Rolls-Royce Phantom 2007 Review
December 23, 2007
$360,030 - $413,820
You don't arrive at your destination. That's too abrupt. Too common.
One is delivered. One materialises. One emanates.
Indeed, one finds oneself saying “one'' and employing generally more polished diction than is perhaps one's norm. The car (in so far as “car'' is an adequate noun) has that effect. Among others.
Carsguide can say this with not a little smugness, having made our Rolls-Royce debut last week in an act of what can only be described as the most extraordinary noblesse oblige by Trivett Classic to we inky-fingered proles.
For a Rolls-Royce is an everyday reality to those for whom dropping around $1 million on a car is of no more (possibly less) significance than a Mazda6 for most of the rest of us. John Laws has recently acquired yet another as has Lindsay Fox.
Bevin Clayton of Trivett, the man who counts both the retired broadcaster and the trucking tycoon as clients, seldom considers requests to access his precious objets of auto art. Having sold six Rolls this month to celebrate the delivery of his 50th Phantom in Australia and New Zealand in four years, he really doesn't need to.
Even so, having smiled upon us, Clayton says that we were going to climb aboard his Phantom demonstrator, “then this became available.''
This is a Phantom Tungsten, the third model from the marque's Bespoke Collection. With barely two figures on the odometer it is the only one in the country.
Derived from the 101EX Coupe shown at Geneva last year, the Tungsten with its deep metallic hue and contrasting brushed aluminium bonnet has an immediate impact, as do the new 21-inch, seven-spoke alloys. Subtle twin chrome exhaust tips further acknowledge the show car.
With a flourish Clayton opens the front- and classic rear suicide doors (carbon fibre umbrellas sheathed within).
It's madly opulent. Lush black, pile carpet and smoke and navy leather contrasts with straight-grained East Indian Rosewood (Rolls still poach their woodworkers from Southampton yacht builders) and metal fascia.
No modern vulgarities spoil a traditional ambience typified by the skinny steering wheel. The voice activated multi-media screen and phone remain discreetly behind the old world veneer unless summoned.
Clayton says, contrary to the cliche, that almost all the Rolls he sells are driven by those who paid for them: “why pay $1 million to let chauffeur have the fun?'' There's rather a lot to be said, however, for sitting in the two higher-set rear thrones.
Aside from the digital screens that fold from the back of the front seat and play with stadium volume, there's the wholly unique Starlight Headlining above them. “Stunning yet elegant'' the Rolls blurb aptly calls a fixture in which 600 fibre optic lights embedded in black leather roof lining make for a heavenly display that also provides reading light.
But Clayton's clients like to wrap their manicured mitts around that skinny tiller, so it's up front for us as he guides the 2.5 tonne colossus from through the agonisingly narrow lanes of East Sydney onto William St.
At least it looks like William St — only the sharpest sound penetrates the double-glazed glass. Nor does the engine intrude. If the Phantom was not answering the throttle with such mass-belying promptness (5.9 seconds is the claimed 0-100km/h time), one (you, everyone) would swear power had been lost. This 6.75-litre V12 is more softly spoken and refined than a hybrid.
It's when Clayton bids you take the wheel in your slightly sweaty hands (nails cut with the wife's clippers only last night) you can grasp why Laws et al leave Jeeves at home.
Once the crippling nervousness has passed, the Phantom is in its rarefied fashion a jolly fun drive. From an almost SUV driving position, the steering is so light and so direct you could be piloting something a good tonne lighter. To get off the mark with extra dispatch, depress the L button located steering wheel right and this land yacht surges away.
As Clayton says, “waftablity'' won't be found in a dictionary but remains in the Roll-Royce lexicon. That floating element of the ride is very much present, though not to a seasick making extent, the benefits of an air suspension that ownership by BMW has bought. Indeed, it's so cossetting that you'd never know that another BMW hallmark, run flat tyres, are in place.
Another less quantifiable but very real Roller effect comes home as I choose to take it home from the photo shoot at the old Redfern Carriage Works through streets that realtors would have us believe are in Surry Hills. Perhaps if The Phantom were done-out in blue and white checks with a light atop it might have excited less comment, but I doubt it.
The Tungsten still had double figures on the clock when I — by now emboldened — squeezed it into Trivett's garage, but this spin was enough to grasp why Rolls-Royces are, for the few, seriously habit forming.
My most significant feat was using 39.5-litres of premium unleaded per 100km, a realisation that was the only deflating aspect of the experience. Never mind the seven-figure price tag, I could only seldom afford to fill the Roller's tank.
ROLLS ROYCE PHANTOM
Price: $915,000 (EWB $1.095 million)
Engine: 6.75L/V12; 338kW/720Nm
Economy: 15.9L/100km (claimed)
0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds
$360,030 - $413,820