FEA­TURE CAR

New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature Car - Words: Lord Al­lan of Wal­ton Pho­tos: Sir Adam of Croy

To pre­pare for our road test of Rolls-royce’s mag­nif­i­cent Phan­tom, I de-moth­balled my tailored Richard James suit; took my Cad & The Dandy twill shirt off its hanger and matched it to a be­spoke Rochefort neck­tie; and, fi­nally, gave my two-tone Foster & Son Ox­ford shoes a quick dust over with a pol­ish­ing cloth.

Armed with the lat­est edi­tion of the Re­view, I was now ready to sink into the soft Sig­nal Red leather seats in our test Phan­tom’s rear pas­sen­ger com­part­ment.

And what a truly pleas­ant place that promised to be — with acres of gor­geous, hand-stitched leather­work, deep­pile lamb­swool rugs, and swathes of rich wal­nut-burr ve­neer. The Phan­tom even comes with a set of be­spoke cush­ions — just to make sure pas­sen­gers are well and truly com­fort­able.

Once set­tled in, I would be able to con­nect my ipad to the in­ter­net while my chauf­feur for the day — young Ash­ley Mc­parker — wafted me along Auck­land’s high­ways and by­ways as I con­sid­ered the niceties of my stock port­fo­lio. I just hoped that the Phan­tom was equipped with a cooler so that the fizzy con­tents of the bot­tle of Louis Roed­erer Cristal Brut I planned to bring along would be main­tained at the cor­rect tem­per­a­ture.

It was a per­fect plan — un­til we spoke to the very help­ful Neil D’arcy-brain at Team Mcmil­lan Ltd, au­tho­rized Rolls-royce Mo­tor Cars Dealer, and dis­cov­ered that, while Rolls-royce cus­tomers in over­seas mar­kets such as the Middle East and China plump for be­ing chauf­feur-driven, as do those in Europe and the US, New Zealand Phan­tom own­ers pre­fer to drive them­selves.

In­deed, our test car even came fit­ted with the ‘Dy­namic Pack­age’, an op­tion that pro­vides ad­di­tional brac­ing front and rear, a meatier steer­ing wheel, and im­proved brak­ing feel — all de­signed to en­hance the self­drive ex­pe­ri­ence. Well, talk about the best-laid plans of mice and men! The be­spoke gear was bunged back into stor­age and, in­stead, I cracked out my best pair of denim strides, a clean NZ Clas­sic Car T-shirt, and my most com­fort­able sneak­ers. My bor­rowed copy of the Na­tional Busi­ness Re­view was con­signed to the rub­bish bin — af­ter all, the only stock I own is a few cubes of Oxo in the pantry. The ul­tra-ex­pen­sive bub­bly had been, of course, a fig­ment of my imag­i­na­tion — so the bot­tle of el cheapo sparkling vino went back into the re­frig­er­a­tor.

Di­men­sional shift

With driv­ing du­ties de­cided on, it was time to face up to the mas­sively im­pos­ing Phan­tom — one of the largest cars you’ll spot on Kiwi roads — and there’s lit­tle doubt about the car’s over­whelm­ing pres­ence, from the mas­sive 20-inch al­loy wheels to the tra­di­tional, al­most ar­chi­tec­tural front grille, gold coach lines (th­ese are hand-painted onto the car’s body with squir­rel and ox-hair brushes), and mas­sive rear sui­cide doors.

Take a peek un­der the huge bon­net, and you’ll dis­cover the Phan­tom’s all-al­loy 48-valve 60-de­gree V12, a 6.75-litre de­vel­op­ment of the en­gine that pow­ers BMW’S 760il.

De­spite the Phan­tom’s alu­minium skeleton and light­weight pan­els, the car’s weight is as mas­sive as in­di­cated by its out­ward ap­pear­ance — tip­ping the scales at 2630kg. That’s a shade over 2.5 im­pe­rial tons and suf­fi­cient rea­son for the Phan­tom’s se­ri­ous brak­ing set-up — with mas­sive 374mm discs up front and 370mm di­am­e­ter discs at the rear.

For the SII Phan­tom, in­tro­duced in 2012, Rolls-royce made a se­ries of mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the car — the most no­tice­able be­ing the re­place­ment of the ear­lier round headlights with neater-look­ing rec­tan­gu­lar units. As well, the Phan­tom re­ceived a new eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Step in­side this car, and you’re sud­denly in the ‘Phan­tom zone’ — quite sim­ply, no other ve­hi­cle gives you the same feel­ing of be­ing sur­rounded by be­spoke lux­ury. For some, the tra­di­tional com­bi­na­tion of leather and wal­nut burr may not be their cup of Earl Grey, but no­body can dis­pute the fact that the Phan­tom is beau­ti­fully put to­gether.

In­deed, Rolls-royce says that ev­ery Phan­tom comes to­gether through 60 pairs of highly skilled hands, with ev­ery de­tail care­fully at­tended to. And that in­cludes five coats of paint, hand-stitched leather­work that takes two weeks to com­plete, be­spoke um­brel­las con­cealed in each rear door, and wood ve­neers that are taken from a sin­gle tree to en­sure the per­fect fin­ish.

Com­fort­ably seated be­hind the Phan­tom’s steer­ing wheel — com­plete with sump­tu­ously ve­neered spokes — the driver has a com­mand­ing view of the road ahead from a seat­ing po­si­tion that’s a high as most off-road­ers.

So, ac­com­pa­nied by the heady aroma of leather, it was time to see how the Phan­tom felt like on the road.

The power and the Phan­tom

Need­ing to check out some work car­ried out by a trades­per­son at my Awhitu Penin­sula life­style block, I thought we’d press the Phan­tom into mak­ing the trip.

For the most part, the main road up the penin­sula is well suited to the Rolls-royce, al­though I sus­pected that the Phan­tom would be less than happy once we forked off onto the nar­row and twist­ing sec­ondary road that leads to my block.

Be­fore we got to the chal­leng­ing sec­tion of our test drive, the Phan­tom had very quickly showed it­self to be supremely com­fort­able, even when ne­go­ti­at­ing rough road-re­pair patches or mid-cor­ner rip­ples. Show­ing off im­pres­sive re­fine­ment, the car sim­ply wafted over such im­per­fec­tions as if they didn’t ex­ist, while, up front, the silky-smooth V12 eas­ily proved that it pos­sessed se­ri­ous power re­serves. Of course, this be­ing a Rolls-royce, the lov­ingly ve­neered dash­board doesn’t in­clude any­thing as ple­beian as a tachome­ter — in­stead, you get a ‘power re­serve’ gauge, which tells you how much power you have avail­able at any time. Suf­fice it to say that, even when be­ing pressed along at a de­cent clip, the gauge in­di­cated that the all-al­loy V12 still had plenty of power avail­able up its tailored sleeve.

What also be­came ap­par­ent dur­ing our drive was that, de­spite its size and weight, the Phan­tom is no slug­gard. It showed it­self to be sur­pris­ingly rapid —

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