When the Rolls-Royce Phantom was launched in 2003 the world stood up and took notice of this newly revitalised marque under the ownership of BMW. The Phantom took luxury travel to a new level, a level that many marques still aspire to today. There is good reason the term ‘the Rolls-Royce of…’ was coined as there simply isn’t a part of the car where corners are cut or quality levels are dropped.
Great, but what do you do when the time comes to update your flagship car? Well, how about looking to the wise words of Sir Henry Royce “take the best that exists and make it better”. Talking with Nigel Wonnacott (Product Communications Manager) it’s clear that Rolls-Royce understands and communicates with their customers, because the Phantom Series II is not a revolution but a substantial update throughout the car just as their customers have requested.
So, from the outside the first change you will notice is the re-styled bumpers and rectangular light apertures. The headlights are now full LED lamps as standard, this has allowed the clever chaps at Rolls-Royce to integrate new technology into the lighting. Curve light functionality, for example, uses electronically-controlled reflectors to focus headlamp beams in the direction of travel, providing greater illumination of the road ahead when cornering. Adaptive headlamps change the cone of light projected onto a road – effortlessly of course – in response to different driving speeds.
Inside the multi-media controller has been brought up to date with 3D maps and guided tours amongst other things added into the satellite navigation. The centre display is now 8.8 inches with rear path prediction and top view parking cameras bringing the Phantom Series II right up to 2012. In a car the size of a Phantom these additions make for painless parking.
The original gearbox is gone with a new 8-speed automatic gearbox that gives a seamless experience in its place, sounds good, but “what’s it like on the road?” I hear you ask.
Well, the very nice people at Rolls-Royce decided to give a few bloggers the chance to experience a brief glimpse of the Phantom Series II and part of the lifestyle that goes with it. So, Saturday morning I find myself stepping off a British Airways flight at Nice airport in the South of France, in the arrivals area a stylish, well-groomed chap stands holding a board with my name on it, next to him another man holding a board saying Christopher Evans, hmm I wonder what car he is getting into?
Outside in the car park a gleaming Rolls-Royce Ghost awaits, the interior a perfect temperature and a chilled bottle of Evian waiting to keep me feeling as cool as this moment is. Chris by the way gets shoehorned into some ghastly blacked-out Mercedes.
30 minutes later feeling incredibly relaxed, the cast iron gates of my home for the day ease open and we roll into Le Cap Estel. Just 10 minutes away from Monaco, this private retreat has seen Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles and many other stars sample its charms over the years.
Sat outside on the sun-blessed terrace I sip casually on an iced water while a very proud Nigel Wannacott explains that, in his later years, Sir Henry Royce would come to the South of France for a little R and R, and this certainly helped his health.
After my introduction to the key details of the new car and the hotel I am led out into the courtyard where a stunning white Phantom Series II awaits. My chauffeur? An ex Group B rally driver who lives locally and knows exactly how one should be driven in a Phantom.
I slip out of my shoes, ease my feet onto the sumptuous deep pile carpet and sink into the softest leather seats I had yet to experience, these carpets, just so you know, are made by an elderly man from Scotland and blow my mind.
The car pulls away, I hadn’t realised it was even running, we gracefully saunter out of the driveway and onto the local roads around Monaco. I am sat in blissful silence, the double glazed windows keep the world away. The roof lining features hundreds of fibre optic lights woven in-giving the effect of a clear starry night.
This is good, it’s not a car I am in, it’s a personal luxury transportation device. The ride, even on some of the side roads, is like a magic carpet, as we accelerate the gear changes are non existent, just a steady purposeful surge of torque, not that you will be using it lots, but it’s peace of mind to know that when needed it’s available.
In all but a flash my drive is over. “But you didn’t drive it” I hear you say, well no, but one shouldn’t have to drive their Phantom, If I want to go for a drive i’ll take my Ghost out right?
What I really love about the Rolls-Royce brand is that future technologies and techniques can be employed into a car that still holds true traditional values. In buying a Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II you not only join an elite group of very lucky people, but with the brilliant bespoke programme and a team that take on board owners’ feedback you can play a part the future of the marque.
Sunday was a bit of a comedown, the day’s memories seemingly dream-like and my mind demanding I get another hit of this intoxicating legal high. I think I need a Rolls-Royce.