Like Seabiscuit, the Rolls-Royce Phantom has a pedigree that runs deep. And like all thoroughbreds there is a certain championship heritage to be maintained. That is the legacy of any and all automobiles resting under the "Flying Lady."
Mention Rolls-Royce at a cocktail party and everyone within earshot is leaning to listen. That's exactly what happened to me more than once during my auto test period. And, that's not my ego speaking. It is just the reaction elicited by those two words, Rolls-Royce.
Having driven a few vintage RRs, I felt as though I knew what Rolls-Royce luxury was, but I had no idea it had risen to such a level. I should have known by looking at the price on the window sticker. A nearly $400,000 automobile just might surpass my expectations.
Slide behind the large steering wheel and an explosion of memories flashed through my brain. By today's standards, the circumference of the wheel and the thinness of the rim took me back to driving those vintage examples. The long hood stretching out to the large grille where the Flying Lady stands enhances the memory.
The extensive use of natural-grain leather throughout the cabin enriches the experience of riding in this automobile. I must say the opulence of the interior is extraordinary. The crossbanded elm wood trim is wonderfully rich, although I was a bit taken aback by the $900 veneer cup holder lids.
Absolutely cool features include the power-closing rear doors, dual umbrellas stored in those doors and dual pull-down rear tables that include hidden video screens. Two other features that completely enthralled onlookers include the disappearing Flying Lady hood ornament and the self-aligning center wheel caps. The Flying Lady, which has become the symbol of anything Rolls-Royce also has become a target for rip-offs by less respectful types, so Rolls-Royce being Rolls-Royce engineered the ornament to disappear from sight with the locking of the doors via the key fob.
The other feature is that the center inserts of the 21-inch chrome aluminum wheels adjust themselves in the upright position each time the vehicle stops. In this way, the RR insignia on each wheel is always in the perfect readable position.
This Rolls-Royce handled quite well for a vehicle that edges up toward 6,000 pounds. Power for a large automobile better come from a big engine and so under the long extended hood sits a 6.75-liter V-12 engine that produces an admirable 453 horsepower and 531 pounds-feet of torque.
I did not get a chance to connect my performance gauges to the Phantom, but I can tell you by my seat-of-the-pants test this Rolls Royce performs as if it is much lighter and smaller. The company reports that the Phantom achieves 0 to 60 miles per hour in an impressive 5.7 seconds.
Powers runs to the road through a 6-speed automatic transmission that not only gives the performance a boost but also enabled me to get 13 miles per gallon during my test drive. That is not bad for a vehicle of this caliber.
To say any Rolls-Royce is an attention getter would be an understatement, but Phantom garnered more than I ever imagined. From the country club to the most unlikely place for a Rolls-Royce - a Wal-Mart parking lot - this car attracted more attention than Lindsay Lohan. It also is an incredible ride for someone who has no hesitation dropping $400,000 on their automobile.