Reclining in the back seat of the world’s most luxurious car as the French Riviera rolls past the side window like a silent movie seems the ideal moment to pop the champagne that’s been chilling in the car’s fridge and make a toast.
As our chauffeur deftly weaves the new $560,500 Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II through Monaco traffic, jealous millionaires cast side-eye glances at this rolling palace and quietly consider how to trade up from their Bentleys and Maybachs, and other passersby crane their necks to catch a glimpse of whichever celebrity or royal or young-money magnate must be in the back seat. (None of the above, I’m afraid.)
Everything else looks small when you’re in Rolls-Royce’s flagship sedan — which of course makes one feel big, precisely the point of such an impressively large automobile. So silent is the cabin that the outside world seems to recede a little bit, making it feel small enough that one begins to think it might just be mastered.
That is the true power of the Phantom, a vehicle which, through its many iterations, has been ferrying around the world’s 0.1 per cent since 1925. It makes passengers feel as if they’re riding on top of the world. The immaculate stitching across several cows’ worth of leather, the bookmatched veneer, the paint as deep and shimmery as the Mediterranean, the silk throw pillows, the solid aluminum disc wheels, and the fact that the dashboard has a built-in art gallery for a client’s own commissioned pieces are, really, all just gilding on a lily.
The sheer drop off the cliff to the right of this Riviera road would be alarming if our chauffeur weren’t such a consummate professional. (Good help isn’t hard to find as long as the money’s right, evidently.) This part of the world isn’t known for its wide roads, and the Phantom Series II is almost so large that we considered having an escort car drive ahead with an “Oversized Load” sign to prepare oncoming traffic. As it turns out, that’s not necessary: once other drivers see the Phantom’s towering chrome Pantheon grille topped with the rose-gold-coloured Spirit of Ecstasy statue flying toward them, they tend to give the Rolls-Royce a wide berth.
For the lightly refreshed Series II version of the Phantom and Rolls-Royce changed almost nothing. The headlights are narrower, the front end has been given a bit of Botox to smooth out some old lines, but changing it any more than that would mean the designers did a bad job in the first place. They didn’t.
As for the cabin, the designers left that well alone for the Series II. It was already the best in the business, and it still is. The C-pillar and rear seat wrap around passengers, granting a high degree of privacy. The overall vibe is somewhere between a Gulfstream jet and a country club cocktail lounge, although, of course, customers can and do get Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke department to decorate the cabin to match their living room, or pet, or favourite Air Jordan.
As for what the Phantom is like to drive, 10 out of 10 chauffeurs agree: it’s wonderful, sir. It’s the only sedan still on sale in North America with a V12 engine, let alone one that displaces 6.75 litres and is boosted by two turbochargers. Charging up the Col de Vence, a famous cycling route near Nice with a 900-metre ascent, the 563 horsepower motor never makes a peep. The car rides a tidal wave of torque — 664 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm — so it feels almost as smooth as an electric car. (Fuel economy? Don’t ask.) At six metres long, the stretched Phantom Extended Series II costs $654,900 and is longer than the largest Cadillac Escalade, yet steering is so light that you can captain this boat with the tip of your index finger. No other car even comes close to feeling as plush or regal as the Phantom.
Because Rolls has been under BMW Group’s control since the 1990s, the technology in the car is similar to what you’d find in a 3 Series, albeit re-skinned with a more subdued interface that befits the British marque. While rival Maybach goes all-in on flashy tech — 3D screens and augmented-reality head-up displays — the Rolls has none of that stuff. What it does have, which is even better, is a dashboard screen that can be hidden away entirely. Not looking at a screen is real luxury, and it makes the whole cabin feel so much more serene than anything else on four wheels. The only piece of technology that’s missing is some kind of wide-load option for the navigation, so it doesn’t route the big Rolls through narrow streets and only offers destinations with valet parking.
Or, you could just leave the navigation to your chauffeur, as we’re doing now. Tiny bubbles effervesce in the chilled crystal flutes, signalling the end to a long couple of days with the Phantom in which we were variously pampered, doted upon, assisted, catered to, wined and dined, and made to feel like we actually deserve this. Moving through the world in the Phantom goes straight to your head. Cheers — to another perfect day at the top.