MT business travel: On the road

The Rolls Royce Phantom is a haven, the engine barely heard, bumps balmed away.

by Richard Bremner
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Take a tour of the new Rolls-Royce factory in Sussex and, if you're vaguely patriotic, you might feel creeping disappointment. You're likely to be impressed by the architecture, the cleanliness of the assembly line, and the obvious care that goes into the construction of this fabulously expensive motorcar. But what you'll also notice, if you read the labels on the neatly arranged components, is that most of them come from Germany. In substance, this British symbol is very much a German car - which is no great surprise, given that BMW owns Rolls-Royc. Yet the absence of British mechanical parts is a little shocking. Instead, British beef goes into the assembly of the beast, and into the exquisite handcrafting of wood and leather.

So it's rather heartening to discover that, in spirit, the new Phantom is every bit a Rolls-Royce, a superior car of great bearing, quality, tradition and Britishness. It was conceived and created with the same devotion to perfection that that has been the foundation of every Rolls-Royce. But in contrast to the models offered over the past half-century, this one has been backed with the investment that allows some chance of perfection being realised - assuming your idea of the perfect car is a substantial limousine with a frontage as imposing as the temple that its radiator grille resembles. Given the chance to blow £214,500 on a car, many might opt for a brace of Ferraris and a holiday, but for some - fewer than 1,000 customers a year, admittedly - a Phantom is just the job.

And their seduction will surely be complete if they drive it. Apart from its presence, and paintwork deep enough to swim in, it beguiles with an interior rich in style, content, colour and texture. There is sensuous pleasure to be had from caressing everything from the door handles to a steering wheel that is nothing less than a gloriously tactile confection of materials. Wood and leather are common enough aboard luxury cars, but here the materials are so rich, so artfully deployed that they take on a quality that transports you to another world. That it feels like a world from the past is reinforced by the art deco detailing, and the comforting thought that if a little precipitation threatens your equanimity, an umbrella is secreted in the jamb of each rear door.

But enough of the ambience. How does it go? Like no car this vast has a right to. Depress the accelerator to its full extent, and the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot briefly rises before the Phantom launches into an unrelenting, seamless charge that will take you to the legal limit and beyond in less time than it takes to remember that Parker is Lady Penelope's chauffeur. This limousine is sportscar-fast. Yet it is also a haven. The engine is barely heard. Bumps and ruts are balmed away. Progress is confirmed as much by the movement of scenery relative to your window as it is by the commotion of motion. Only exploitation of the Phantom's unexpectedly prodigious cornering powers may disturb, requiring you to brace yourself if you are lounging in the rear.

This is a remarkably capable car - as it should be. It is also an irrelevant car, a throwback, but all the more glorious for that, and if you're troubled by the German hardware, don't be - BMW has delivered a magnificent Rolls-Royce.

SPECIFICATION: Rolls Royce Phantom

Price £214,500
Max power 460 bhp
Max torque 531 lb ft
Max speed 149 mph
0-60mph 6.0 sec
Fuel consumption 17.8 mpg
CO2 emissions 385 g/km


Maybach 57 £243,780
This vast limo from Mercedes is somewhat vulgar, but a good range of options is available.

Bentley Arnage T £170,000
Similar gentlemen's club interior, startling performance, but design lacks the Phantom's depth. Cheaper, though.

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