Cult Cars Road Tests

Cult Cars 4: Rolls Royce Phantom

Time 13 years ago

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It was in Knightsbridge (as if it could be anywhere else), where I saw my first Phantom. Sat parked up outside a Costa coffee shop in a bus lane, I couldn’t help but stop and stare. The good ship HMS Rolls-Royce, berthed next to a lamppost, might have been illegally parked, but not even the traffic wardens seemed to care.

 

Combining a love of coffee with the need to admire the Roller for just a little longer, I sat in the window waiting for the owner to return. And return he did. Looking like he was about to smash the window and steal the contents of the glovebox, the baseball capped 30-something strolled up, pulled the key from his baggy jeans and hopped in. 

 

I nearly choked on my Americano. How on earth could he afford it? And why, if it was his, was he driving it himself? Both questions I’ve struggled to find answers for ever since the capped one pulled away, cutting up a taxi driver as he hurtled off towards Mayfair.

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It might not have been his, but he sure did look cool and it was from that day forth I became a fan. Wherever you catch your first Phantom sighting, you’re unlikely to forget it. The sheer size of this royalty for the road is staggering – at nearly six metres long, there is nothing that commands more presence.

 

The front end, with its squinty little headlight eyes and swallow-you-whole grille, brushes lesser road users aside like an over-enthusiastic doorman. The Roller is certainly imposing. The problem is some would say a little too much so, perhaps even bordering on the ostentatious.

 

Nothing says ‘I’ve got more money than you’ like a Phantom. And in some cases that’s what appeals. Rolls-Royce’s most famous customer – and one that’s given the brand more free advertising than any marque could wish for – is The Apprentice head honcho Sir Alan Sugar. He’s interviewed in the back of it every week on the show, there are gratuitous shots of it sweeping through the capital’s streets, and he usually pulls up like royalty at the beginning of each show in it to address his wannabe workers. A masterpiece in PR, from RR.

 

But it’s this image as a corporate must-have, something top-flight businessman aspire to owning, that has made the brand such a success for present owners BMW.


 

I, like many other humble drivers, absolutely adore it. From the badges in the alloy wheels that are weighted so they’re always the right way up, to the fact it doesn’t have a rev counter, instead just a gauge that indicates how much power is in reserve – it’s full of touches that mark it out from the competition. 

 

If you’re interested in what’s under the bonnet, you’re probably not in the market for one – owners don’t want to know about the business end. But if they do feel the need to investigate they’ll find a 6.75-litre, 48 valve V12 with a whopping 453bhp and 720Nm of torque. All more than capable of whisking ‘sir’ along in comfort.

 

The Phantom is unashamedly luxurious; a power statement like no other that marked the brand’s new dawn under its Bavarian ownership. And it did so in style – and it’s for that reason it claims a place in our Cult Cars hall of fame. Now, I’ve just got to work out how I can afford the monthly repayments…

 

JAMES BAGGOTT

 

Rolls-Royce Phantom

Price: £306,088

Engine: 6.75-litre, V12 


Power: 453bhp, 720Nm

0-60mph: 5.7s

Max: 149mph

Now finance one with Bridford:

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