Rolls Royce Phantom Review & Road test
Affordable luxury for the masses – well, sort of…
– by Karl Peskett
When a luxury car costs north of $1 million, you tend to expect a lot from it.
You expect it to be finished perfectly, you expect it to be smooth as silk, you expect it to cosset and comfort its passengers, and you expect it to have all the bells and whistles available.
Having driven supercar after supercar this year, it was time to slow things down and just glide.
The Rolls Royce Phantom range represents eloquence and class in spades, especially compared to its melted-plastic-looking Germanic competitor. With that in mind, we contacted Rolls Royce for a road test, it was time to find out if our expectations would be met.
Our original request to Rolls Royce was for a Phantom Drophead, but as you probably realise, Australia isn’t exactly a massive market, and so unlike Holden and Ford, there aren’t that many press cars running around.
Try one, in fact. Thus, by the time we had gone to pick up our test car, it was sold.
We were, of course, disappointed, but as they say, every Cloud has a Silver Shadow, or was that lining? Anyway, it gave us another opportunity for a story.
We were led to a Titanium Phantom, gleaming under the mercury vapour lamps of the garage. We cast our eye over it, and quickly realised that this, too, was not a press car – the Victorian registration gave that away.
“So, you can have this one instead,” said Bevin Clayton, Rolls Royce’s Australian representative. “It’ll be an interesting test.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Well, how old do you think it is?”
Alborz Fallah and I looked around, opened doors, inspected the interior, checked the wheels and concluded it couldn’t be very old at all. We had to be honest. “No idea. It must have been delivered recently,” I said.
“Well actually, it’s five years old,” said Mr Clayton. “And, it’s been driven more than most examples around its age.”
Alborz and I looked at each other, then back at the car.
“That’s…um…impressive,” we said, stuck for anything else to say.
“Wait until you drive it”, added Mr Clayton.
The necessary forms were signed, and we were handed the keys.
If you’ve never started a Rolls Royce Phantom, I suggest you try it at some point in your life. It’s possibly the most eerie feeling, this side of a Toyota Prius. There’s an age old adage about being able to place a cup of tea on top of the engine while it cranks over. The saying goes that if it’s tuned correctly, it won’t spill a drop.
It’s true, and five years from coming off the production line, this example still wreaks havoc with your mind, as it plays the “is it on, or is it off” guessing game.
The lack of sound and vibration when firing up 12 cylinders and 6.75-litres from a five-year-old car is like telling a calculator to divide by zero. It just doesn’t make sense. Neither does the fact that when the doors are shut, there is no way known of telling if the car is still swigging from its fuel tank. If you think I’m kidding, just try it.
See, we’re not usually into used-car testing here at CarAdvice, but the Phantom we were handed is part of a program called Provenance. What that means is the car was bought back from its owner by the factory, and is being sold as a completely refurbished unit. It then comes with a factory warranty, roadside assistance, servicing included and even emissions tested, if need be.
So what you’re getting is not like any other secondhand car; it’s basically a brand new one, but someone else has taken a massive depreciation hit for you. In this case, the car was listed for sale at $595,000. To my mind, that brings it down to a level of affordability that opens it up to a new market of buyers.
So, how does it drive in comparison to a brand spanker? One word – identical.
We headed out from the Rolls office in Darlinghurst toward Wollongong. Some of the lumpiest, most broken up bitumen in Australia was waiting for us, not to mention wide freeways, narrow laneways and every other sized ways in between. The five-year-old Roller’s suspension and build integrity had its work cut out for it.
But before we move on to that, there’s something I have to mention about the Phantom. Despite the sheer, colossal size of this beast, it’s a surprisingly easy car to drive.
With its parking sensors front and rear, you never are left in the dark about when to brake while parking. The folded ridges which run the length of the bonnet, also mark the outer perimeter of the car, meaning when you swing into small spaces, you can see exactly where you’re going.
The steering is also fairly light at low speed – perhaps a little too much – making twirling the wheel an easy affair for anyone older than three. Thankfully it firms up at higher speeds, with enough meat and feel to keep you well informed as to what’s going on. A slightly thicker rim would be good, though, even despite the elegance of the standard issue piece.
But it’s the way it soaks up the cracks and potholes with 21-inch wheels that left us truly impressed. Despite their massive diameter, the wheels, in concert with brilliant air suspension, manage to make the ride one of the most pleasant experiences in a car on sale today.
Wait on, it’s five years old, and the roads were rubbish!
Yes, on the huge, crater-like cracks in Sydney’s asphalt, you can feel something happening underneath the car. It’s just so fuss free, though, that you could be doing a Nullabor trek and clobbering a road full of kangaroos, but you’d hardly notice.
Think of it as a virtual steam-roller. Whatever bump you were going to feel has just been flattened out for you, which means that being a passenger is suddenly one of life’s pleasures.
As a motoring enthusiast, I’m all for hogging the driver’s seat. However, in the Phantom, I was happy to hand over the driving to Alborz for a while and just soak up the ambience of possibly the world’s best cabin.
After five years of use, I made it my mission to try and pick a fault with the interior. I was sure that there was some rattling, or creaking, or even scratches I could find, wrong! The leather was pristine, the wood was in perfect nick, and the chrome still glistened like it was plated yesterday.
Apart from a slightly outdated menu system (don’t call it iDrive – Rolls Royce gets mighty upset) the rest of the cabin was perfect. The Provenance programme really does make sure you’re getting the finest of the finest.
That annoys me. Not because a buyer is getting more than they pay for, but because I thought I could pick a fault with the car. I couldn’t and now I have to eat humble pie.
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to make a statement, then you need to have a Rolls Royce. Nothing screams wealth and good taste more than rocking up to an event in a Phantom. However, why pay full dollar?
Sure, you may not get the exact colour you wanted, or the particular walnut you might prefer, but you’ve just saved yourself over $500,000. With that you could buy a Lamborghini for the weekends, or even a Bentley GTC.
When you turn up to a function, how are people going to tell the difference between your Phantom, and the brand new one in the showroom?
Let me tell you, based on the time we spent in a Provenance car, they’re not.
If it’s the impression you make which you’re after, then well done Rolls Royce.
Provenance has proven its providence.
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