Rolls-Royce Phantom

The world’s finest motorcar? You bet!

My son was born three days less than forty years before me. So, we are in reality two generations apart and sometimes it shows – these millennials are on another planet in so many ways and we often bicker. But we do see eye to eye on several fronts and this is one of them.

Chatting cars as we often do just a few days ago, we discussed what the best car on the road was and after glossing over the supercars, we soon concurred that a super saloon was actually the answer. The conversation traversed the likes of Giulietta QV and M5 Competition before it took a peculiar twist – we both like the Charger Hellcat but concurred the Caddy CTS-V was also so cool (google them).

Then the discussion moved on to this. He nodded, I said yup, and the subject drifted to Boris or Trump or something.

Two days later I was sauntering down the R45 in the new Phantom. The invitation was vague, but it turned out that Rolls-Royce shipped a fleet of six cars to tease Mzansi for a few weeks and we were first to try them on a chilly Cape winter’s morning. I made a beeline to the Phantom – just standing there, I knew that G and I were both right – Phantom is the Rolls-Royce.

Rolls makes no bones that Phantom is the ‘best car in the world’ – large absolutely fails to aptly describe it. I had several encounters with the previous renaissance model that BMW used to redefine the world’s most premium brand, but the second iteration of the Munich-run Goodwood-built era and the eighth generation of all Rolls-Royce Phantoms introduces all-new super-luxury aluminium platform that I’d soon discover, sets this one out as quite unique in the world of cars.

While Phantom remains unchallenged atop the super-luxury league, Rolls is quick to remind that the average age of its contemporary clientele has come down from in the high sixties to the mid-forties – the brand has reinvented itself and it’s clear that this car is also aimed at a far younger modern audience too.

Believe it or not, it’s slightly shorter than the Rolls it replaces, but it’s still a monster – half a metre longer than the longest Maybach, Phantom is not at all shy. It’s rather quite excessive. I really like how Rolls has detailed Phantom – its narrower polished stainless steel ‘Pantheon’ grille is complemented by contemporary styled vanes and trim to deliver a grand promise.

Supreme stainless handles open the conventional front or suicide rear doors, both of which automatically close behind you at the touch of a button, or also leave the door the same angle ajar that you left it - as if operated by a ghost chauffeur.  Patrons will find themselves just as comfortable settling behind the wheel or into their Phantom’s equally exquisite rear cabin.

There are four rear cabin options to choose  – a standard bench seat with a folding armrest and middle seatbelt; two individual seats and a larger fixed centre console; a special two-seat ‘lounge’ bench like mine, or one that allows a flat ‘sleeping seat’. Mine felt extraordinarily special as I made myself perfectly comfortable and explored all the features from chilled crystal champagne flutes to the fold-down table that opens to reveal a sizeable personal infotainment screen, the power footrests and the C-pillar vanity mirror.

If you want to drive your Phantom, you are greeted by a lofty position behind a grand and historic steering wheel ahead of a beautiful glass-encased ‘gallery’ dashboard. That includes a fully digital instrument screen with chrome bezeled dials, while the infotainment screen emerges behind the glass on demand in the centre and the iDrive controller also pops out of the console in a little drawer. Both discreetly and conveniently stow to leave a classic cabin if you are not in the mood for gadgets right now.

If you want it, the tech is quite supreme, packing a 4G onboard wi-fi hotspot and the full suite of web-connected music and media streaming options including a TV tuner for absolute interaction with the outside world. Or as little interference as possible.

It’s an exquisite environment – every surface, knob, button and switch is hewn from ultimate quality polished steel, glass, wood or leather. I particularly enjoyed the stainless push-pull knobs for the ventilation, while Rolls will even craft that 3D stainless panel across the dash behind that glass panel to your precise bespoke needs. All truly spectacular. All quite simply breathtaking.

Nestling on a 30% stiffer all-new all-aluminium ‘Architecture of Luxury’ chassis graced by new double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension with air springs, adaptive dampers four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, it’s all deployed in a manner that guarantees the most opulent, most silent ride I have ever experienced.

In essence this revolutionary hand-crafted 5.8m 2.8-tonne spectacle of fortune and status should first be measured by the decibel. Driving it is a bit like resting in the most exclusive hotel room imaginable – soft and serene with only the hint of a distant yet sophisticated ventilator to ensure your ultimate comfort. Opening one of Phantom’s double-glazed windows at speed, you may as well be ejecting yourself from a crashing fighter jet, so significant is the effect.

Driven as a Phantom should be, the Roller’s ride is astounding enough to leave me struggling for synonyms. It bears a suppleness I have never experienced in a car – best described I suppose, like dozing in an A380 first class pew on a perfect night for flying. In Africa, Phantom does report some more treacherous road surfaces, but far more subtly than anything else I have ever experienced.

But there’s a flipside – Phantom also remains surprisingly engaging and enjoyable to drive – it very well communicates the road surface and while it certainly wafts along, body control is impressive at brisk speeds as it responds to steering inputs to offer a surprising level of handling and road holding in spite of its most luxurious car in the world billing.

It never took long to adapt to its sheer size either and Phantom proved surprisingly easy to drive. There’s no rev counter, rather an intriguing dial indicating the percentage of power you have left at your disposal – 100 at idle, zero foot flat, where Phantom squats back on its hindquarters to canon forward at an unbelievable rate for the behemoth it is. The 420kW 6749cc 60-degree all aluminium biturbo V12 pumps 900Nm from just 1700rpm to deliver a splendid if distant roar when urged along. 

I never quite adequately tested the new Phantom – hopefully that will still happen soon, but in spite of a cruelly short time with it, it remains patently clear that the world’s finest luxury car is without doubt its very best too. Seems there’s very good reason that both an old git like me and his millennial son agreed on that before I even had the privilege of trying it for myself…