a level of quietness I’ve never experienced before: at idle, I had to check the dashboard a couple of times to make sure the engine was running.
At Rolls-Royce, they call this ‘the luxury of silence.’ I can only agree that this is a value we have generally lost, and in this vehicle, it feels like you are protected as if you were in a temple in the mountains, away for any pollution.
“The luxury of silence”
The seats are as you would expect: I would change my home couch for a couple of these chairs. Alongside from the best leather you can possibly get, the size and the finishing is meticulous, they are ventilated, and they offer a wide range of massages, for all occupants. The comfort in the back seats is as good as in the front, but of course, when you sit in the back, you have access to the elegant picnic table, a large TV screen, two vanity mirrors, your air conditioning control and the champagne cooler in the center part of the ‘couch.’ You can also close the door with a button. You also cannot resist taking your shoes off and appreciate the 7cm thick carpets, which would welcome your feet in the softest and most pampering heaven.
A special mention goes to the incredible stereo system which literally makes you feel at a Von Karayan concert in Berlin. All the sense are extremely well looked after in this unique ambient.
There are dozens of small details that you notice day after day, and you cannot help wondering how did they think to reach this extent? The classic umbrellas hidden in the doors, for example, are a great touch and, at least in Europe, very useful. The “gallery” dashboard is a majestic piece of art. We had the “Cascade Steel” option on our test car, but you can have the “Metropolitan skyline” version made in wood, which is so beautiful to watch it can become a distraction, like having a fascinating passenger beside you. The veneers finishing is unique, every panel is different, every slice of that walnut burr has a unique design which makes every Phantom unique. Beyond that, the possibilities of personalization are so many that I would take weeks to decide which color combination and tones, stitches, woods, leathers and even the embossing of RR logos on the headrests.
“Unique has no rival”
I love the starlight headliner. The fiber optic representation of the night sky, with an individual intensity of each star, makes the ambience in the cabin even more special. It creates a mood, a good mood and it’s romantic.
Talking about romance, some of the controls are made in aluminum and built in the shape of the old RRs, like the commands to the air ventilation. You don’t press buttons; instead, you pull and push noddles. You are more involved. It’s like a personal dialogue.
“No two are the same”
The ‘suicide doors’ are a signature for Rolls-Royce and they were designed with a specific intent: to welcome and protect a celebrity when arriving at the destination, after opening their doors. Some raise a few safety concerns, but if BMW (sorry, Rolls Royce) decided to maintain this architecture, I am sure they have done their homework. I like them a lot, and beyond the original reason for this design, it truly makes access to the back part of the car much easier. There are many more details that made me appreciate how much attention the designers and the engineers have gifted to this car, to make this truly ‘one of one’, especially when the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi are offering super-luxurious sedans at a quarter of the Phantom price.
I sat in the back seats for a short ride with a colleague and surely it was special, unique, humbling, exciting. Most of the time though I was driving, and the connection was immediate. the gigantic bonnet in front of your eyes makes you think you are in command of a ship, and the perception of a flying carpet hypnosis when moving is something you can get used very quickly (it’s one of the reasons why saying goodbye to our test model was so hard).
When accelerating, you may think that some wind force is pushing you. Mind you, there is a 6,750cc V12 under the bonnet, capable of 563bhp that can make the Phantom reach 100kph from standstill in 5.3 seconds but performance is not relevant. However, the titanic torque of 900 Nm at 1,700 rpm only will make this Queen accelerate with the dynamics of a slingshot. This Rolls-Royce feels like it’s gliding on her own asphalt and it does it with the dominance and the confidence of a multiple Oscar winner. Steering is way too light, the brake pedal is spongy and you feel the 2.7 tons; but the experience is worth her half a million dollar price tag.
Is this car just a status symbol? Maybe. Is it too big for this world? Too cumbersome, too expensive, and too flashy? Is a Mercedes S Class or a BMW 7 Series more than enough, even for the most demanding bank Chairman or a member of the Royal Family? Well, it’s a yes to all those questions.
But what about Beauty in its classic display, not just in the aesthetics but in the details, in the mood, the presence, the personality and the intimate connection you build with her, day after day? The “One of One” concept Rolls Royce talks about in their slogans? The fact that “There are not Two of the Same”. We madly love it.
“The test car has been customised very carefully and it features a special colour (Crystal over Salamanca Blue) with Silver Satin Bonnet Finish, Chrome Plated Visible Exhausts and Body Coloured Wheel Centres. The interior features a Cascade Steel gallery in the fascia, Treadplates – “Phantom”, Rolls-Royce Bespoke Audio and more such as the seat piping and RR monogram (cobalto blue).” From Rolls-Royce
Photogaphy by: Mr. Solo